I was stalked online. The friendship started out innocent enough. A young woman was selling a used flute and I was looking to buy a new flute. It turned out she lived in another town in my state. I made arrangements to go and take a look at the flute, and after decided not to buy it because I felt it was misrepresented. I should have known something was wrong then. A new friendship began due to my little excursion, and a common interest in music but unknown to me, I was about to walk into hell and unfortunately drag some friends and family along the way.
It all started out innocent enough. She was new to the area and lonely so we talked on the phone about music and flute. The calls started out at 30 minutes or so a few times a week. Then daily, then for hours and eventually it got to the point where I dreaded my phone ringing. I was also going to school and spending every other weekend with my in-laws. I started getting messages chastising me for not answering my calls when I was in class or with family. Some of the messages were as late as midnight (we usually didn’t get home from hanging out until 3-4 in the morning.) Needless to say my concern level rose. She memorized my schedule and if I didn’t answer when I was “supposed” to answer, she left snarky messages.
Then I made the worst mistake possible and invited her to a flute choir. I had hoped she would find some other new friends, truthfully, I was trying to pass some of the stress and burden of our “friendship” on to someone else. ANYONE else, but the calls continued until I finally became angry enough to tell her that I could not spend hours on the phone discussing flute every night and unfortunately, we were going to have to stop talking so much. It finally got to the point where I had to tell her to stop calling me.
I thought I would be free. I thought everything was over, and I was wrong. I had a blog back then and she found it. She made a secret name and started harassing me there. She followed my friends and family and started harassing them as well. I finally caught on to who it was and realized she was taking this all to the next level. At the time, my blog forum had a search engine at the top and if someone used it, I could see what they searched for. She was searching for my user name and sure enough, any place where I had the same user name she showed up and started harassing me.
It then turned into her posing as my friends and altering professional pictures and making websites where she pretended she had a mental disorder as my friends. I still have a file that is over 5 inches thick showing all the print outs and logs of the harassment that followed. Eventually, I was able to outwit her into admitting who she was and I mentioned I knew she was searching my usernames online. She made the mistake of calling me again screeching like a banshee about how I hacked her (of course I didn’t). I finally went to the local Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
I received NO HELP. He wouldn’t even look at my files. In fact he made a comment about “not understanding why grown women just can’t get along.” However, when I mentioned she called after previously telling her not to call again, he then stated he could send her a letter about communications harassment. That was it. There were no laws in place at that time regarding internet harassment, there are still very few. However, it did stop it, but ONLY because she called my home. Had she not made that mistake, I have no doubt the years of harassment would have continued.
Unfortunately, the damage was already done. I had nightmares for some time about her stalking me. I feared starting this new blog, and even more to write this post. It’s likely if she saw it, it would start all over again. Years later there are times I still struggle to be completely free online out of fear because of the stress she caused me.
I know what happened was rare. So many of my real life best friends, and even my own husband are people I met online. My life would be less full without them. I feel lucky to have met so many amazing people online and even though she made my life hell for several years, and still haunts me to this day, I feel lucky to have met so many other amazing people who have taught me that the internet open up the world for friendship and love.
Have you ever been harassed or stalked online? How did you handle it? Are there laws in your home state or country to stop people from harassing you? Tell me all about it.