How my experience of stalking changed everything I thought about myself

This appeared on The Independent website August 2015

23-Stalking-Man-Rex

Noel Gallagher’s comments this week suggest that being stalked is a nonchalant and laughable matter. Clearly he’s never experienced what I did…

Haven’t we all at one time or another secretly dreamt of leading the high-flying life of celebrity – the cars, the glamour, the money, and, according to Noel Gallagher, a stalker or two? Having read about his interview with Talksport where he boasted of acquiring a stalker as yet another celebrity token, though be it ‘’not the most attractive woman’’, I couldn’t help but feel enraged at his flippancy. For the first time ever, I have something in common with Noel Gallagher, but it isn’t a case of privilege. Because I, too, have been stalked – and that time round, it wasn’t so funny.

Four  years ago, when I was  20 years old and living and working in a small city in Andalusia, Spain, I was walking the short distance from the school where I worked to my apartment when a man strolled alongside me. We made small talk where I recited the same line I had for everybody who enquired about my goings-on and how I found myself to be alone in Spain. He asked for my number to arrange a coffee sometime but I politely declined as I met my front door, not realising that he had calculatedly walked me there so that he knew exactly where I lived. I thought nothing more of it.

The next day, at 2pm when I finished work he was there, pressing me to go for a coffee with him, or perhaps he could come up to mine for a drink? I rejected his offer again but the visits continued.

Three months went by of this treatment. Every single day he would be waiting for me outside work, his insistence only growing stronger and his reactions to rejection more agitated. I became so afraid of seeing him that I would take ridiculous routes home or stall leaving working to throw off my pattern. He would hide around corners to pounce on me after I thought I’d figured out a new routine. I always carried my keys to make a swift entrance into my apartment lobby and always checked over my shoulder the second before I turned the key, but was never quick enough for him. He would swoop in behind me and corner me in the lobby where he had me to himself, and he would ring my doorbell every hour of the night.

I’m ashamed to say now that he assaulted me once, in clear day in the communal lobby of my apartment and, as an elderly lady approached us to enquire if I was OK, he put his hand over my mouth to silence me and, frozen with fear, I assured her I was fine. Breaking point for me was when he became violent. Wanting to know which floor I lived on in the apartment block, he then forced me into the lift and damaged my hand attempting to force me to press the button of my floor.

I broke down and Skyped my boyfriend and parents, who convinced me to go to the police. In preparation for such a foreign experience and in a foreign language I consulted my dictionary to look up a few words and do you know what the first word was that I looked up? Over-exaggerating. Because  I wanted to be able to say to the police officer that I might be over-exaggerating when I told him that a man has been following me and assaulted me over the past four months. By this time, I was in complete denial and believed myself to be paranoid.

The police were helpful; a restraining order was put in place, but that didn’t stop him at first. I ended up with a temporary police escort.

Even now, years after my ordeal I sometimes wonder what happened to my mentality during the stalking. Was that really me? Did I really sweep all of that behaviour under the rug and start to believe that it was normal? Stalking is a uniquely weird experience and I often feel angry that I let it go on as long as it did. Noel Gallagher’s nonchalant attitude towards his experience really doesn’t fairly portray what it is like: it’s not fans waiting in hotel rooms, it’s a person controlling how you go about your day and altering your perception of your personal worth.

So Gallagher might be able to laugh the whole thing off as a petty threat from an unattractive German woman. But does that mean my experience with this wretched sixty-year-old would have been more palatable if he was a little easier on the eyes?

 

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