I live in Europe and have been stalked for more than a year now. I can only try to imagine what it must be like to endure this horrible situation for more than a decade, with all the feelings of helplessness, powerlessness and anger that this unspeakable situation brings about. Since last summer, I know too well how other survivors must be feeling.
I find the helplessness particularly horrific. In my case, the stalker is a former classmate of mine who, since a high school reunion last year, has started contacting me on various channels, which got worse and led to (sexual) harassment. After I made it clear to him that I was not interested in any contact anymore he started cyberstalking me, contacting me with hundreds of fake profiles, manipulating websites, hacking my accounts, sending lots of emails with threads from fake profiles, with the aim of damaging my business. It seems as if he is supported by other men with the same mental disposition, probably linked via an Internet forum which has the aim of harassing and stalking women. With the support of some tech-savvy criminals, they are able to act in a very "professional" way, leaving basically no criminal evidence which makes it very hard to prove anything.
The fact that I have my own business speaking up publicly for digital responsibility and gender equality probably makes me the ideal target. All his various hideous actions seem to aim at destabilizing me psychologically. This is why I think it is so important to raise the question "What is violence and what effect does it have on the victims?" which I’ve heard raised on Lily Baldwin’s podcast, Stories of the Stalked.
I also share the frustration with police and (most) lawyers which have absolutely not been helpful in my case. The only support I encountered were NGOs and support groups (which are rare, though) and talking to women who experienced the same.
Also, I share the experience of many people who are being stalked which is that the stalking actions are so incredible and so crazy and that the stalker was or is able to present herself in such a "normal" way to other people, that people do not believe you. This even creates conflicts in close personal relationships and even leads to having to let go of long-lasting relationships - another "side effect" that plays into the hands of stalkers. The effects stalking has on the victims are fatal - health-wise, financially (the average financial damage is about 45000 Euros I recently heard), existentially (in my case, the attacks directly affect my business). What is shocking is how many women are affected by (cyber) stalking and how much the internet contributes to the perpetrators being able to continue unchallenged. Especially in my country, the lack of technical expertise of (police and law) authorities and knowledge about the whole topic of stalking is shockingly low to non-existing. One police officer I contacted told me just to stop going online. In addition, as a woman, you are often the "hysterical one" who is thought to make the story up in order to get attention. This is why it is so important that Stop Stalking Us founded this community. Ever since this happened to me, I have been trying to raise attention by contacting people I know in the media and telling my story so that more of these seemingly "individual" destinies become known to the public. I am also in touch with women who are currently aligning here in my country to advocate for changes regarding this topic - in legislation, in training policies authorities and generally in raising more awareness.
Recently, another social media account of mine was hacked (again - in spite of changing the login information with a safe password) and the stalker left disturbing messages (in the form of lyrics of songs), which are about longing to see someone again and "love", straight-out physical violence including phantasies about murdering someone, saying that a person wants to stop their behavior but cannot, like an addition (which stalking is) and being one's own "best enemy". A testimony of an emotionally totally unstable person and very scary. Once again, no traces left which makes it very hard to prove who is the stalker. I learned that the gaslighting techniques and the manipulation used by many stalkers resemble the crazy strategies employed in authoritarian states to extinguish enemies.
I am currently doing training as a mental health first aider in the context of my profession and recently learned that the number of men being diagnosed and treated for mental health issues is significantly lower than that of women. As there are so many more men stalking women than the other way around, this implies that men just act out their mental issues on women instead of seeking out help. This is an issue that concerns everyone in society - nevertheless I feel completely left on my own with being stalked by society, authorities and even my family and some of my friends who do not understand the effects of this emotional violence.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story.