stalkers are charming. they have to be, at least at first. because they must scoop up contact information–email addresses, phone numbers, facebook friendship requests, blog subscriptions, street addresses–while the prey still thinks they’re harmless.
the target of a stalker has to be, at some level, polite. a polite person doesn’t unfriend a friend on facebook. a polite person answers emails. a polite person writes thank you notes, even when the flowers, candy, gifts are sprinkled with discomfort.
politeness on the part of one party and charm on the part of another. makes for a continuing relationship even when both parties don’t want one. while it’s easily understood that the target doesn’t want a relationship with the stalker, it’s slightly less apparent that the stalker doesn’t want the obsession.
i’m not sure when i became aware that i had a problem with a stalker. my friend bill started off as a facebook friend after he saw me on a television show. he commented on my posts. he poked me. he sent messages. all perfectly harmless and always charming.
he lives in tallahassee, the same city as my father. william sent me a message asking if i would mind if he sent a facebook friendship request to my father. that seemed somewhat reasonable. then he asked if he could friend my two sons. that seemed less reasonable. and then he asked if he could send friendship requests to my friends carolyn, kimberly, and andrea.
i went to tallahassee in the summer to see my father. i posted about how i would be happy to meet facebook friends in the area. william asked to meet me. totally cool. we went to lunch with my dad. i brought flowers, which is what i often do when i meet facebook friends. he brought me a cake, a t-shirt he had tie-dyed and a copy of a book my grandfather had written. william was charming in a sweet, ungainly, awkward sort of way.
when i came home from tallahassee, i started to notice that he was ramping up contact. he might comment on a status update, send a facebook message with a question, then a text with a demand that i respond to his facebook message, then an email to my hotmail account to follow up on the texts. all within the space of an hour. and there’s a cycle of charming, flattering, sweet, needy, demanding, angry, hostile and back to charming. william was being unfriended by my circle of friends and family who couldn’t stand the obsessive, needy, shrill contact. one of my friends went to the police in her town in order to be reassured that he wouldn’t contact her any more. he claimed to have made plans to quit his job in tallahassee and move to be near my home in kenilworth.
i shut down. i stopped checking my facebook account, stopped logging onto email, dreaded the pop up of the text message notification icon on my phone. i stopped responding which made him angry. finally, i unfriended and blocked him on facebook and wordpress. i monitor my hotmail account and my phone for messages because i am concerned that he might decide that he really will come up north from tallahassee. i worry when i leave my apartment and when i return. if there’s a knock on the door, i get scared.
i have absolutely no idea why he is obsessed with me.
i have only myself to blame because i ignored every piece of evidence that suggested he was and is nuts. i am scared. really scared. with every tool in the internet toolbox, he knows exactly where i am and how to get to me. and i have no idea how to make him stop. do you?