[Trigger Warning: Cyber Stalking]
In the previous blog post, I explained that I was dealing with a cyber-stalker, which was why I had been quiet for a bit of time. As an activist, I knew there was a possibility that this could happen to me because I was sharing a decent amount of private information about myself. Ever since I started speaking out about being raped people have told me to be careful with what I say, where I go, and who I am with because other people might hurt me if they are opposed to what I am saying. For a while I thought about it every time I wanted to share my story. Sometimes it kept me quiet but more often than not, it encouraged me to continue telling my story. Staying silent about sexual violence and harassment hasn't done any good in the world, so I have decided to share my story about being cyber-stalked in hopes that we can take this issue more seriously as a community.
I will be the first to admit before any of this happened to me I easily threw around words like "stalking" or "creeping" because they didn't really mean anything to me. I made jokes about stalking people on Facebook or creeping through their Instagram pictures, but after this experience all of those comments changed in meaning and in severity.
I was being cyber-stalked by someone who was claiming to be out of the country. I had no idea who this person was or where s/he was located. I was receiving emails from this person multiple times a day. Many of times the emails sounded almost like a diary. This person shared pictures of me on their blog, and even shared pictures of Mike, too. The emails started off as overly friendly and ended up as someone professing their undying love for me. They created social media accounts to try to contact me and even tried talking to my little sister. He sent me pictures of people kissing and told me he dreamed of the day we would be together. He took it so far that I contacted the San Diego Police Department to try to get help. While the San Diego Police Department was not helpful at all, I was able to find someone who was.
Some of you may be wondering what the big deal is. How are a few emails threatening or unsettling? It is difficult to explain and harder to understand until you have experienced it for yourself. To me, the worst part is not knowing what is next. The emails I received did not threaten to kill or to hurt me, but they were someone telling me they loved me, they would die for me, and they wanted to spend the rest of their life with me. Receiving emails like that is scary it is incredibly uncomfortable because it is impossible to know what extent this person is willing to go to make this happen.
Imagine pictures you took showing up on someone else’s blog. Imagine a person you’ve never met sharing pictures of your fiancé and him telling your fiancé to give you a lot of kisses because he wishes he could. Imagine receiving multiple emails a day from a person you’ve never met before claiming s/he wants to "eat you up in kisses."
I felt like I was constantly on edge. I was afraid to go outside and take out the trash. I was worried about walking into my house and the stalker being inside. I didn’t know where he was or how he was watching me. It was difficult to concentrate at work because I was worried that he would show up or that he would send me more emails. I didn’t feel safe anywhere.
A mentor of mine, Angela Rose, put me in touch with a Private Investigator named Luis A. Bolaños. Luis listened, he was respectful, but most importantly he helped me come up with a plan. He contacted the stalker on my behalf and told him to stop emailing me or he would initiate a criminal investigation and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.
So far the emails have stopped. It’s too soon to know if I am completely out of the waters, but I already feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I learned how serious and traumatic cyber stalking is to survivors and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Cyberstalking is a serious crime and it happens to more people than we think. In the United States 6.6 million people will be stalked this year. 3 out 4 people will be stalked by someone they know and 1 in 4 people will be stalked using some form of technology like emails or social media.
If you or someone you know is being cyber-stalked please contact your local police department or Luis A. Bolaños at Get BIT Investigations at GetBitInv@gmail.com. If someone you know is a victim of cyberstalking make sure you listen to them and you believe them. They are never to blame for the stalker’s behavior.