Before you start reading, check out Part I and Part II of my story! If you already read them, here's a quick recap: When I was 18 years old, I survived a life-threatening stalking case. Thankfully, I was able to obtain a restraining order, but that is not the last time I saw my stalker.
Three years later, I walked into a tea shop with a college friend. He wanted to buy some really nice tea for his girlfriend and I had wanted to visit this tea shop for a long time. We walked in and looked around for a minute. An employee eventually heard us and came out from the back room. I stopped in my tracks. It was HIM! Of all the stores we could have gone to, he worked in THIS store. X quickly ducked again into the back room. My friend looked at me. “Who was that?” he whispered. I motioned for him to follow me outside and he immediately realized who it was. We went to Teavana at the mall after that, the busiest place we could think of with lots of security and video cameras. My restraining order had already expired. I feared that X would return to find me again at my university. Thankfully, he never did.
Now, here I was, another three years after that, trying to catch my breath in the doorway of someone’s office after X walked into the same bar my friends and I were hanging out in. (Refer to Part I if you haven't already!) My office manager was trying to text the rest of our group what was going on. "Which one was your stalker? Was he the one in the vest?" I couldn’t remember. The only thing I could register was his face. And his smile.
After about five minutes, the rest of our group found us outside and I had calmed down enough to move on. They had watched X leave the bar twice to pace up and down the street. They came out when he wasn't looking. We walked to another bar further away to enjoy the rest of our evening. I positioned myself in a place I could keep the front door solidly in my line of vision. The rest of the night passed without incident and I caught a Lyft home.
When I opened the front passenger door to my Lyft ride, the driver starting moving her purse and water bottles from the front seat. I asked her if she preferred if I sit in the back. She said the front was fine since I was also a female. I got to talking with her. Turns out, as a Lyft driver, she’d had a couple instances where she had to stop and order a male passenger out of her car for harassing her, smelling her, and even touching her. She told me that a family member had said to her “If you stop smiling and being so nice, this wouldn’t happen to you.” I empathized with her. I told her how I once had a restraining order against a man who wouldn’t leave me alone, and that my best friend told me “if you didn’t dress so nice and do your makeup everyday, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Then, my Lyft driver got to talking about stalking and harassment. She had to fight incredibly hard to get a restraining order against someone who stalked her. She didn’t have any physical evidence. She could only say he followed her, showed up everywhere she was without another reason to be there, waited in his car outside her house, and verbally harassed her. Even that was not enough to get a restraining order until she had irrefutable physical evidence. Then, when she moved states, she couldn’t take her restraining order with her. She would have had to reapply and go through the entire process over again.
Now, as a domestic violence and stalking survivor advocate, all of this got me thinking...
This is the third piece of a four part series. Check in tomorrow for Part IV of my story.