It all started innocently enough. Just messages back and forth between me and one of the popular young men. I was impressed that such a man would even pay attention to little old me who didn’t quite fit in with the others. However, the messages quickly went downhill. They slid straight down the cliff right into the territory of sexual harassment and even leading into threats of bodily harm. And what was my reaction? I hid. I hid the messages. I hid my reactions. I hid my fear. I thought I would be fine. I put up a false front of bravado and toughness, even towards him.
Then came the night, a couple, that I knew quite well, sat me down and asked me straight out about this young man. When they first asked me, I was stunned. I stopped and stared at them in utter shock. How did they know? Who told them?! That’s when I found out that it had been happening to more girls. Then they asked if I had any evidence. Yes, I did. Somewhere around 48 pages of typed out messages that I had saved! We ended up going to the local police and making a report. That’s when I found out that they couldn’t legally do anything because we were both consenting adults, and I had not said “no” in any of those thousands of messages. I was devastated!
I’ll quickly answer some questions you’re probably wondering right now. One, why did I save all those messages? Because somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that this was all wrong, and I had an inkling that I might need them in the future if anything he threatened would actually happen. Two, how did he sucker me into this? Well, I have a history of childhood sexual abuse that was not dealt with at that point. I was a prime target for a master manipulator.
The police officer I spoke with did give me hope when he said that he would personally call the young man and speak to him man to man. I had hope that that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. Not by a long shot!
Now, in addition to previous trauma not dealt with, I also had this trauma to process and deal with. I soon moved to a place where I could receive counselling and start attempting to heal. However, the place I moved to was very close to where the young man lived. Every time I went out in public, I was worried. I was hyper-vigilant and anxious. Every time I saw a face or profile that looked vaguely like him, I panicked and hid myself. I didn’t know what he would do if he found me alone, and I didn’t want to find out. I worked with different counselors in the meantime and did find a certain level of freedom.
Finally, I was ready to move home. I thought I was good. I still dealt with lingering effects from the trauma, but I thought I could handle it. I started a new job and went to college. I didn’t worry about ever hearing from this guy again. All of a sudden, early one Saturday morning, I got a mysterious text, and then more and more of them. I quickly recognized the tone of them. The mystery person refused to identify themselves until I called them out, and it was the same man, after being silent for three years! My whole day was suddenly derailed!
I went to fire academy that day and tried hard to concentrate on the ropes and knots we were learning. Instead, I was extremely jumpy and almost punched my lieutenant when he unexpectedly came around the corner of the fire engine toward me. Meanwhile, I kept getting calls from this man. I didn’t answer, but would try to call him back. He would never answer me. I blocked his number, and five minutes later he would have a new number. After the day of training, I asked the lieutenant if I could use the station phone to try to call him. I was granted permission, and I tried to call him, but he refused to answer.
I confided in one of my close friends what was happening, and he told me that he would watch out for me. I tried so hard to not let it affect me. I did my normal every day things, but I realized, after the man began messaging me my location and what I was wearing, that I would need to take further precautions. I alerted the security team at the college where I worked. I told my supervisor, who then always walked me out to my car. I told my ambulance partners. I told my fire lieutenants. I told my friends at church. I was escorted by one or two men whenever I was out with friends or walked to my car after dark at work. I blocked numbers, changed phone numbers, locked everything up tight on all social media, made numerous police reports, but nothing worked to deter him. It became a way of life for me.
Once again I was on high alert at all times. I was always scanning my environment. I sat with my back to the wall. I knew my exits and always had a clear path to them. I knew which of my friends had concealed carry permits. I got on a first name basis with a local deputy and the college security officers. Meanwhile, I tried different strategies with the man. I ignored him, blocked him, told him no, answered his calls, screenshot everything, and even appeared before a judge to attempt to get a stalking order against him. This man sent emails with pornographic pictures to one of my friends and tried to say that the pictures were of me; they weren’t. My dad, brothers, former boyfriend, and the deputy all tried to get him to leave me alone. I was resigned to just having him in my life forever.
He literally knew where I was at all times. When I took a cross country trip, he knew where I was. When I stayed at my cousin’s house, he told me what clothes I was wearing. When I changed jobs, he knew before I told many people. When I changed numbers, he had my new one within twenty-four hours. After awhile, I kind of got used to it. I got used to the hyper-vigilance. I got used to being escorted. I got used to scanning faces. I got used to planning my actions if he ever suddenly physically appeared in my life. I got used to saving screenshots and telling him “no” repeatedly. I got used to talking to judges and officers and other legal people. I got used to the constant fear. I almost became calloused to it. (Even typing this out now, my heart rate is increasing slightly.)
Then one summer I met some people who taught me that the things we fear have permission to happen. Well, I was afraid of this man. I was afraid of what he would do. I was afraid of where he would appear next. I was afraid of looking at my phone or seeing a number that I didn’t know. Then I decided that I didn’t want to be afraid anymore. I was tired of it. I was tired of fighting back with no positive results. I wanted something different. I wanted him to disappear from my life. So, I prayed. I released him to God. I released the whole situation and decided that from now, I would not be afraid of him. No longer was he gonna be able to ruin my life and steal my joy in living life.
Instead, I was going to use wisdom. Having no fear, did not mean that now, I went fully public with every detail of my life or that now I didn’t take precautions when I was by myself. It just meant that I didn’t have to hide in a corner anymore. I didn’t have to fight panic attacks every single time I was in public. I was still cautious and careful, just not afraid. And you know what? That was almost two years ago.
Since then I have not heard from him again. I have been able to live my life. Sure, sometimes I still wonder what I would do if I met him unexpectedly, if he suddenly showed up in church or I met him in the grocery store. I wonder if he’s really gone forever or if he’s just waiting for the three year mark again. My heart still skips a beat if I suddenly see someone who looks like him out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know if I will ever fully get over those kind of things, but I’m not afraid of him anymore. He no longer controls my life. And now, I have even a bigger support system, even more men in my life who would do their utmost to protect me. The number one man is my husband, Aaron. I know that I would not have to face it alone, if it did happen again. So I’m not worried.
For way to long, this man controlled my life. He was protected by his parents and church members. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing. However, I refuse to be his victim any longer! I am a free woman. I am protected. I am safe. I am clean. I do not have to fear his threats of rape and bodily harm. And that makes me confident enough to share this story on such a public platform.
Just know that no matter what has happened in your past, you can make the choice to no longer be a victim. You don’t have to let those people, that trauma, affect your every day life any longer. All it takes is a simple choice to start the healing process! And if you need some support, let me know. I’ve been there! I love you and want you to know it can get better! Just keep going!