Bridget was an employee of the Omaha Police Department for 24 years. During that time she was able to bridge a gap between the community and the police by working as a liaison and helping community members solve their problems and concerns. Bridget worked with community members without issue until one of those community members became obsessed with her and began stalking her. Although she was terrified, she decided to work through her job to educate victims on how they could better protect themselves when faced with a stalking situation. Her work at the police department and her own experience with stalking led her into a career that once again allows her to help people. For the past 4 years, Bridget has been working as a Life Coach for her company, It’s Your Choice Life Coaching. She has helped numerous people get unstuck and face their fears in order to have a better life. Bridget also works with stalking victims helping them to regain their confidence and build a plan to move forward after their stalking experience. If you are interested in learning how she can help you, you can visit her website at www.itsyourchoicetoday or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was many years ago, but if I think about it, it feels as if it were just yesterday. I am talking about my stalking case. When you have been a victim of stalking, some things just can’t be forgotten. The terror, helplessness, and paranoia just to name a few.
I often think my case is different from most because mine didn’t go on for years, thank God. Mine lasted less than a year but for the time it lasted, it was a living nightmare. Let me share with you what I experienced.
I was a civilian employee for a large police department. My job was to work with the community. On a daily basis I helped neighborhoods form neighborhood watch groups to try to keep their neighborhoods safe. Typically I worked with one representative from the neighborhood to build their watch group. One particular community member who happened to live close to me in a small knit neighborhood decided he was going to start multiple neighborhood watch groups and called me to help him.
Here is where I ignored my first red flag. The guy gave me the creeps! Seriously!! But as a government employee I was required to work with him. When I worked with him I was professional and very abrupt. I wanted my time with him to be as short as possible. Although my intuition was screaming at me, I ignored it and thought I was overreacting. As time went on though and we continued to work together, things escalated.
My suspect and I lived in close proximity in a tight neighborhood where people knew each other and sometimes knew each other’s business. At this time, I was separated from my ex-husband and not seeing anyone. While I was home one day I received flowers. The note on the flowers said from “Mr. Anony Mous.” I knew they were not from my ex and as an employee of the police department, I fiercely guarded my home address. When I reached out to the florist to inquire who sent the flowers, I was told it was the man that I had been working with who gave me the creeps.
I called him from work and with very clear words, told him he was out of line, that I was a married woman and that I had no personal interest in him whatsoever nor was I willing to work with him in the future. And let me make this very clear to the readers, I was a bitch! There was no mistaking my message to him… and yet….
Shortly after that phone call, I received a letter in the mail from him. The first part of the letter was asking for forgiveness and the second half of the letter was rambling and made no sense. The letter was enough to freak me out so I decided to inform my superiors and start a police file. At this point unfortunately, I was more annoyed than frightened and again, I did not pay close enough attention to my intuition.
A few days later I was in my kitchen cooking dinner. When I removed the dinner from the oven, I looked up to find him standing above me in my kitchen, staring at me! To say I was terrified is an understatement! I screamed at him to get out of my house. He turned to leave and walked out my front door never saying a word. I called my work (the police) and they sent officers over to take a report and go to his house and arrest him for unlawfully entering my house.
Once he was arrested I proceeded to immediately get a restraining order. His attorney reached out to me to let me know it was a misunderstanding and asked me to drop the restraining order. This is finally where reality kicked in for me. This man unlawfully entered my house and I was not going to revoke the order.
The restraining order had to be heard in front of a judge to become effective. My court date was set for two weeks. Before we could get to court however, my stalker came back. This time at night. I was ready for him this time. Unfortunately the night he returned was also the night of a bad snow storm and the police were delayed in arriving. With the help of some neighbors, I was able to hold him at gunpoint. During this time he had a psychotic breakdown and was screaming that he loved me. It was completely nightmarish to hear him screaming those words! When the police finally arrived, he became combative and fought with the officers. Had I not had him at gunpoint, I don’t know if he would have become combative with me. (You need to make your own decision about deadly force weapons. If you choose to get a weapon, it is imperative that you get training for that particular weapon. Your weapon can be used against you!)
In the end, he went to prison for 18 months for stalking. I was one of the lucky ones who was able to prosecute my offender. But, it wasn’t because I worked for the police that I was able to prosecute. It was because I kept records of everything he did. Even though I worked at the department, going through the judicial system was extremely difficult. The officers knew I was not exaggerating because they saw me go through it daily, but the rest of the judicial system was less than accommodating. I had to fight my way through every part of the process. I also demanded that the judge hear me by presenting my impact statement in court. I know firsthand the judicial struggle is real but it doesn’t have to be this way. Laws need to be changed. Stalking needs to be understood. Victims need to know how to be their own best advocates.
While I was able to change a stalking law in my hometown, not every municipality is up to date on the laws or the understanding of stalking. Without a deep understanding and appropriate laws on stalking, it becomes the responsibility of the victim to do the work. Is this fair? Absolutely not! Is it necessary? YES! Your life may depend on it. Along with documenting all of his interactions with me, I let my neighbors, coworkers and friends know what was happening. I shared his picture, the make and model of his car and my restraining order information with all of them. I asked them to call the police immediately if they saw him around me. To the best of my ability, I built a safety net around me. It wasn’t foolproof but it strengthened my protection and sense of wellbeing. Also I never stopped pushing my way through the criminal justice process. I demanded that I be taken seriously. And I would encourage you to do the same. You have to advocate for yourself!
Start by not minimizing what is happening to you. Document everything. Inform the police and people around you. Get a protection order. Don’t be nice. Be firm! Don’t agree to see your stalker if you don’t have to. Don’t change your mind! Try not to lose your mind! Build a support network. Talk to other victims. Do whatever you need to do to protect yourself! And please remember, you did nothing to deserve this but you do deserve full protection under the law. Demand it! Get more angry and less scared! Fight like hell! You can do this!