Healing From Emotional Abuse: What Stalking Looks Like

Healing From Emotional Abuse: What Stalking Looks Like

Can you heal from abuse?  What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day.  And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough.  Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation.  But it doesn’t have to be a five year process either. Millions of other survivors around the worlds entires lives have been impacted by their narcissist.  Yours doesn’t have to.  To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.

January is stalking awareness month, so I thought it would be fitting to make the last January episode about stalking. 

The term “stalking” as defined by the Department of Justice, means engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.  Making someone feel unsafe in their surroundings or environment.  Stalking occurs when someone repeatedly harasses or threatens someone else, causing fear or safety concerns. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), about 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking in their lifetimes, reported by the CDC.

I was chatting about this with a colleague of mine last week while having some coffee, and we were talking about harassment and stalking, and how common it is.  And I began to speak about experiences I have had with stalking, in college and in workplaces, and had this overwhelming sensation that, these are not experiences I have discussed much.  I rarely speak, in detail, about the three times I was aggressively stalked, and figured it was because stalking isn’t a common topic. In fact, it’s rarely given the same weight as rape or assault — people will generally overlook it until something physical happens.  But, stalking is extremely psychologically damaging.  You don’t feel safe anywhere.  Even if they never touch you, you feel unsafe in all areas of your life.

Have you ever experienced anything like this?  That subtle feeling that you’re being watched? The tension in the pit of your stomach that something isn’t right?  That unconscious need to peer over your shoulder consistently, but you don’t know what you’re looking for?  That’s the residue of the psychological impact that stalking has on a person. 

When I go to my alma mader, Rowan University to visit my old campus, or speak, I always find myself going to the one bar in the town for food.  Landmark.  Landmark is a big place.  It has 3 separate rooms and a “nightclub”.  I love the food there, but I find myself having this undeniable need to always be looking at the doors, or the entrances to the room I’m sitting in.  I can’t have anyone sitting behind me, or I peer over my shoulder a million times. 

And that goes back to a boy I dated in college for roughly one month.  After we broke up, he would find out where I was, using his Fraternity brothers and other greek life resources on campus, and then show up.  He would have his brothers stand in every corner, or by every exit of Landmark, watching me and monitoring everything I did.  He would position himself outside of my classrooms after all of my classes, or have his friends outside my classrooms or outside of the building to watch where I go, and make sure I wasn’t with anyone else. He would use his fraternity brother’s facebooks to stalk me and see where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing.  I was never one for posting all of my personal information anyways – but it really deterred me from even using social media.  It even boiled down to me asking my friends to cut down on posting or tagging me in things, for fear he’d show up.  Usually drunk. Always irate or crying.

I haven’t seen him since I graduated in 2014, and he hasn’t seen me in person either.  But I still have this unconscious need to see the front door at all times.

I remember one night after class, my friend had to sneak me out of my classroom, and we maneuvered around through back doorways to get out of the building, because he was standing outside the room on a day that he texted me over 75 times in one hour, and didn’t answer.  I was scared of his reaction.  I was terrified of what he would say or do.  His behavior was erratic.  So, we snuck out the back-way, my friend came with me to my apartment so I could pack a bag, and we went back to his dorm where I stayed for a couple days while I made a safety plan.  And that’s just one example of one experience I had with him, one time.

If you haven’t watched the Netflix series, You, I recommend it.  Season 1 is painfully accurate regarding how the mind of a stalker works, as well as, signs and red flags that are commonly ignored or overlooked by stalking victims.  Season 2 is great too, it just has more of a “serial killer” vibe, and less of a stalking vibe.  The stalking is still there, but he’s more violent aggressively in Season 2.  So I’m going to focus mainly on season 1.  And this is a Fair warning, there will definitely be spoilers: SPOILERS!  For example, when Peach starts to notice that Joe is always around, or was conveniently at the train station and other places that Beck was at, but Beck ignored and justified it.  Overlooked weird things that Joe just knew about her, and how he would say the perfect thing.  And how he was always right there, at the festival and in the park.  Those are all big red flags. 

Joe’s obsession isn’t really about making Beck feel loved and comforted, it’s about taking full control of her life and surroundings, and isolating her, so nobody can penetrate the wall he’s building around her.  By encouraging her to stop spending time with her friends, and making her feel guilty or upset about wanting to spend time away from him, he is manipulating her free-will and controlling her life.  When you’re on the inside of it all, it’s difficult to see.  Especially with someone as coy and sneaky as Joe.  But those yellow and red flags, the uneasy feeling in your stomach that tells you something isn’t right, are huge warning signs, and shouldn’t be ignored. 

Penn Badgley, Joe,  is not an unknown actor.  He has been in hit films and shows like “John Tucker Must Die,” Gossip Girl, and Easy A. But after Netflix bought YOU from Lifetime, his twitter following blew up!  Great for him!  I’m really happy.  But the messages he was receiving on twitter were horrifying.  People would tweet at him and ask Joe to kidnap them, and that they wish someone would fight for them like Joe fights for Beck.  THAT IS NOT OKAY!  And Penn addressed this situation by trying to correct people’s mindsets about stalking.   Here a couple examples:

And I have to agree.  The amount of people that are romanticizing stalking is sick.

Close your eyes and try to imagine this… or if you’re driving, don’t close your eyes, but imagine this scenario.  Have you ever been out at a bar or a coffee shop with a friend, where  you guys are sitting and catching up.  And you start to feel this burning sensation on the back of your neck, like someone is watching you?  You get a chill down your spine, and you can feel someone staring at you.  You know the feeling.  The chills roll down your back, and you look behind you, but nobody is there.  You can take a deep breath, and continue your conversation, and enjoy the rest of your time there.  Has that ever happened to you?  If you’re a victim of stalking, that feeling doesn’t go away.  Imagine living life always looking over your shoulder, and feeling like someone is watching.  My stalker stopped trying to find me in 2016, and I still find myself looking over my shoulder.  Even in places that he would never truly be in.  My guard is always up now. 

A common misconception that NEEDS to be addressed again, is being stalked isn’t romantic or flattering.  I wasn’t stalked because I’m cute or have a great personality.  I was stalked because a person who is controlling and manipulative worked his way into my routine, and did everything in his power to make me feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and scared.  I was stalked because this person was sick.  After I broke it off, he used to sit in his car outside my house at 2 in the morning and watch me.  I lived on the first floor, and I would see him staring into my window at 4am.  I had my best friend sleep over for 3 weeks so I could hopefully get 1 hour of sleep per night. This image of him standing outside my window as burned into my eyelids.  Until I finally lost my mind, and started sleeping at other peoples dorms or houses, I did not get any sleep.  I would pace around my room all night trying to find ways to get him out of my head.

At one point, He convinced my landlord that he was interested in real estate, and asked for an internship, so he could be in my house when I wasn’t there.  And her office was across from my room.  So he was always in close proximity to me.  He would get intoxicated and call me asking if he could stay over because he was too drunk to drive home.  And obviously, there was no reasoning with him.  He would show up, throw tantrums, yell and scream until I let him in the house, and then would stomp around, kick, cry throw things, and cause a big scene until I gave in.  Before you ask, I didn’t want to call the police because I felt bad for him, and was also scared of the backlash for him and myself. 

And finally, he would fall asleep on my floor.  And I would wake up, and he would be in my bed.  Manipulative and  Controlling.

When I worked for the Army, I had a co-worker who was a friend, and never anything more, that began to stalk me as well.  He would harass me with text messages all the time, make really forward and uncomfortable comments at me, and imply that he, his wife and I should have a 3some.  Those are not stalking… that’s just inappropriate, disgusting behavior.  The stalking began when he started commenting on the pillow I was laying on at home, when he wasn’t there.  Or when he would comment on my surroundings or the people I was with, without him having any prior knowledge.  He hacked into my phone camera and was watching me.  I thought I was going insane.  And when I went to the police about it, they told me that it’s impossible to hack into my camera and that they think he is just a really good guesser. 

So, I was alone on this one.  I even made a report to the commander of the base, and she told me just not to go near him.  I ended up covering my phone camera with a post-it note and was always looking over my shoulder at work and at home.  It didn’t help that he knew where I lived.  So, I registered for my FOID card, because this person has a history of aggressive, threatening and stalker tendencies.  He has, in the past, threatened to kill himself and the person who he was stalking.  She even transferred to a base in another state, several states away to get away from him, and he followed her there.  And because of the 7 PRIOR reports that went un-investigated, I become paranoid that he would come to my house, or break into my house while I wasn’t home and kill my dog.  If he’s willing to fly states to stalk someone, I think he’s willing to drive 45 minutes. So, I got a FOID card, and learned to shoot well.  Luckily, it never had to use it, and I transferred to a different base.  Not that he stopped trying to get to me… but it didn’t last much longer than that.

Anyone who has any social media, I’m sure, knows the term “facebook stalked,” or “Cyber Stalked”.  It’s a soft way of saying that you dove deeply into someone’s facebook page.  And that’s totally fine.  My concern with it, is the act of cyber stalking loses its meaning when it’s watered down like that.  Cyber stalking is what Joe does.  He digs so deeply into someone’s social media, and connects dots to find out where Beck lives, who her friends are, everything about her friends, everything about her dad, where she was at that festival.  Learns everything he can about her and everything around her, so he can systematically control her and all of them.

Cyber stalking is not a funny joke.  I’ve seen lives completely turned upside down for a decade from being cyber stalked.  Always watched.  Always intimidated.  Being threatened and sent candid pictures of yourself taken from your computer camera while you’re not actively taking pictures.  I’ve had several friends who were being watched and then blackmailed with pictures taken from their computer camera’s, by someone who hacked into their computers, of them changing, or naked or after a shower, or in bed with someone.  And those pictures were used against them.  That’s such an invasion of privacy, and it’s terrifying!  You’ve lost control of the comfort of your home!

Imagine being in that position.  Imagine being sent pictures of yourself that you didn’t know were taken in compromising situations.  That are now being held against you and threatened to be posted to someone who shouldn’t see them.  That’s a real invasion of your privacy.

To prevent stalking, CDC promotes the importance of early prevention and support efforts, which can include:

  • Empowering everyone to understand, recognize, and address stalking.
  • Mobilizing men and boys as allies in prevention efforts.
  • And supporting safe environments within relationships, schools, and communities through programs and policies that reduce risk and promote healthy relationships.

So to recap: Stalking is dangerous.  It’s a loss of control of your life and your surroundings.  It makes a person feel uneasy in their homes, offices, streets, anywhere and everywhere.  It can result in physical harm and death, as seen on YOU.  And it psychologically traumatizes victims for years, sometimes for ever.  I can never say that i’m 100% over it.  I still have nightmares, I still am paranoid in public places.  I still look over my shoulder.  I still like to be sitting facing the front doors at restaurants.  I still wonder if someone is watching me through my phone or computer camera every day.  The chill still runs down my spine when I think about it.  And it’s been a few years since I’ve been in contact with either of these people. So, bottom line, before you write-off stalking as a minimal crime, just keep in mind that external damage heals, but internal damage doesn’t go away.  It stays with you and inside you for a long time.

Hey! If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!

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