dealing with unwanted attention
November 21, 2009 7:52 PM   Subscribe

I tried to do someone a favor, it backfired and now I cannot get rid of them. How can I make it stop?

unwantedattentionfilter. I am a guy. A couple of years ago I reached out to an ex-coworker (female) who had lost her job. Invited her to live at my place so she could look for another job. I thought what the hell , I could use some help with the rent once she got back on her feet. It didn't happen. I changed my mind about the whole thing soon after. Several months passed. She began persistently emailing and calling as if infatuated. I started ignoring her communications but they just kept coming. I've taken every approach I know of to dissuade such behavior, indirectly through her friends, writing back plainly stating there was never any romantic intent to begin, you name it I did it. But soon realised this had no effect. A total blackout , ignoring campaign on my part followed. The emails and phone calls kept coming. It's as if this person has no pride or shame whatsoever and doesn't follow the rules of normal social contact. All my friends know about this and are bewildered. they give her a wide berth themselves. They cannot figure her out either and are at a loss as to what to do. I understand that people get lonely but this is beyond ridiculous. I never want to hear from this person again. (And that's something I've heard other people who know this person say about that person). Help MeFi , I feel hounded. What can I do to stop this once and for all?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How long has she been contacting you and how frequent is the contact? Can you change your email address and phone number?
posted by dzaz at 7:55 PM on November 21, 2009

First step: You have to change your phone number right away and make sure the new one is not listed on any websites. Or you might be able to block her number, depending on your provider. Set up a filter to send her emails to your spam folder. Ask your mutual friends to not discuss you with her.
posted by The Deej at 7:56 PM on November 21, 2009

Don't respond, don't respond, don't respond...

change your phone number and e/mail address...

then call the police....
posted by HuronBob at 7:57 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Does your local court system have some sort of process to get a stalking protective order? In my state, stalking is defined as any repeated, unwanted contact that makes you feel alarmed, threatened, or apprehensive, which may fit these facts...that would send the message loud and clear.
posted by janerica at 8:06 PM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Get a new number but keep the old one active so she doesn't catch on. Make sure it's unlisted and not available via online search. Block her emails and do not respond to her in any way, not to return a package, not to tell her to leave you alone. To a stalker, any response from the target is encouraging, even if the response is a threat to call the police.

Do not engage.

This person is most likely mentally ill. She is undoubtedly lonely, socially retarded, and delusional. She has fixated on you and now it's your job to make sure her fixation is never rewarded by any form of contact. That means not talking about her to mutual acquaintances as well as dropping off the face of the Earth. You have to become a ghost.

Speaking as one who was stalked, I can tell you from experience that threats don't work. Telling them to leave you alone doesn't work. Calling the police, at least in my case, did nothing. The only thing that made him leave me alone was time and distance and the fact that I did everything I could to disappear from his life. I also immediately and ruthlessly dropped anyone who knew us both and couldn't resist feeding him information about me. I suggest you do the same.
posted by balls at 8:22 PM on November 21, 2009

Regardless of whether or not the police can help, it seems like contacting them--at least at their non-emergency number for advice--is a good idea. If things become even more intense, the authorities have a record that the stalking behavior has been going on for a while.
posted by ollyolly at 9:39 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

DeBecker's The Gift of Fear has a chapter on stalking. I highly recommend this book (seems like about half of my answers on the Green concern The Gift of Fear). IIRC, just about the only thing that stops a stalker is absolutely ignoring the behavior until another victim is found. DeBecker gives lots of useful tips to help you protect yourself.
posted by thebrokedown at 10:36 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely nthing contacting the police and filing a stalker report. Also, I'd document a few samples of her behavior to show to the police, and just get it on record that you're being stalked. You never know if this will later protect you, and if you don't do it before you need the protection, the big question will be, Why not? This is a CYA kind of thing, rather than a solution.
posted by Capri at 10:54 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Get a restraining order. Women react differently to restraining orders than men do and it might actually work.
posted by exveg at 11:26 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Personally, I think it really depends on what you know about this woman.

Is she otherwise a healthy, functioning, good person?

If so, she may have just formed a strong attachment to you for any number of reasons. Perhaps when she lost her job it was traumatic and she felt close to you because of your help.

You say "She began persistently emailing and calling as if infatuated."

Is there anything unpleasant about the content of her emails.
Are the emails unusually frequent - like several times a day?
Is it possible that she sees it as flirting?
Is it possible that the more your push her away, the harder she tries?

Personally, if she was not "dangerous" and mature enough, I would just have a long cup of coffee with her and discuss her feelings and your feelings.

I think what she needs is closure.

A long long time ago in high school, I really liked a girl and I was quite persistent for months. Everything I did was perfectly nice and I loved her but she didn't respond back. But I kept trying once in a while to be close to her. Sent her gifts and did romantic things.

Eventually, she got her father to come over to my home and shout at me in front of my family.

Talk about embarrassment!

Anyways, I stopped after that but I never got any closure from that even until this day!

It would have been so much more pleasant to just have long chat with her and get both our feelings out. But we were too young to be that mature I guess.

Anyways, unless you really think she is a "stalker", having a face to face chat might just get her over things. Learn a little more about her and what makes her tick and most likely you'll find that you are incompatible anyways - then try to emphasize that.

Just my 2 cents.
posted by simpleton at 11:43 PM on November 21, 2009

I vote for a phone call to straighten this all out. Be very nice but firm on moving on. If she still contacts you, change your number.
posted by xammerboy at 1:11 AM on November 22, 2009

Lifesucksdotcom. Sometimes life really sucks. I feel for you. You could put out DO NOT ENTER boundaries and literally shut down all entries to your life to her - or you could sit her down and just lay it out in simple terms that you do NOT want her infiltrating your space because of x,y,x parameters that encroach on your beingness and it's harshing your mellow, or you could just confront her in her face and get weird and lively and aggressive and start pulling weird shit and making her scared and fearful for her life if she ever ventured into your space. I'd opt for giving her healthy alternatives to you. Things like 12 steps, therapy and point her in the direction of others like her that will support her because you can't. Simple. You can't do it. Others might. That's it.
posted by watercarrier at 1:25 AM on November 22, 2009

Like others I recommend an anti-harassment order, available in most states for this kind of behavior. And a change of all your phone numbers and contact information. And then make a copy of your order and her picture and give both to EVERYONE with the explanation that she is stalking you and a request to call the police any time she is sighted. (Of course call the police yourself anytime you spot her/hear from her too.) This does work. Either she will stop or the police will have enough to file criminal charges.

Stalking is serious and requires vigilance and an all fronts approach.

Sorry you are going through this. It is tough.
posted by bearwife at 3:15 AM on November 22, 2009

I don't know if there's anything you can do.

'moonMan had a friend who was interested in him and he did not reciprocate this interest. He stopped answering her calls exactly 2 years ago.

She still calls. She still texts. He has to put his phone on silent when he goes to sleep because she occasionally calls at 2AM.

The only thing that would get this to stop is if he changed his phone number. So, the question to you is "Is this worth the hassle of changing my number?" If yes, do it. If you'd rather keep screening your calls, that's your only other option.

Pro Tip: NEVER answer a call from a number you don't recognize. The lady in question here calls from her friends' phones and uses *67 in clever ways to try to "trick" 'moonMan into answering.

(As for email: that's a bit easier. Set up a filter to have her messages marked as "spam" and nuked from orbit. Most mail servers don't even show you messages in your spam folder unless you go looking for them.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:52 AM on November 22, 2009

Document her attempts to contact you and when you have a significant log of them, go to the police and get a restraining order.
posted by orange swan at 6:08 AM on November 22, 2009

I just briefly read up on some of the reasons people stalk at:

Its certainly a very interesting topic even though its a tragic situation.

Apparently women stalk men nearly as much as men stalk women and men stalk more at night and women stalk more by day.

Stalking is kind of a strong word so unless she is truly stalking you, I tend to agree with watercarrier and would try to give healthy alternatives unless she is an entirely unreasonable person.

She was at one point your colleague so she must have been somewhat functional.
posted by simpleton at 7:17 AM on November 22, 2009

I'm not guaranteeing this will work, because I really don't have specifics of her wording or level of behavior from you, but why don't you try, either calling or over coffee or in an e-mail (e-mail is the lamest because she can misinterpret the intent):

"Hey, I've let you know really plainly that I'm not romantically interested in you at all. Why are you still calling/e-mailing/contacting me?" And then wait for an actual answer. Really require her to realize that she needs to give you a reason, or realize that there is no reason because she shouldn't be doing it. Unless she is straight-jacket insane, she is doing this by skirting reality and avoiding facing what she's doing.

No matter what she says or if she throws a question back at you or she starts crying or whatever, wait for her to finish, and then say it AGAIN "But I told you I'm not interested. Why are you still contacting me?"

Make her admit that she received your e-mail or call and/or understands that you have said that you aren't interested. She needs to face that she is hearing what you're saying.

Then ask her "So will you stop calling me?" and keep asking until she says "yes." If she won't say yes, then say "If you won't stop calling me, I'm going to change my phone number, because I don't want to talk to you anymore."

(I'm assuming that you have been ABSOLUTELY BLUNT. "Indirectly through her friends" or "ignoring" doesn't count. I'm talking about the exact words "I'm not interested in you romantically at all" or "I don't want to be your friend" or "Please stop calling/e-mailing/contacting.")

Don't try to be "nice" or "courteous" or "polite." This is beyond the bounds of normal social interaction, as you say.
posted by thebazilist at 10:57 AM on November 23, 2009

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