My girlfriend has an old male acquaintance who is a complete psychopath and may be trying to find out where she lives. What do we do?
July 16, 2010 11:40 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend has an old male acquaintance who is a complete psychopath. He faked his own death and is now trying to obtain information on her whereabouts. We live probably 900 miles away, but the entire situation still makes me very nervous. Any advice?

She hasn't spoken with him directly for years. About 1 year ago, he contacted her, though, with a highly inappropriate email. She ignored it. Months later she was contacted by email -- most likely from the same person using a fake name -- that he had died from an illness that he had been struggling with. Skeptical, she scanned the obits and found nothing. Months later, through the grapevine, she learned that he was in fact still alive. Creepy. On top of that, he has befriended her old ex-boyfriend in the city we used to live in (quite far from us), and is currently going out with a woman that knows my now girlfriend.

Fortunately, only close friends and family know our physical address, but many people know the town we moved to.

We just don't know what he's capable of. We know he's weird and definitely very off-kilter. He is obviously hung up on her. But aside from just relaying the situation to friends and ignoring any future correspondence that might come her way, we're unsure of what we should do.

The phrase "restraining order" comes to mind right away, but would this cause more harm than good? Not sure what the process is at all for this type of thing... And do we have just cause at this point. Should we just sit it out and hope for the best? The whole thing makes me feel very uneasy.
posted by dep to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: One final thought: It seems like all the things he does is to "get a reaction out of her." So perhaps the best strategy is to just ignore everything? Would a restrainer order just stir the fire so to speak?
posted by dep at 11:42 AM on July 16, 2010

If he contacts her in an inappropriate way, call the police. If he shows up, call the police. If he makes an appropriate contact tell him she wants no further contact. If he contacts her again, call the police.

Notice the pattern here?
posted by HuronBob at 11:44 AM on July 16, 2010 [6 favorites]

Also, tell your mutual friends/exes to keep their fucking traps shut.
posted by rhizome at 11:46 AM on July 16, 2010 [6 favorites]

Don't do anything official until he shows up on your doorstep- a restraining order might just be the attention that he is craving- but let your friends know in a quiet way that your girlfriend and this other guy don't ever mix, ever.
I occasionally encounter the stalker of a friend of mine in social situations. I'm always on my guard not to approach him, and to not ever reveal that we are still in touch. I'm actually glad for the heads up, since I know what a creep he is now and would never, ever engage with him.
Your friends care about your safety. Let them help you to watch the borders.
posted by pickypicky at 11:52 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd say start keeping a diary of everything that happens, with links/evidence...and report it to the cops early just to get it on file.

Then sort out your home security, safety awareness outside and self protection skills/equipment.

Then try not to worry too much or obsess over it. Prepare for the worst, but things are hardly ever as bad as your worst 4am thoughts.
posted by Not Supplied at 11:59 AM on July 16, 2010

Please contact a local DV agency and do safety planning, right now. They are familiar with stalking, in the DV context and otherwise. Don't wait for Mr. Creepy to show up.

Restraining orders can be very effective as part of an overall safety plan. But first talk to some folks who deal with this issue on a regular basis. (They can help you with the restraining order application process too.)
posted by bearwife at 12:00 PM on July 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your responses so far. For what it's worth, we do have a good home security system, so there is some peace of mind. It sounds like we're doing a lot of these things already. Good validation there.
posted by dep at 12:03 PM on July 16, 2010

I'd keep in mind that to date, this has all been email and the gossip mill; it's a very distant kind of harassment and incidents seem quite far apart. The fact that he's crazy does not make him a threat.

FWIW I have the exact same thing - an ex who sends occassional, wildly inappropriate emails and when I get them, I just assume he's off his meds or having boundary issues. I ignore him 100% of the time. This has been going on for a number of years, so I have more data, but I assess him as threat level: harmless.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:11 PM on July 16, 2010

If your girlfriend has not already done so, I recommend she read Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear. It's been recommended many times here, and I have read it myself and found it useful. Despite the title, it is NOT sensationalistic or fearmongering; it provides very practical advice and some insight into potential bad situations.

One of the things deBecker says is to never respond to contact from the stalker--not even to tell him not to contact you anymore. Contacting a stalker just provides intermittent reinforcement. So she has been doing the right thing by ignoring his e-mails.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:14 PM on July 16, 2010 [7 favorites]

Print the emails, leep track of every little interaction and wait.

If anything happens, go to the police and present all the evidence.

documentation is always useful!

Also, make sure you tell the person who knows your address what the deal is. I wouldn't day anything to the rest of them, because somebody may mention your actions to him.
posted by Tarumba at 12:22 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

A somewhat relevant thread that might help.

Good luck!
posted by magstheaxe at 12:23 PM on July 16, 2010

may be trying to find out where she lives

He sounds like he has problems, but you are jumping to conclusions and possibly getting yourself all worked up over nothing.

If your instincts and hers are on alert (even mildly - and clearly they are) then your're already prepared. Don't let someone else's nuttiness dvive you batty.
posted by marimeko at 7:39 PM on July 16, 2010

As someone who occasionally gets TROs for people (IAAL but IANYL and all) I think you're generally being given some good practical advice, and I just wanted to emphasize what Tarumba said: document, document, document. In the event this guy escalates, every document you have (emails, diary entries or notes made soon after the occurrence, police reports should you have any, etc.) is massively helpful in getting a restraining order if you end up needing one.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 10:27 PM on July 16, 2010

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