Trigger Warning: This essay discusses the experience of having a stalker.
By Bianca Palumbo
Outsiders – they just don’t seem to understand. I have been tiptoeing my way around for months, on edge. I am experiencing something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. I have been followed, disturbed, and thrown off-guard by a man known only as my stalker.
It all started the year I was graduating from High School, 2014. I was always actively pursuing new opportunities and working every event that I could. What I never expected was the possibility of meeting a stranger who would someday haunt me. No young woman can prepare for the endless nights of fear and unknowing that come in reaction to a stalker.
I have been independent for most of my life. I wanted to work whenever I could, joined clubs and sports teams, volunteered in the community, and that all excelled the day I earned by driver’s license. It was the summer I was leaving for college that the first email came through. My stalker had crafted a story about our romantic relationship and all of the bonds we have shared together. Meanwhile, I had no idea who he was. I only realized where we met when he admitted to finding my information in a staffing email. This was the first real time my privacy was violated – I felt I could trust no one.
I thought he would go away; thought it would all end on its own, but I was wrong. For two years he has been sending me stories about our relationship. His infatuation has become dangerous and I have become a victim to the act of harassment and stalking. I no longer work too far from home and am nervous going anywhere alone. My independence has been quickly taken away and I rely on others for personal safety. But, many people underestimate the situation throw my worries to the backburner. The police and the judge questioned my reasoning to the point where I felt betrayed. After endless explanations and pleas, it was hard evidence that turned the law around.
It wasn’t an ex-lover or a fellow student. No. It was someone I had never worked with directly or even exchanged words with. It was a complete and total stranger who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I always wonder what would have happened had I not been there that day, but it’s not my fault and nobody but him is to blame for the course my life has taken. Through a series of frightening, confusing, and disturbing emails I have learned what it means to protect yourself. After admitting to following me and defying police orders to leave me alone, he has found my breaking point. Courthouse, here I come.
I try, every day, to regain my independence and prove him wrong. Although I am a victim, I want to be strong. Relying on others is the last thing I ever wanted because I am a confident and determined young woman with goals and dreams that I won’t let him take from me. I fear every day for my safety, but I push through and find new ways to take the next step forward.
There is not enough advocacy for women who undergo these experiences. Some stories continue for years and others are lucky enough to have it end. I will make a difference in the lives of others by spreading my story and encouraging others to share their experiences publicly. Until new laws and recognition of stalking behavior are reached, then there may be no stopping these criminals. They try to take our independence and destroy our well-being. We, as victims, have the ability to stand up and make a difference for victims of the future. I want to be that change.
Bianca Palumbo is a student, blogger, and influencer in the Greater Boston Area looking to make a difference and encourage independence in young women. She is also a runner, writer, and harassment prevention advocate. Bianca can be found on Twitter as @biancampalumbo_.