Q: I broke up with my fiance eight months ago. Since that time, I’ve tried to be friends with him, per his request, but he’s continuously taking advantage of my good nature. I told him that I do not wish to be contacted by him anymore and have even gone so far as to block him out of my e-mail. This lasted ten days and he’s now begun to send me cards and letters and continues to say he misses me. I haven’t responded, but he just won’t give up. What else can I do?
A: I am very glad you asked this question because it sounds to me like you are describing a potentially dangerous situation. While it is normal to not want to let someone go, especially someone you love, it is not normal (or legal) to constantly contact someone against their wishes. Broken hearts are always painful and everyone deals with the pain differently, but it’s a huge red flag when someone harasses you or repeatedly contacts you when you’ve told them to stop.
Sadly, this is not as uncommon as you might think. Over three million people over the age of 18 are stalked in the United States each year, and three in four victims are stalked by people they know. The advent of technology has only increased the problem. One in four victims has been stalked through some form of technology (such as the e-mails you describe) and 10% have been stalked via GPS technology, digital camera devices, etc.
The impact of stalking cannot be overstated. It causes the victims to feel anxious, powerless, and terrified. Some victims miss work or school because they are afraid to leave the house, and others are afraid to be social and go to parties or other events. One in seven victims is even forced to move as a result of the stalking, and others are forced to find new jobs or change their names.
You’ve taken the first step, which is to be clear with your ex-fiancé that you want no further contact from him. Still, don’t allow your kind nature to put you at risk. If he calls you or shows up at your job, don’t feel like you have to talk to him or listen to what he has to say. Your safety comes before his feelings. Next, be sure that you are saving evidence of his stalking behavior. If he sends you threatening or frightening messages, save them and show them to the police. This can help you get a restraining order if need be.
Next, make sure that you are being extra-cautious during this time. Keep your doors and windows locked, and keep the shades closed for privacy and safety’s sake. Don’t walk home late at night by yourself. Tell your friends and family that they are not to accept communication from him and that they shouldn’t give him information about you. If you have an online social-networking profile, it might be a good idea to disable it for a while. Even if you think your privacy settings are foolproof, the Internet can be a font of information about you, and that is the last thing you want when faced with a potential stalking situation.
Finally, I advise that you talk to the police or check out a Web site like the Stalking Resource Center. Remember, your safety comes first.
— Dr. Laura Berman
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