Collateral Damage of Stalking (Guest Post)

Angela (my little sister who happens to be a couple of inches taller than I am) and me, just before the stalking began

I’ve read a lot about stalkers, stalkees, PTSD, and pies (because who doesn’t like reading about various pies?) One thing that bugs me is the lack of information about people who are close to a stalking victim. They live through these experiences alongside the victim and it impacts their lives too. You don’t have to be the direct target of stalking to be hurt by it, yet these friends and family members are ignored.

Instead of writing a post about how a person is affected when someone close to them is stalked (which I’m totally not qualified to write), I decided to ask an expert.

My younger sister, Angela, agreed to write a guest post. She’s a kinder, gentler, less sailor-mouthed version of me. All views and opinions are her own, especially the stuff about how funny I am (though the remark about how annoying I am is totally true.) She was a good sport about my weird I-refer-to-my-stalker-as-Voldemort-on-the-blog thing.

If you’re not up-to-date on what happened to our family, read That Time a Fellow Church Member Wanted to Murder Me.

Many people have been reading Kristy’s blog regarding You-Know-Who stalking her. She has stated more than once that she does not want to speculate how family or friends felt or were affected during this time. Because of this, she has asked if I would write a post about what it was like to be the sister of someone who was stalked. I will do my best, but I warn you I’m not nearly as funny to read as Kristy!

A Story about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

“Hey Dad, why is You-Know-Who’s truck here?” I asked as I walked in from a grueling day of school.

“He needed to make a personal phone call so I let him use the phone in your room,” Dad replied.

I was not okay with this man using my phone and being in my room and I made that very clear to my dad at this exact moment. I walked to my room because I decided as a 15-year-old that it was totally cool to burst in on someone’s personal phone call. I opened the door and there was You-Know-Who kneeling down in my dirty laundry. YKW had overturned my hamper and was now praying in my dirty laundry. I just closed the door, walked back to the kitchen, and explained to dad what I had just seen. YKW came walking out to the kitchen like nothing had happened and told dad he had to go pick up his wife and kids. I stood there for a minute with my mouth wide open about ready to lay into him when I realized he was gone. I was only 15 years old and I knew that YKW needed to be avoided. I pretty much always knew something was wrong with him. After the bedroom incident, I steered clear of YKW, and with him disappearing randomly for months at a time this was pretty easy for the next 2 years.

Angela (left) with some loud-mouthed fool

When the stalking truly began I was finishing up my junior year of high school and looking forward to my final year and all the fun that would be coming. Little did I know that all of this would be ripped from me a few short months later.

My family moved a lot during my childhood and I never really felt at “home” anywhere. When we moved to Arkansas, my parents made a commitment to try and stay until I was out of high school so I could have a “normal” high school experience. When we first arrived at our new church, the youth group was comprised of 3 people so just by adding Kristy and myself we almost doubled it the day we arrived. A few years later, we had over 20 kids! Kristy and I put a lot of time and effort into the church as did our parents (you know, the pastor and his wife). At the age of 17, I had a steady boyfriend of about 2 years and several very close friends who felt more like family than friends. My life was like any 17-year-old’s (before cell phones). I had fun, I loved life, fought with my parents, and planned for my future.

Then the stalking started and everything changed.

When the Stalking was Happening

While the stalking was happening, I alienated many friends as I just couldn’t handle the normal teen drama. A friend I called my “body guard” actually prevented me from getting into fights by just standing in front of me and moving me away from the person I was about to hit. I became a totally different person at that time. I was angry and filled with hate and hurting so badly that I couldn’t even put into words the depths of anguish I was feeling. I hurt a lot of people during these months and I feel so bad for that! I was not reflecting Jesus in my actions. My relationship was almost non-existent with my boyfriend because I literally just stopped living my life.

When our house was being broken into and underlined Bible pages were showing up at our house, I would leave school right after band class and go check on my mom who was typically home alone while my dad was at work. If I couldn’t leave the school, then I would call her on my lunch break. Dad was safe at work and Kristy was safe when she was at her dorm, but I never felt that Mom was safe in the house and I didn’t want to leave her alone if I could help it. I was terrified another break-in would occur and she would be hurt.

At night, I would hear noises outside our house and I would freak out. YKW could break into the house again at any time. The only thing that could calm me down was prayer. I would ask God to send an Angel to guard our house and he did. I could feel the presence of the Angel guarding our house and I could sleep. I had many sleepless nights before I figured this out. I had a very strong faith, but didn’t understand the spiritual warfare that was happening around me. I am so grateful that I had a relationship with God or I would not have made it out of this situation mentally intact (well partially anyway).

Once the death threats were found, my parents made the decision to get us outta Dodge. I was told not to announce that we were moving until we were ready to leave and even then we couldn’t tell people where we were going. It wasn’t safe. No place was safe. He knew everything about us and where we would go to hide. I got to say goodbye to my boyfriend and one friend… that was it.  This was before MySpace or Facebook existed. If you were not in close proximity, you didn’t exist. So I left behind my entire life. I left the only home I ever really had. I left behind the extended family that I had built during my 2-year relationship. I left behind friends that had become sisters.

The Immediate Aftermath

Once we moved, I figured my life and personality would calm down and I could go back to being the happier version of myself. Well, this didn’t exactly happen. My boyfriend and I broke up as most high school relationships do and I felt even more alone than normal. My parents moved in with one family friend and I moved in with other family friends so that I could go to a smaller, private school (my parents thought I would adjust better to a smaller school, like the one I’d been in). I decided to throw myself into school because, after all, I had a 3.8 GPA and I could get a scholarship to college and be merry and great. Ummm, nope! Turns out my credits would not transfer to the new school because they were a private school and public schools don’t have the same curriculum. But they didn’t tell my parents that when I enrolled. So, after attending for a while, I found out they had started a senior out with a 2.0 GPA and good luck to you with only a few months of school left!

After some very colorful words coming out of my mouth, I informed the school principal where he could go and I quit school. I drove to the house my parents were living in at the time and let them know that they had a drop out for a daughter. I don’t think anything would have surprised my parents more, but they were very cool and my dad took me to take the GED test that would allow me to go to college. And yes, I passed it with a very high score. Life continued, I went to college and moved on with my life… Or did I?

Where Do I Fit in This Story?

When Kristy started writing this blog I started getting annoyed because she would ask me questions and make me think about this horrible time in my life. If I had moved on and moved past it why was I so annoyed? Well, because I hadn’t moved past it. I just stepped over it. I chose to ignore the repercussions of the decisions that YKW made. My life was changed because a crazy man decided to threaten to kill my family. So, am I a victim? Am I a survivor? What the heck am I in this story?

I am a person who was adversely affected by the bad, bad, bad decisions of another human being.

Long-Term Impact

In some ways, I chose to live in fear and let those decisions shape my life. I call myself cautiously paranoid. I am overly cautious with people. I am paranoid when it comes to safety. I assume something bad is going to happen and I find my exits and figure out how I can overtake the person I’m talking to so that I can get away first. I feel like a coward all the time.

In the last few years, I have finally been able to move forward emotionally in my life and let go of some of this trauma. I have made a few amazing friends that have made me feel so incredibly safe that I can’t help but to go back to the real me. Instead of dreading going to church every Sunday, because who knows what creeps are there and what they will do, I feel safe because I know the people on the security team. I can finally say I trust someone at my church again. It has been 15 years since I have felt this way, 15 years since I could believe I wouldn’t be hurt intentionally.

I am still paranoid about locking the car and house as soon as I can. I get teased some because of it, but when you have a man pray in your dirty laundry, break into your house multiple times, and threaten the lives of those you swear you will protect, something in you just snaps. I will probably always check the locks multiple times a night. Even when my husband says he locked the doors, I will still wake up at 1 AM and verify they are still locked. I doubt this will ever change.

I am working on allowing myself to make friends a little easier. I tend to be very stand-off-ish at first.  Once I realize the person isn’t a threat I can calm down and try to make friends, but it takes a long time for that to happen.

Working Toward Forgiveness

I have had to work hard at forgiving myself for my actions as a teen in a traumatic situation. I’ve also had to work hard at forgiving the people at my old church and You-Know-Who. I have always prayed that the church would survive and flourish, but it did not and that genuinely makes me sad. On a trip last year, Kristy and I were able to visit this church and as we sat in the pew listening to the sermon I prayed that God would release that church and its members from bondage. As we drove away, Kristy and I prayed for that church together. I want God to come back to that church and move in such a large way that everyone in the area can see the miracle!

I have no more hate as it is a totally worthless emotion in my book.  What does hate do?  It just led me down a path I didn’t want to be on. So, I stopped. God granted me peace in this situation and I am truly grateful.

God gave me the greatest gift possible, perspective. Once we moved away, I started to see how us leaving that town was not the end of the world and was probably the best thing for us. I just wish we could have left under better circumstances.

I will forever be scarred by this situation, but scars fade and eventually this will be just another reason why I have a strong faith in my God. It’ll be a story that I can tell to show people that God will lead you out of the fire if you ask him to—a testimony of forgiveness and grace.

How do you know when you have moved on? Well, you have a random dream about being a guest speaker at your old church, and you preach on how wrong it is to seek revenge on someone who hurt you. While preaching, the man who hurt you and your family walks in and sits in the front row. You point at him and say, “I could shoot this person in the head right now for what he did to my family, but that won’t change the past. It will not erase the pain or fear. It would only make me a killer.”  Then you pray for the demons inside the man to go back to hell and you release him from his bondage and pray that God forgives him so he too can live in Heaven.

That is how I know I have let go of the anger. I don’t want YKW to hurt. I want him to be healed. He is mentally ill and I understand that. I pray that God heals him and he repents of his sins so he can live in Heaven for all eternity.

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