I’ve mentioned the man who stalked me a few times, but it’s just little comments or single incidents that mostly revolve around my issues with the church. I think it might be hard to understand those posts without being able to put them into context though. So, here’s my attempt at giving some context. This is probably my 5th attempt over the years at writing it all down. When I see it all laid out at once, I get a little overwhelmed so I get disgusted and quit writing halfway through. So, bear with me. This is going to be a little raw.
A Note: My intention isn’t to hurt anyone by sharing this. I’m mostly omitting my family from this unless it’s absolutely necessary to mention them. I don’t want to give the impression that they weren’t around or didn’t do anything to help, but I won’t be telling anyone else’s story here. I’m not going to name names either. I don’t want this to read as an attack on my old church because that’s not what it is. Also, what happened meets the legal definition of stalking (just so we’re all on the same page).
Year: 1999 (I was 18 and he was in his 40s)
Location: A small town in northern Arkansas
You-Know-Who’s History: A couple of years before he started stalking me, he had been committed after jumping through a closed window. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His wife had left him prior to that because of domestic abuse. He had already tried to track her down (so, he had a history of stalking women).
My History: The only questionable thing I’d done was create a website (that was supposed to be private) that poked fun at our youth group’s courtship class. Other than that, I was actively involved with the church, was active in the youth group, led a Bible Study, volunteered with MDS, and helped out with the biweekly youth revival.
Around the time I graduated high school, You-Know-Who started paying more attention to me. He always struck me as, well, crazy. He would talk about things like reading his Bible and seeing the letters melt off the page. I was polite to him, but avoided him if I could because he was weird and annoying. That worked out pretty well for me until that summer. Any time we were at a church event, he’d come sit by me and try to monopolize my attention.
That doesn’t seem like that big of a deal and it wouldn’t have been if it had stopped there. Anyway, he was obviously crossing some boundaries with his behavior. (This wasn’t “fatherly” attention.) A couple of adults noticed it and mentioned it to my parents. A friend of mine would make it a point to come sit between me and You-Know-Who. The point here is that other people recognized there was a problem and You-Know-Who was talked to and asked to back off.
The youth group was planning a trip to Oklahoma to work with Mennonite Disaster Service. Right before we left, we had a car wash fundraiser. You-Know-Who showed up to the car wash. He asked who all was going on the trip and when we were leaving. One of the girls told him. (I don’t blame her at all. She was new to the youth group and didn’t know what was going on.) So, he knew exactly who was going and who was staying.
While we were in Oklahoma, we found out our house had been broken into. Remember how You-Know-Who knew who was going on the trip and when? Here’s the thing… we lived in the parsonage. All of us left for the trip from the parsonage/church which means that several cars were parked at my house. To most people, it would have looked like people were there.
However, only my mother was home. I won’t go into details about that since I wasn’t there. I’ll just say that she realized someone was in the house and called the police. They found that the screen in my window had been taken out.
We cut the trip short and drove back to Arkansas. The police said I should check my room to see if anything was missing. I’d had a load of neatly folded laundry on my bed before I left and it was scattered around and some of my magazines were ripped up. We also found tire tracks behind our house where he’d parked.
Some people from church knew what had happened. My family straight up named You-Know-Who. These people knew about his mental illness, but they weren’t convinced. He jumped through a closed window once, but it just wasn’t possible that he’d go through a window the easy way by you know, opening it.
I was exhausted that Sunday. We had an acquaintance who was a State Trooper. He came to church that morning and said he’d observe how You-Know-Who was acting. He was hoping to catch him saying or doing something. I was told to “act normal”. I tried. But, I forgot that I was supposed to handle Special Presentation that Sunday and when I got behind the pulpit I pretty much condemned him and any members of the church who didn’t “cut him off” from the body. At least, that’s what anyone who knew about the issue would have heard since all I did was read scripture.
After I was done, I sat back down in my pew. The choir went up front and he held up a Bible of his own. “Like Kristy said, this is the word of God…” he started. I got up and stormed out of the building. I couldn’t handle sitting there like everything was normal while he held up God’s word and said my name like he hadn’t just broken into my home and gone through my stuff. I calmed down some and went back into the sanctuary after a little while.
After the service, I was standing in the Fellowship Hall when one of the women (who was aware of the situation) came up to me and let me have it. She claimed YKW had been healed of his schizophrenia because she’d prayed it away. She also said that if he was stalking me that it was my fault because of the way I dressed.
I had a full scholarship (with room and board) to the University of Central Arkansas. I moved into my dorm soon after the first break in. I mostly stayed away from home because I was safer on campus. The parsonage was ridiculously easy to get into. He broke in several more times, usually when nobody was home.
One night he broke in when everyone was asleep. My parents woke up to the smoke alarm going off. Thankfully, I was on campus that night. He had set my bed on fire. Actually, he took one of my favorite shirts and a Barbie wearing a wedding dress and set those on my bed and set it all on fire. He also took some lipstick that was sitting on my desk and drew a creepy eye on my mirror with it.
He would leave things in the mailbox or on the front porch or in our church mailbox. He’d rip out pictures of brides from magazines and write “MINE” on them. I found out he’d stolen the first Bible I owned when ripped out pages from it started showing up. He’d underline verses. He underlined Genesis 38:24, “‘Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.’ Judah said, ‘Bring her out and have her burned to death!'” He was threatening me with my own Bible.
One time I went over to the church in the middle of the week and found a pair of my stolen underwear and my prom picture with my boyfriend’s face cut out sitting in my pew, right where I always sat on Sundays. Only someone who regularly attended our church would know the exact place where I sat.
I hardly slept. I hardly came home.
In the middle of all of this, a police officer spoke to You-Know-Who. YKW claimed he’d helped my parents move me to college and that’s why he’d been in my bedroom. Wouldn’t an innocent person say, “I was never in there”? Except he knew he had been in there and needed some excuse for why his fingerprints might be there.
YKW asked for a church council meeting. He wanted the church to judge him instead of the secular authorities. I don’t know exactly what happened in that meeting. I wasn’t there. I do know it didn’t go in my favor and two people left the church over it that night. At some point towards the end of all of this, I also broke up with my boyfriend (who was at the church council meeting).
When I found the obituary, it was the last straw for me. I noticed something in my family’s church mailbox. It was an obituary that had been cut out of the paper. He’d replaced the person’s name with my name. The police couldn’t protect me, even if they wanted to, because of the anti-stalking laws. My church council refused to even believe I was in danger. I didn’t want to just wait around until he murdered me or my family. My parents had been talking about possibly leaving the state, but they didn’t want to leave me alone in Arkansas. So, I made the decision for them and dropped out of school and showed up back at home.
My father spoke to an old family friend in Indiana and he told him to pack us up and move in with him. So, we decided to go. My dad didn’t give a sermon that Sunday. Instead, he told the congregation what had been going on (without naming the stalker). Most of them weren’t aware, or fully aware, of what had been happening. The church council members were the only ones who really knew all about it. My dad told them that he was resigning and we’d be moving in a month.
In less than two weeks we had everything loaded onto a U-Haul. We left earlier than we said we would because we were worried YKW would burn our house down if we waited a full month to leave. We only told one family where we were going. I didn’t even have a chance to say good-bye to any but one of my friends in person.
We moved in with our friend in Indiana. A little while after we’d moved, my dad spoke on the phone with someone we’d known in our old town. He told my dad that YKW had been asking for our new address. He’d claimed to have some books he wanted to return to my dad. My dad had never lent him any books. He was just trying to track me down.
That’s the basic story. I didn’t include every single thing that happened because it’s mostly just more examples of what I’ve already mentioned (more Bible pages, more magazine pictures, more threatening notes, sometimes he’d drive past the house, sometimes he’d break in…)
TL;DR – A 40-something-year-old man with untreated schizophrenia and a history of domestic violence stalked me, threatened my life, and kept breaking into my house. The church members who had any power in the church refused to believe he was doing it.
It all sounds pretty crazy… and it is. I know the people in my church wanted to believe something like this couldn’t happen, but it does happen. Look at Elizabeth Smart. Look at Hannah Anderson. It happens.
What could I have possibly gained from accusing him of doing these things? I lost everything because of this. I didn’t have a scholarship anymore, so I had to pay out-of-pocket for school. I wanted to stay in Arkansas with my friends, but that’s not what I got to do. I walked away from Christianity for over a decade because of this. Because of how this was handled by my church “family”. How this was handled by people I loved and looked up to.
I wouldn’t accuse someone of these things and wreck my entire life if I wasn’t absolutely positive about it. If you look at his history and mine, it’s kind of a no-brainer who should be believed. Even when the whole courtship website thing blew up in my face, I never lied to save face or deflect responsibility away from myself. I don’t know what else other than my dead body showing up could have convinced them.
Sometimes I’m angry that I had to rebuild my whole life from scratch and live out of a suitcase in a “safe house”.
Sometimes I worry that You-Know-Who has hurt someone else since I left because I couldn’t stop him.
Sometimes I wonder what rumors were spread about me to justify what happened.
Sometimes I wonder if those church council members ever feel sorry about what happened.
Sometimes I wonder if more emphasis had been placed on the gift of discernment and less on prayer healing none of this ever would have happened.
Sometimes I’m just incredibly sad for all of us because there are spiritual wounds for everyone who was involved.