Stalking changes people’s lives

Published 9:30 am Friday, January 29, 2010

The phone calls started in April when she was 67.

Fourteen years later, the memories still bring tears to her eyes.

So begins the story of a now 81-year-old Albert Lea woman — a former stalking victim whose name has been withheld because of the nature of her story — who would like to raise awareness of the seriousness of stalking during what is National Stalking Awareness Month.

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Across the country, roughly 1,000 women and 3,000 men are stalked annually, according to Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center volunteer advocates. However, this number only includes reported crimes. It could be significantly higher if the unreported instances were included.

For this Albert Lea woman, the calls — from a man in his late 20s — weren’t as bad to start off, but they got progressively worse.

“Every degenerate, vile thing you could think of was coming out of his mouth,” she said.

Over time, the calls escalated to where she’d get at least 13 calls a day, every day of the week, from the man, who she did not know.

She said the situation went to the point where she became afraid of being alone in her house, especially at night, and eventually turned to the police.

This is one of the main effects a stalker wants to impose upon his or her victim.

Stalking can be defined as a pattern or behavior directed at a certain person to feel fear, according to CVCC advocates.

“I got to the point, where I said, ‘I’ve had it. I can’t stand this anymore,’” she said. “I got to the point where I couldn’t just walk out of my house. I always had to stop and look and make sure there was nobody out there.”

She cued her neighbors in on the issue, so her neighbors would leave their outside lights on at night. She’d also have people drive through the alley to make sure no one was around.

The police encouraged her to tape her phone calls. The man on the other end of the phone was smart enough, however, that he would talk in whispers, so the conversations would be difficult to tape, she said.

Finally after months and months, the man was arrested and brought in to court.

Around the same time, there had been several people around Manchester —where the man resided — who had received similar calls. However, none of those people called authorities.

The woman said she remembers being in court with her caller. As the man stood in front of the judge, a crisis worker read aloud a statement written by her granddaughter about the changes she had seen in her grandmother because of the man’s calls.

Then, the judge asked her if she had anything she wanted to say.

“I was so angry and so upset that at the time I wanted the whole world to know what he was like and what he was doing to people,” she said.

The man was ultimately sentenced to 90 days in jail but was released after 60 days for good behavior.

He basically stopped calling after that.

“I got one call a couple years later that I think was him, but I just hung up on him,” she said.

She still doesn’t know why he picked her to follow.

“I think it was a random act to start with,” she said. “But the thing I think most people don’t understand is once something like this happens to you, it never goes away. You go on and live your life, but it’s always there.”

She used to have nightmares, but luckily those have stopped.

When asked whether she tried changing her phone number during that time, she responded, “I’ll be darned if I’m going to let him rule my life.”

But she probably would change the number if it ever happened again, she admitted.

For people who may be going through a similar situation now, she encouraged them to get help from the police right away.

“Don’t wait,” she said. “Get help from yourself.”

She also pointed out all of the resources the Crime Victims Crisis Center offers.

She turned to the CVCC when she was a victim, and she is now a volunteer advocate.

If people believe they are being stalked, they should also have an emergency safety plan with friends and family and get harassment restraining orders or an order for protection, depending on the circumstances.

Victims should keep a log of encounters they have with the stalker that can be given to police if reported later and keep any e-mails, letters or text messages that the stalker is giving.

For questions or concerns about stalking, contact:

The Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center at 377-5460.

The National Center for Victims of Crime helpline at 1 (800) FYI-CALL.