How to Help a Friend Who is Being Stalked

Credit: Brett Sayer

Credit: Brett Sayer

Take it seriously.

The first thing you have to understand is that stalking is a pattern of behavior, not a one-time incident. Your friend may tell you she’s afraid because her stalker left dead flowers on her porch. That may sound minor to you, but what you don’t know is that her stalker has also been calling just to wake her up every night at 3 AM, driving past her place of work on a daily basis, and leaving notes that say “Whore” in her car. The flowers might just be the thing she mentions because is scares her the worst, not because it’s the only thing that’s happened. For you, dead flowers might just be dead flowers, but the stalker intends it as a symbolic threat that he wants to hurt your friend. They do this on purpose. He knows what dead flowers mean. Your friend knows what dead flowers mean. But most other people wouldn’t see them as a big deal.

Understand that the issue here isn’t so much what the stalker has done, but the fear of what the stalker could do. Every day, most people wake up and they have a good idea about what will happen that day. Your friend doesn’t have that luxury anymore. Will he ignore her today? Will he break into her house today? Will he email her a threat today? Will he kill her today? She doesn’t know. She’s living with an incredible amount of uncertainty and fear.

 

Ask before offering advice.

Is your advice welcome? Is it even needed? Honestly, it probably isn’t.

If your friend has already researched her state’s anti-stalking laws, has already spoken to the police, or has done even the most basic level of research, she probably knows more than you do about stalking. She definitely knows more than you do about her particular case. Your friend is the expert here.

Well-meaning people, who don’t fully understand the situation, can offer dangerous advice. There are different types of stalkers, each with their own levels of risk. You can’t handle every stalker in the same way. And what you see on TV isn’t how these situations play out in real life.

The stalker is trying to take control of your friend’s life away from her. She gets to control how she handles dealing with him.

 

Understand that this is a dangerous situation.

Don’t downplay what’s going on. Being stalked isn’t a minor inconvenience. It’s a life-altering and potentially life-threatening situation. You won’t help your friend by acting like it’s not a big deal. In fact, you’ll hurt your friend if you shrug it off. One of the most important things you can do is offer validation and emotional support. Because stalking is so often misunderstood and dismissed, your friend is likely dealing with plenty of people who either don’t believe her or refuse to believe the situation is as bad as it is.

One of the most damaging things you could do would be to ignore the situation or pretend it isn’t happening. It might make you uncomfortable (it would make any normal person uncomfortable), but your friend needs to know they are heard and you are taking this seriously.

 

Offer to go with your friend when she speaks to the police.

It can be frustrating when reporting stalking. Anti-stalking laws vary from state to state, and some of them don’t allow police officers to arrest a stalker until an explicit death threat is made. This means, even if a police officer believes your friend is in danger and wants to act, they might not be able to do anything to help her.

Having a friend along for emotional support, and as an advocate in case a police officer isn’t taking her seriously, can be a huge help.

 

Help your friend with a safety plan.

What will your friend do if she comes home at night and sees her stalking circling the block, waiting for her to get out of her car?

It’s important for her to have a safety plan in place. She needs a safe place to go, temporarily, if she can’t safely go into her own home. You can offer to let her come to your home, at any time, if she needs to.

Offer to tag along if your friend needs to go somewhere and she doesn’t feel safe going alone.

Even something as simple as offering to walk her to her car at night is helpful.

 

Do not have contact with your friend’s stalker.

Most people are stalked by someone they already know. So, chances are pretty good that you know your friend’s stalker. If this person runs in your circle of friends, cut contact with him. Not only should you do this out of loyalty to your friend, but this will help create a larger buffer between your friend and her stalker.

 

Do not give out any information about your friend.

This seems obvious, but it’s easy to slip up. Your friend’s stalker might not come directly to you and ask, “Where is she?” Instead, he might scroll through your Facebook feed to find pictures of your group of friends out for the night. Now he knows she isn’t home and can break in.

Do not post information about your friend or any pictures of her online without her permission.

What’s less obvious are all the little conversations we have about people. Maybe a mutual acquaintance asks you what your friend’s been up to lately. Don’t give this person information that could lead her stalker to her. The acquaintance (who doesn’t know anything about the stalker) may let that information slip later on and it could get back to her stalker.

 

If you witness anything, write it down.

You can’t get a stalker arrested without good documentation. Your friend is likely already keeping a log of incidents. If you are with her when the stalker approaches, write it down and give a copy to your friend. If you are with her when she finds a note in her car, write it down. If the stalker approaches you, without your friend around, and makes comments about her, write it down. The more documentation and the more witnesses, the better her chances of having him arrested.

 

Don’t blame your friend.

Nobody asks to be stalked. Nobody does anything to deserve it.

It doesn’t matter if she stayed with an abusive boyfriend for way too long. It doesn’t matter if she flirted with him once. It doesn’t matter if she walks around in short skirts.

While victims are advised to cut contact with their stalkers, sometimes they slip up and respond to them. This isn’t wise, but it’s understandable. If someone has been threatening you for months, you might just snap one day and pick up the phone when he calls so you can curse him out. This doesn’t mean your friend is to blame for the stalker continuing to harass and threaten her.

The only person to blame for what the stalker is doing is the stalker. Your friend isn’t controlling his actions. He is making these choices on his own, and unfortunately, a victim can do everything “correct” in these situations and be in the exact same situation as someone who does everything you’re not supposed to do.

Never, ever blame your friend for what her stalker is choosing to do.


Visit the Stalking Resource Center for more information, including anti-stalking laws by state.

6 Important Stalking Facts Everyone Should Know

6 Stalking Facts

You know a woman who has been, is being, or will be stalked.

1 in 6 women have been stalked at some point in their lives.1 These women believed they (or someone they cared about) would be harmed or killed by their stalker.

How many women do you know? 1 in 6 is a high number. There’s a very good chance you know one of these women. However, many stalking victims are hesitant to tell others about their experiences with a stalker. They might be afraid you won’t believe them, or that you’ll blame them for their stalker’s behavior.

By raising awareness about the reality of stalking, you can show your friends and family members that you’re behind them.

Stalking 1

Men can be stalked too.

1 in 19 men have been stalked at some point in their lives. While women do stalk men, most stalkers (of either gender) are men.1

Men may be hesitant to speak up about their experiences because they’re afraid of looking weak, especially if their stalker is a woman. But these men aren’t weak. Stalking is intrusive and dangerous.

Most victims know their stalkers.

When people think of a stalker, most have this picture in their head of some creepy stranger, skulking down a back alley, taking picture of an oblivious woman.

In reality, two-thirds of women are stalked by a current or former partner. A quarter of women are stalked by someone they’re acquainted with, even though they never had a romantic relationship with them. Only about 13% of victims are stalked by strangers. 1

Stalkers don’t just follow a person around.

Stalkers are creative in the ways they terrorize their victims.

Sometimes they follow the victim. Or they might call non-stop all day long. They might break into a victim’s home.

They often leave items for the victim to find. These aren’t romantic trinkets. A stalker might break into a victim’s house and leave a glass of water on the kitchen table. The message to the victim is, “I can get to you any time I want.”

These types of incidents are difficult for victims to report. Victims are often afraid the police won’t take them seriously if they call to report something as seemingly innocent as a glass of water on their table. If the police officer doesn’t know the incident is part of an on-going stalking case, he might not take it seriously.

Stalkers often threaten their victims with physical harm or death. They sometimes threaten the victim’s friends and family members as well.

Stalking victims are forced to face each day, not knowing what might happen to them or to their loved ones.

Stalking kills

Stalkers kill.

All death threats should be taken seriously.

76% of women who are murdered by their current or former partner were stalked first. 85% of women who survived an attempted murder by their partner were stalked first.2

Only 10% of female murder victims are murdered by a stranger.3

Stalking is a serious red flag that a woman is in danger of being murdered, especially when she is being stalked by a former partner.

Stalking is illegal.

All 50 states have anti-stalking laws. However, some states have stricter laws than others.

“Some state laws specify that the victim must have been frightened by the stalking, while others require only that the stalking would have caused a reasonable person to experience fear. In addition, states vary on what level of fear is required. Some state laws require prosecutors to establish fear of death or serious bodily harm, while others require only that prosecutors establish that the victim suffered emotional distress.”4

Stalking is difficult to prove and restraining orders often do nothing to protect victims. Unfortunately, proving a stalking case can be a long process, during which the victim is continuously terrorized. It’s important for victims to have a strong emotional support system during this time and a safety plan in place.

 

More information is available from the Stalking Resource Center.

 

Sources

1 – Michele C. Black et al., “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report (pdf, 124 pages),” Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010. (https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf)

2 – Judith McFarlane et al., “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide,” Homicide Studes 3, no. 4. 1999 (http://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/src/mcfarlane-j-m-campbell-j-c-wilt-s-sachs-c-j-ulrich-y-xu-x-1999.pdf?sfvrsn=0)

3 – Shannan Catalano et al., “Female Victims of Violence,” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009.

4 – Shannan Catalano, “Stalking Victims in the United States – Revised,” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012. (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1211)

#Triggered Jokes

January 2000 - About 6 months after the first break in. You know what makes you grumpy? Not being able to unpack your belongings for 4+ months because you don't have a permanent home yet.

Three months after my family uprooted ourselves and moved across the country to escape the man who repeatedly broke into our home and threatened to murder me by setting me on fire and burning me alive. I guess all the nightmares and fire and noise-triggered panic attacks I experienced for years after this were pretty funny when you think about it.

“Sherlock sucks.”

#Triggered

He posts it as a joke. He’s making fun of all the little internet kiddies who use “triggered” when they really mean “I don’t like that thing you just said.”

But those little internet kiddies aren’t reading his comment. I am. And those kids misappropriated that word from the people who need it. Those kids aren’t triggered. They’re irritated. They’re offended. They’re angry. They are not triggered.

What is a Trigger?

When a person has lived through a trauma, sometimes they develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This isn’t the “trauma” of having your favorite TV show cancelled. This is serious, you really could have died, trauma.

These are people who’ve survived wars, survived terrorist attacks, survived sexual assault, survived murder attempts. We’re talking some hardcore shit here.

When you’re faced with a life-or-death situation, part of your brain kicks in to protect you. Your heart rate goes up. Your system gets flooded with adrenaline. Your breathing changes. Because you need to either fight off something that wants to kill you or you need to run like hell away from that thing that wants to kill you.

And you can’t control how fast your heart races. I mean, go ahead. Try telling your heart to stay at exactly 90 BPM. Didn’t work? Well, it doesn’t work for people with PTSD either. They have no control over how their body reacts when their PTSD symptoms are triggered.

And that’s what “triggered” actually means. It doesn’t mean you’re mad. It doesn’t mean you’re offended. It means your PTSD symptoms have kicked into high gear.

Some symptoms of PTSD hang around most of the time. A person might be extra jumpy and always scope out the nearest exits when they go somewhere new. Other symptoms lay dormant until they’re triggered.

Acorns trigger my symptoms.

When I’m in my house at night and an acorn falls on my roof, I know it’s just a stupid acorn. I’m not delusional or anything. I know it’s not anything dangerous. But that sudden thump on my roof when it hits activates my fight-or-flight response. My heart rate goes up. My breathing gets shallower. My eyes go wide. I’m reliving the same terror I felt when I was 18 and my life was actually in danger. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you have some idea of what I’m talking about. It’s not fun when you aren’t in control of what your body is doing.

My conscious mind knows it’s just a stupid acorn, but my unconscious mind was trained a long time ago to spring into action when it perceives a threat. A loud noise is perceived as a threat.

There was a period of time in my life when not being hyper-alert might have gotten me murdered. This same heart-racing reaction, 17 years ago, could have saved my life. Now, it’s a nuisance. But, again, our hearts don’t listen to our commands.

A trigger can be anything that jerks a person with PTSD out of the present and smashes them up against the wall of their past trauma. It’s violent and it’s ugly.

I’m lucky. I don’t actually trigger all that easily, and when I do I’m pretty good at coping with everything until my body chills the eff out and goes back to normal.

What the #Triggered Joke Says

When I see someone post #Triggered as a joke, it tells me they are not a safe person for me to be around. They don’t understand the long-lasting effects of being traumatized, or they just don’t care.

And you know what else is a trigger for me?

Christians.

I already have a hard time trusting anyone who claims to be a Christian. I was traumatized by a group of Christians, after all. A #Triggered joke from one of them is like kicking me when I’m already down.

Oh, I get that they don’t mean it “that way”, but let’s get real. “Trigger” means something. Just because some kids use it incorrectly doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a real meaning.

But, Kristy, how can you get down on people who just don’t understand how damaging those jokes can be? Ignorance is innocence, right?

Well, this is me, explaining how damaging those jokes can be. And I don’t attack people when they do it. I try to educate them, but most people tend to be pretty damn resistant to be corrected on this one. I guess defending their joke is usually more important than saying, “I’m sorry I was an asshole to all the people out there who have uncontrollable and painful reactions to traumatic triggers.”

One of the factors that contribute to developing PTSD is a lack of social support after a traumatic event. And one of the contributing factors in healing from PTSD is positive social support. Which one do you think a “triggered” joke looks like?

It’s Just a Joke

Is it a joke that I was almost murdered? That when I was still just a kid, I woke up every day, wondering if that was my last day? If I’d have to kill or be killed?

Is it a joke that when I hear a noise at night, my body immediately jumps to, “I’m about to be murdered!”, even though I’m sitting there telling myself that that’s a ridiculous reaction?

Is it a joke that some vets can’t go to fireworks shows with their families because it takes them right back to a time when they were in a life-or-death situation, maybe even when they saw people being killed?

Triggers aren’t comments that offend us or upset us. Triggers are things that make us feel like we’re about to die. How is that funny?

But, Kristy, I’m not making fun of people with PTSD. I’m making fun of those kids who misuse “trigger”. Really? By making #Triggered comments that those kids won’t see, but people with PTSD will? By making a joke that further supports the misuse of that word, as if those kids are the ones who get to define it?

It’s Not My Problem

No, it’s not your problem. Lucky you.

I can’t speak for every single person who’s experienced a traumatic event, or for every person who developed PTSD symptoms after it, but I can speak for me. I don’t expect people to tip-toe around me. I don’t ask people to avoid talking about stalkers or assault or Christians. Sometimes people say something that sets me off on an unwanted heart-pumping adventure through my mental issues. But, that really isn’t that person’s problem. It’s my problem, and I deal with it on my own.

I can’t expect everyone to know what might trigger everyone’s PTSD. Hell, half the time people with PTSD don’t know what might trigger their PTSD, so we’re never going to be able to do that.

What I can expect is people to show some compassion and respect for people who have PTSD. To not make fun of people who were strong enough to survive whatever it was that could have killed them. To not make fun of people who are unexpectedly ambushed by their past, and have to learn how to live like that. It’s not easy to do.

Maybe you didn’t know making that #Triggered joke was such a big deal. Well, now you know. I forgive you. Now, do better.

Or don’t. Say what you want, but know that your words affect other people. It’s your call whether or not that matters to you.

For more information about PTSD.

Mandatory Year-end Blog Post 2016

2016 started rough. I was still working on the first draft of my memoir, and writing a book is hard, y’all. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and I once managed to get my car out of a snowbank using nothing but McDonald’s bags). I feel like a wizard should show up to tell me I’ve fulfilled my destiny or some shit. Except I’m still revising a little, so the wizard will have to come back sometime in 2017.

Honestly, I haven’t done much this year besides write, read, watch Kimmy Schmidt, and eat insane amounts of wintergreen Life Savers. I have a super glamorous life.

 

Top Five Most Viewed Posts

What Does Being Stalked Look Like? 

Last year, my parents found several rolls of undeveloped film. When they developed them, we found a whole roll of pictures that were taken while I was being stalked. While working on my memoir, I pulled out all the pictures my family has of just before and after this time as well. Seeing a visual timeline spread out like that hit me harder than I thought it would. It was like watching my life fall apart. When I shared some of those pictures, I didn’t think people would be very interested in them. I’m still not sure why this post was so popular. Maybe it helps drive home just how young I was. Maybe people just like seeing me in tie-dye (I know I do).

 

When Supporters Strip Rape Victims

header imageVictims are often stripped of their voice. Because of fear or shame or people who won’t listen. It’s important to allow them to speak about their experiences, on their own terms, without projecting our own assumptions onto them.

Sometimes I write a post because I’m frustrated with a trend. This was one of those times.

 

The God Who Suffers

God knows what it’s like to be abandoned by the people you love. God knows what it’s like to be falsely accused. God knows what it’s like to be humiliated and shamed. God knows what it’s like to suffer.

While I don’t fully understand the Trinity (who does?), I have a much deeper appreciation for it. I’ve grown more attached to the crucified Christ through that.

 

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

What does forgiveness look like when you’re still broken? When you’ll never not be broken? How do you forgive someone who doesn’t think they did anything wrong?

If you ever get down on yourself for being slow to forgive, just remember it took me 15 years just to get started. (Bonus: Y2K fantasies)

 

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Creeds

Credit: Steve SnodgrassChristians all over the world, in different traditions that wouldn’t normally agree on much, stand up together on Sunday mornings and as one body recite the same words Christians have recited for centuries. And that’s a powerful thing to be a part of.

More evidence that I’m some sort of denominational Frankenstein’s monster. (See? I know the monster’s name isn’t Frankenstein. How impressed are you right now?)

All The Things I’ve Done Since I Died

Sixteen years ago, this week, I found an obituary with my name on it. Here’s what I’ve been up to since I died in 1999.

I lived in Indiana.

I started smoking.

I bought my first car.

I got lost in a cornfield in Iowa while trying to find the gas station the sign on the interstate promised me was out there somewhere.

I lived in Kansas.

I voted in my first presidential election.

I was cast in two plays because I was the only person who could speak with an authentic southern accent.

I lived in Michigan.

I met wonderful people.

I met less-than-wonderful people.

I went back to college.

I ate cake at my wedding.

I flew on an airplane for the first time.

I read all of the Harry Potter books.

I quit smoking.

I went to the top of the Space Needle.

I built a house with my husband. Well, I watched people build it.

I gave birth. Twice.

I found out I’m mysteriously talented in accounting, even though I hate math, and people will pay you to be good at accounting.

I saw Mount Rushmore.

I watched the Evolution of Dance video.

I lived in Washington.

I fulfilled my childhood dream of seeing the Redwoods.

I got lost in a pitch black lava tube cave because my sister doesn’t double-check her flashlight batteries.

I drank wine on a yacht that was sailing around Vancouver harbor. (I also spilled some of the wine while telling a story because I talk with my hands a lot.)

I learned how to hard boil eggs.

I visited Mount St. Helens.

I binge-watched the new Doctor Who.

I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to my daughters.

I got into stupid arguments.

I got into valid and important arguments.

I learned how to make coffee (depending on who you ask).

I wrote a book.

I ate junk food and watched TV and went to the movies and sat through meetings and shopped for presents and yelled at the computer and filed my taxes and bought socks and left crumbs on the counter and decided not to drink milk on its expiration date and laughed at jokes and helped with homework and fell asleep on the couch and broke my iPod and forgot to set the alarm clock.

I lived.

You Are a Stalking Victim

It’s hard for people to understand how detrimental stalking can be. I was going to do a lot of research and post a lot of statistics and talk about inconsistent anti-stalking laws, but that wouldn’t really help anyone understand.

So, here’s this instead.

TRIGGER WARNING: Stalking

You’re startled awake. The phone’s ringing, even though it’s 2:00 AM. You think a family member must be on their way to the hospital, because why else would anyone be calling? Your heart races as you imagine all the car crashes and heart attacks this call could be about. “Hello?” you say into the receiver. But all you hear is someone breathing on the other end. Then, click.

It’s been happening a lot lately, but it’s never been in the middle of the night before. You thought it was just some kids making prank calls at dinnertime, but now you’re not sure. Your heart’s still racing and you know there’s no way you can go back to sleep now. So, you stay up and watch Netflix until you finally drift back off to sleep on the couch around 5:00 AM. But, that only gives you an extra hour of sleep before you have to get up and get ready for work.

The next morning, you’re exhausted when you get home. You aren’t paying much attention as you reach into the mailbox and pull out your stack of bills. After dinner–and another breathy phone call–you flip through the stack. Catalog. Bill. Junk. Bill.

Wait.

You hold a white envelope. It doesn’t have an address on the front or a stamp. Maybe it’s a note from your mail carrier? You open the envelope and unfold the single sheet of paper that’s inside. Two words are typed neatly in the middle of the paper. “I’m coming.” It’s got your company’s letterhead on the top.

For a second, it feels like your chest is being compressed because you can’t quite catch your breath. Your heart pounds so hard you can hear the blood whooshing past your ears.

What does this mean?

You try to think about it rationally. Someone is after you. But, that sounds so paranoid, doesn’t it? Phone calls. A note. That’s all that’s happened. Nobody’s actually come after you or anything. It’s probably just a prank.

But, in bed that night, you can’t stop thinking about it. You don’t know who’s calling or who sent the note, but they know you. They know your phone number. They know your home address. They even know where you work.

Life’s quiet over the next week. You figure whoever it was gave up on their little prank, so you put it out of your mind.

On Friday, a florist delivers a plant to your office. Your name’s on the card. You aren’t sure why anyone would be sending you a gift, but you walk up to the front desk and retrieve your plant anyway. There’s a card stuck into the soil. “I like your blue bedspread. We’ll be together soon. XO” There’s no name signed at the bottom.

How does he know you have a blue bedspread?

“I don’t want it,” you tell the receptionist.

She gives you a strange look, but keeps the plant at her desk. You call the florist to see who sent it to you, but they don’t know, and whoever it was paid with cash so there’s no credit card transaction to track.

That night, you stay up late watching TV. There’s no way you’ll be able to sleep. Something in the back of your mind is starting to bug you, and you can’t tell what it is until you see the flash of headlights swoop past your window again. And you realize you’re seeing headlights pretty regularly, which is strange since you live down a cul-de-sac.

You lift a single mini-blind and keep a look-out. Sure enough, a few minutes later, you see a blue sedan drive past, turn around at the end of the road, and drive back out. About ten minutes later, the same blue sedan’s back and makes another pass. Again and again.

Your first reaction is to call the police, but what would you tell them? It’s not illegal to drive down the road. And it’s possible the driver’s just lost. Instead of calling the police, you get up and double-check all your door and window locks.

Saturday night, the blue sedan is back. And Sunday night. You stay up both nights and catch a few hours of sleep during the day.

On Monday, you make a huge mistake at work and get reprimanded. At lunchtime, your office phone rings. You pick it up and hear breathing, so you slam the receiver back down. Everyone around you stares.

You have to figure out who this is.

You fake sick and leave work an hour early so you can drive around the company parking lot, looking for the blue sedan. You find two. It could be either one, but you know one of them belongs to a particularly strange co-worker. You had lunch with him a couple of times when he first started, just to be friendly to the new guy, but you haven’t talked much since then. Mostly because he seems a little off. He’s just odd enough to make you uncomfortable, but not odd enough to justify complaining to management.

You’re sure it’s him, but you don’t have any proof. But you promise yourself you’ll call the police the next time something happens.

But nothing happens for two weeks, and you think he’s given it up. You start sleeping again now that the blue sedan isn’t driving past every night. What’s even nicer is your odd co-worker has taken a week’s vacation time, so you don’t even have to see him at work.

On a Thursday, you get home and see a shoe box sitting on your front porch. You lift the lid off with the toe of your shoe and recoil a little at the smell. It’s a dead bird.

Your mind starts racing. Is the bird supposed to be me? Is this a threat?

You go inside and call the police. They take a report, but say it’s probably just kids playing a prank.

You tell them about your co-worker, but they ask, “Did you see him on your property?”

But you haven’t. So, as far as the police are concerned, anyone could have left the bird. Still, they take the note you found in the mailbox and tell you to keep a diary of everything that happens.

And then they’re gone, and you’re on your own. And you still don’t know if you’re the bird.

Over the next few weeks, you start to think you’re going crazy. Things are moving around in your house. You always keep your shampoo in the shower, but when you go to use it the next time, it’s sitting by the sink. Did you move it and not remember? Does he have some way of getting into your house?

You call the police again, and they take down another report, but who calls the police over moved shampoo? You know they think you’re paranoid and they don’t appreciate you wasting their time.

When you go to work, you do your best to avoid this man, but he likes to walk around and chat with all the co-workers near your desk. Even though you tell yourself to ignore him, sometimes you can’t help looking up, and when you do, he’s always staring at you. And he smirks.

You never sleep now, unless you stay over at your aunt’s. She makes up the couch for you to crash on. But, one night, the phone rings at 2:00 AM and nobody’s there, and you know that he knows where you are. He always knows where you are.

One morning, you stop back at your house after staying with your aunt. There’s a manila envelope sitting on your kitchen counter, and you don’t remember putting it there. Inside the envelope is another note. This one takes up the entire page. It’s a long list of reasons you’re a worthless piece of garbage that deserves to die.

You call the police, and finally, they take the threat seriously. They even ask your co-worker some questions, but he denies everything, and they can’t arrest him because there’s still no evidence that it’s definitely him.

And there’s nothing you can do. He controls your life now, not you. You don’t get to make your own decisions. When to sleep. Where to sleep.

It’s not what he’s done that causes your now frequent panic attacks. It’s the fear of what he could do.

Every day, other people wake up and they know what their day will look like. It’s nice and predictable. But you don’t have that anymore. Because you never know if today’s the day he’ll leave you another dead animal or another death threat.

Maybe today’s the day he’ll make good on that threat.

Because you’ve done your research. You know that this is a stalker. And you know that stalkers like him really do kill their victims sometimes.

You jump at every noise. You know that thunk outside probably isn’t him, but it could be. You drive down the road with your eyes more focused on the rear view mirror than the road in front of you. You’re exhausted all the time.

But you can’t do anything about it. This is your life now.

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Except it’s not your life, unless you do have a stalker. You can stop reading this anytime you want. Someone with a stalker can’t stop. They don’t have any control over what comes next. Stalking is a form of terrorism.

Do you remember 9/11? How freaked out everyone was about what might happen next? That’s how stalking victims feel all the time. Because we never know what might happen next, so that fear and anxiety follows us everywhere, all the time, and we can’t escape it.

Next Steps for My Book and Dirk McPecks

editing

At least I’m not afraid of red or taking a ridiculous amount of notes. I am a little afraid of commas.

I’m sitting here, glasses on, burned coffee beside me, and water dripping off my hair and down the back of my shirt because I’m not going out today, so who am I trying to impress? Right now, I’m taking a break from tweaking that book I’ve been working on because that’s all that’s left. Tweaks. (Don’t tell me that’s not a fun word.)

The major revision work is done (I hope) and now all I’m doing is reading through it one more time to fix all those times I changed tense for no damn reason at all or typed something redundant or got a little rambly. And I’m realizing I suck at titling chapters, so we might have to crowd-title that shit, y’all.

Next step: My family gets to read it, and then tell me all the things I got wrong so we can argue about it until someone feels bad and buys everyone else a pizza as an apology. (Really, I’m just in this for the pizza.)

Next, Next step: I’ll start contacting people who are in the book (well, the ones I’m sure wouldn’t hang up on me if I called), just to give them a head’s up and the option of using a pseudonym. So, if you think you might be in my book, start thinking of clever pseudonyms like Dirk McPecks, but you can’t use that one because I already called dibs.

Honestly, I’m a little jittery about that part. I know not everyone’s going to appreciate being written into a book, even if all I’m doing is talking about how awesome they are.

This is my super fierce editing face. This is the face that writes, "Dammit, Kristy! Nobody wants to read about this shit," in red ink.

This is my super fierce editing face. This is the face that crosses entire pages out and writes, “Dammit, Kristy! Nobody wants to read about this shit,” in red ink.

Next, Next, Next Step: Beta readers. After I’ve “done the right thing” and contacted everyone on my list, I’ll go through and make all the name changes I need to make, then turn the whole thing over to a group of beta readers. I’ll get some feedback, and I’ll go through another round or two of revisions based on that. Maybe all the beta readers think that scene of my family eating dinner was too short. I could add more. Maybe they all think that Bible study scene is the most boring thing they’ve ever read and why, God, why am I putting them through this? It’s not like I can’t cut a scene or two and replace it with something else. A lot of things happened and hardly any of those things are included in the manuscript right now. (See how I used the term “manuscript” there? That’s how you know I’m super legit. It could even be argued that I’m too legit, but don’t worry. I won’t quit.)

While my family is doing their read-through, I want to get together a list of beta readers. I’ve already had a few people express an interest, but I need a few more. If you’re interested, please let me know. If you’re not interested, but you know someone who might be, please check with them. Ideally, a beta reader is someone who will give me both positive and negative feedback. What works well? What doesn’t work well?

Why does everything I write come across like a sugar-crazed, hyperactive 14-year-old wrote it? This. This is why.

Why does everything I write come across like a sugar-crazed, hyperactive 14-year-old wrote it? This. This is why.

Next, Next, Next, Next Step: This is where I freak out because the beta readers have my manuscript and they’re all reading it and judging it and judging me, but that’s okay because I’ll get over it since I know having more eyes on it will make it way more awesome than I could make it on my own. Then I’ll get all emotional and start crying because I can’t believe people volunteered to read my book and I love them all so much and I want to bake them cookies.

Next, Next, Next, Next, Next Step: One last read through. One last round of line edits, which result in me googling comma usage and chewing on my pen because why aren’t comma rules more straight-forward holy crap English is the worst! And then I’ll start querying agents and I’ll mention my very large family who will all buy my book, so who needs a big online platform?

I’m excited and anxious and a little nauseous. And suddenly very aware of how much I abuse the word “and”.

The thing is, I’ve been saying, “I’m going to write books” since I was eight years old. When I was eighteen, and all that stuff with the stalker happened, my life took off in an unplanned for direction. I always meant to write this book, and now I have. And, whatever happens next, I’m going to chalk that up as a victory.

Lot’s wife looked back

the light shines in the darkness
but the darkness has not
understood it you prostitute
the word of the lord came to me
hate what is evil
cling to what is good
burn down your houses
and inflict punishment
i will bring upon you
the blood vengeance of my wrath
and jealous anger and
with the measure you use it
will be measured to you
no one looked on you with pity or
had compassion now you are
the body of Christ
better a poor man whose walk is
blameless than a fool
whose lips are perverse
if we claim we have not sinned
we make him out to be a liar and
his word has no place in our lives
have her burned to death because
you know that the testing of your faith
develops perseverance
a false witness will not go unpunished thus
by their fruit you will recognize them
i will take vengeance on my adversaries and
repay those who hate me
if your right eye causes you to sin
gouge it out but Lot’s wife looked back and
she became a pillar of salt


I took the verses You-Know-Who sent me and the verses I highlighted in my Bible during that time and mashed them up into a poem because who wouldn’t do that?

For more fun with creepy Bible verses, you can read MSt3King My Death Threats.

The Pacifist’s Guide to Inflicting Pain

 

Credit: Todd Lappin

Credit: Todd Lappin

Oh, Kristy, you crazy Jezebel. Pacifists don’t inflict pain. How can you inflict pain when you’re standing still, allowing people to punch you in the face?

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I believe that Christians are called to pacifism. And I also believe that sometimes some Christians are called to inflict a little pain.

Woah. Hold the phone. That doesn’t sound like loving our enemies.

Say someone punches me in the face (for being the mouthy person that I am) and scrapes his knuckles on my front teeth.

I could punch him back, which isn’t at all a Christ-like response.

I could walk away without harming him, which would be a more Christ-like response.

Or I could pull out my first aid kit and swab his knuckles with rubbing alcohol, which would be the most Christ-like response.

When the alcohol hits his scrapes and starts stinging, he might pull back and yell, “You’re hurting me!” but am I really? Am I hurting him or am I helping him? Is causing pain always a violent act?

It’s important to remember that in this scenario, I’m showing off my rad first aid skills on someone who initiated contact with me (via a punch to the face, but still). I didn’t go for a walk in my local park and insist everyone I came across show me their scrapes and scratches so I could pour alcohol over them. And we should never just waltz up to people we know nothing about and “speak the truth” at them because, come on, the gospel is pretty clear about how Christians aren’t supposed to be jerks.

Damage or Discomfort

Sometimes we need to speak the truth, and sometimes the truth is painful for people to hear.

For example, being called out by your congregation for abusing people within the church is painful, but necessary. It’s necessary for the people who’ve been abused and it’s necessary for the person who’s committed the abusive acts. Because how is it loving to allow someone to continue hurting others?

What we have to ask ourselves is are we causing damage or discomfort?

We should never damage other people with our words or actions, but discomfort is absolutely on the table. Discomfort doesn’t cause any true damage, but it can prompt positive change. Because people are always looking for that sweet spot in life, and they’ll weave and bob around anything that makes them uncomfortable to get there.

Last summer, I caused some discomfort. My sister and I showed up at our old church. It could have been a spiritually and emotionally violent sort of raid (even though my sister didn’t let me wear my horned helmet which was a huge disappointment). But I wasn’t there to inflict damage.

The main reason I was there was to pray for that congregation because, you know, Jesus and all. When I got home and recounted the visit to my father, I claimed to have “pulled a total Ananias” because I’m obsessed with Ananias’ interaction with Paul (and I’m also kind of lame). I was there in the spirit of peace and reconciliation. I shook hands. I hugged people. I worshiped with them. And, keep in mind, these are the people who weren’t terribly concerned when a stalker wanted to murder me.

The effect of that peaceful entrance was like pouring rubbing alcohol into a festering wound. It was super uncomfortable. I mean, how would you feel if you’d ignored a teenage girl’s pleas for help while an older man threatened to kill her? And then she disappeared off the face of the earth for 16 years until one day she popped back in on her way to the airport?

But did I damage those people? No.

My presence probably reminded them of some unpleasant moments, but that was all old damage. It wasn’t anything new I caused on that Sunday morning. All I did was bring the alcohol with me (rubbing alcohol, not drinking alcohol, but only because my sister was all, “No, Kristy, you can’t drink a 6-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade before church starts).

You know who else used to cause a lot of discomfort? His name starts with a J. He was never cruel or vindictive about it, but he caused discomfort when it was necessary to bring people closer to righteousness.

Jesus didn’t trade physical punches with people, but he didn’t let them off the hook either. If we’re supposed to follow Jesus, and we find our calling to pacifism in his example and instructions, then we should also find our calling to promote peace, reconciliation, and change through nonviolent action. And sometimes that means a little non-retributive pain and discomfort when disinfection and healing is the purpose.

 

All We Have to Fear is That Dang Hippie Cult

Something horrible happened last night. It’s something I’ve dreaded, but knew I’d eventually have to face. Though, even when we know something’s inevitable it doesn’t make it any less frightening.

I lost a dental filling.

I’ll pause for all the horrified gasps I assume are happening.

Seriously? Nobody gasped? What, are you people made of stone?

Nothing scares me more than the dentist. Back before I knew EDS was a thing, I had my wisdom teeth removed. See, back then, I’d never had dental work done before. I didn’t know that the shots were supposed to completely numb your mouth. And my dentist kept saying, “Oh, that’s just pressure you’re feeling” but a dentist I saw a year later confirmed that, no, I don’t actually numb like a normal person and I had actually felt pain when my teeth were pulled—which isn’t at all traumatic, you know.

Now I’m terrified of the dentist, especially new dentists who never seem to believe me when I tell them I need 5x the shots that a normal person gets (and I still usually feel some degree of pain.) I mean, I’m obviously just a hysterical person with an irrational fear of the drill, right? (Until they give me shots, then poke my gums, and are shocked when I’m all, “Yeah, I totally feel you doing that right now.” They get real apologetic, real quick.)

So, yeah, I’m totally freaked out.

And, yeah, I’m totally going to make a dental appointment anyway.

If I avoided the things I’m afraid of, I’d never do anything at all because I’m scared of everything.

“Come on. Everything?” you ask.

Yes, everything.

I hate banks because I find the tall counters intimidating.

I rarely talk on the phone because I just know I’ll somehow offend the person on the other end since they can’t read my body language.

I don’t like driving down dirt roads at night because what if something or someone jumps out of the woods in front of my car and I have to brake quickly and then I’m kidnapped and brainwashed into some hippie cult? (Well, a hippier-than-liberal-Mennonites cult.)

I worry about the potential backlash over writing my memoir. I mean, “good writing” is such a subjective thing. Not everyone is going to get why I’m doing things the way I’m doing them, and honestly it’s going to piss some people off no matter how gently I handle those events. (Some people are going to get their knickers in a knot. It’s just going to happen.)

Credit: I-5 Design & Manufacture

What I assume hell looks like.    (Credit: I-5 Design & Manufacture)

But that doesn’t mean I never go into the bank or I never talk on the phone or I’m going to stop writing. (I do try to avoid driving at night, but that’s more about my poor night vision…but also cults.)

If I really need to see the dentist, I’ll choke down my anxiety and go see the dentist. I’ll be having a panic attack the whole time, but you know, I’ll go.

Yes, it’ll be terrible, but it won’t be forever. Sometimes the future benefit outweighs the terror.

Sometimes we have to do things that scare us. People, being people, usually find excuses to avoid doing the things that scare us. But it’s usually something that frightens us that helps us grow.

The scariest thing that ever happened to me wasn’t being stalked. It was leaving my home (admittedly, that was because of the stalker, but still…) I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan. I need to know what comes next.

Leaving my home yanked the rug out from under me. I had no plan and no clue what I’d do next. All I knew is I was headed north. I had no other plan than that.

It was hard, and it was scary, but it didn’t last. I eventually found my way, and I was a better person in the end.

Sometimes I do things that scare me and it doesn’t work out so well. Sometimes I fail. But failure is still its own form of success. Even though I was afraid, I still tried, and that’s brave. So, even failure’s a victory for bravery—maybe even more so than the times I succeed.

Maybe there’s something you know you should do, but you’re afraid.

I get it. I really do.

But maybe it’s worth running up against your fear. Maybe there’s something awesome on the other side of that anxiety. Let’s face it, a fully functional tooth is pretty awesome.