How can I get this insane person to go away?
January 26, 2011 7:39 AM   Subscribe

How can I get this insane person to go away?

Four years ago, an acquaintance-- someone I barely knew-- became obsessed with me. He emailed me for awhile and showed up at my house once (my husband got him to leave-- so he knows I am married). I responded to his emails in a very nasty way and told him never to contact me again. Getting a response somehow seemed to encourage him and he continued to insist that he was in love with me, so I changed all my contact details.

A few months ago he found my current email address and started writing again. Same thing, does not sound threatening-- but says he is lonely and needs to see me. I don't want to respond since it seemed to encourage him last time.

I'm interested in hearing from folks who have dealt with a similar psycho. What worked for you? How can I make this insane person leave me alone?

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I had an ex with a stalker (not me, I swear!) and she reported him to the FBI. This seems like a good thing to take pretty seriously.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:43 AM on January 26, 2011 [8 favorites]

Seconding Admiral Haddock. It's time to bring in law enforcement.

The behavior you're describing is the definition of obsessive stalking. It is illegal and dangerous. Consult the law enforcement professionals, but it seems like restraining order time to me.
posted by jeffmshaw at 7:45 AM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Don't respond. Document all of his attempts to contact you, both past and present. Contact the police.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:45 AM on January 26, 2011 [20 favorites]

Agreed. Once you've explicitly stated not to contact you (which you have), you have both justification and no other recourse. It's time to go to the authorities.
posted by yeolcoatl at 7:49 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had an experience that wasn't the same in terms of situation but I had a friend at the time along with another friend of his who would not stop contacting me or my friends.
late night calls, threatening e-mails. What stop it was informing this individual and his friend that any further contact would include a report being filed with my local police department for harassment. He seemed to take the hint at that point and his friend finally stopped as well.
Don't live in fear, instead be calm and take the necessary steps to eliminate the individuals capacity to contact you by using legal means. Be sure to follow through if/when the behavior resurfaces.
posted by handbanana at 7:51 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Arrange to meet him in a public place, but arrive with a police officer in tow. Explain to the man that you've brought police along to be a witness and arbitrator and that they now have a lock on his name and face in case they'd need to contact him in the event of a future incident. Maybe that would scare him enough to quit bothering you.
posted by deern the headlice at 7:54 AM on January 26, 2011

As a person who has been stalked with an active restraining order out on someone, I completely agree with KokuRyu - also see this resource.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:56 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

NO! Do not follow the advice of deern the headlice. That will only encourage him.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:56 AM on January 26, 2011 [37 favorites]

I have seen many people recommend The Gift of Fear for situations like this, though I'm not familiar with it myself.
posted by cider at 7:59 AM on January 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

Do not respond in any way, and absolutely do not meet him in a public place with the police in tow (I would be surprised if the police would co-operate with this, for a start, but it's a bad idea for other reasons).

But do contact the police if you feel this is harassment or that you are in danger.

If you're prepared to handle this yourself without police involvement (or the police are unhelpful): redirect his emails to a trusted friend without reading them yourself. That way you aren't tempted to reward him with contact (any contact is a reward for most people like this, sometimes even if that contact is a restraining order), you have a documentary record of what he says, and your friend can monitor the emails for escalation.

And read The Gift of Fear, which has a couple of chapters about stalkers and is full of stories about how people have successfully (and unsuccessfully) dealt with people like this.
posted by caek at 8:02 AM on January 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

Add his e-mail to your junkmail/block list. Continue on...
posted by samsara at 8:15 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Sophie1 -- NEVER MEET YOUR STALKER, even if you have a SWAT team, air and sniper cover, and a tank as backup. There's a chance he'll just take it as a chance to 'prove himself' to you, and the next thing you know there's a hostage standoff. Not fun for anyone involved except the crazy one.

And nthing calling the cops. Respond to his emails ONCE saying you still do not want him to contact you and that he needs to stop, and when/if it continues, yeah ... just call the cops. Keep all evidence. Lock your doors, change your passwords (I am so not kidding with this one), lock down your social networking preferences (just imagine if he gets access to your Facebook profile...), don't let your pets out of the house unattended (Fluffy will just have to cope with being an indoor kitty). Until this asshat goes away, you have to protect EVERYTHING. It's stupid, annoying, inconvenient ... but it's a lot better than the alternative.

And good luck. Took me a couple years to shake mine. I hope yours takes a LOT less.
posted by Heretical at 8:16 AM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Respond to his emails ONCE saying you still do not want him to contact you and that he needs to stop
Do not do this. It assumes he is rational. If he was rational he wouldn't be ignoring the very strong social convention not to act like a scary crazy person, and the very clear requests you've made in the past. He is not rational. Contact of any kind will have no effect other than to reward an irrational person with what they most want, which is contact, of any kind.
posted by caek at 8:36 AM on January 26, 2011 [16 favorites]

Please please please do not contact him even once or meet him once, that is incredibly terrible advice. Talk to the police (now) about what he's doing, ask what you should be doing and determine what constitutes the law in your area. Send his emails directly to trash (or, if the police advice it, to a separate place where they can be looked at later) and never see them and Do. Not. Respond. Ever. Seriously.
posted by brainmouse at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2011

Talk to the police and heed the sage advice of the big red button.

Your stalker cannot distinguish between positive and negative input. He lacks the crucial bit of wiring that lets him process what you're saying rationally, and will interpret any signal coming from your direction as an invitation to pursue his obsession. There is no way you can communicate with this person that will not be parsed as encouragement to persevere.
posted by Shepherd at 9:00 AM on January 26, 2011 [8 favorites]

No really, don't respond. It took me some four years of not responding for a stalker to finally stop contacting me, but by god it (eventually) worked.

The police may not be interested in arbitrating unless it's an emergency. And getting a restraining order, unless it's an emergency, is a process. Be prepared to actually face this person in court to get one.
posted by sarling at 9:19 AM on January 26, 2011

I'm going to disagree with caek in principle, but not in practice. There are plenty of people (mostly men) who are relatively isolated and socially awkward and do not get conventional social hints, but do understand an explicit statement. I used to be one of these.

It's better to assume rationality until it has been disproven. The act of stating "do not contact me" and having it be ignored is what ESTABLISHES irrationality.

That said, debates over whether or not to send the "do not contact me" message are interesting, but irrelevant to this case, because the message has already been sent. So the question is about "Now that he has ignored 'do not contact me' and established to everybody beyond doubt that he is a crazy person, how do I deal with this?"
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:36 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

This character has already been told "never contact me again" yeolcoatl. Yet he persists in trying to make contact.

I'm in agreement with everyone else: the best approach is no response whatsoever. *Any* response at all increases the risks of some very bad outcomes. Change your email address to a new one & black-hole the old one (or redirect it to a gmail box that someone else could check over for you occasionally in case the email contact moves on to threats of violence).
posted by pharm at 10:08 AM on January 26, 2011

No response no response no response. Buy The Gift of Fear right now. Document everything in case you need to involve the police. No response.

I am so sorry you are experiencing this. It is really tough. Reading The Gift of Fear will remind you that you are not alone.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:21 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes. In your case I would Call the police. Do not reply whatsoever.

Due to the length of time that this has been going on, I wouldn't take it lightly. I "stalked" an ex I was obsessed with (I say obsession in hindsight, at the time I thought it was love) when I was 16-17, driving by her house repeatedly, hang up phone calls at all hours, going places I thought she might be constantly, etc. Even though this did not last for more than a few months, it was still nutty behavior. I honestly thought that we were destined to be together forever, and if I just had "one more chance" to somehow just get what I was trying to say across correctly, everything would just be magical and everything would be instantly fixed. It's an obsession... which is a thought that blocks out all others... frightening territory when you're the target.

If it get's weird(er), and you think carefully about the possible mental ramifications about it, both pros and cons, you may even want to look into securing information about him through a professional (If it were me, I wouldn't want to do this myself, in the highly unlikely event he somehow finds out I'm digging, and also for emotional distance, as I don't think I'd want to know much, especially weird blog posts, etc. about this person.) Info like his immediate family, current place of employment,or other tidbits the cops will appreciate if they need to talk to him, and information such as this may make you feel more secure for a myriad of reasons. It also might open up a can of worms due to TMI, so I'd weigh that carefully, but it could come in handy in a pinch. Possibly have your husband be the recipient of the info, not necessarily you.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:38 AM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

You asked for personal experience. My stalker has been following me for half a decade now. Although I still occasionally receive email/calls/messages from her, the most effective strategy in reducing the frequency and intensity of her messages has been non-responsiveness. It has been several years since I've responded to anything she has done, even indirectly, through other people.

Be aware/you may have noticed that in the first weeks, months, or years of not-responding, this person will ramp up bad behavior and do all kinds of bizarre things to get information about you from your friends and your online haunts. Mine did all kinds of totally unacceptable things. At first, I warned some of my friends about her/asked them to please not share information and updates about me, but found that sometimes that information got back to her and reinforced the cycle again. (!!!) Unfortunately, even friends you trust can be part of the continuation of this cycle, because drama exists to be discussed.

You must pretend this person doesn't exist and you must not talk to them ever again. Document their communication completely and inform the authorities. Most eventually tire and go away, shift their attention, or reduce to a tolerable level on their own.

Beyond the strategy of non-responsiveness, you can also help yourself by changing your phone number (I got three and hand them out according to how much I trust a person - voicemail is cheap and gives you plausible deniability), changing your email address (I see that you've already done this, now's time to filter their stuff directly to a folder where you never see it), and potentially moving or haunting different spaces (change your coffeeshop/bar/daily route).

At this point I consider the once-or-twice-a-year messages nothing more than an annoyance and I am also half a continent away from this person, which makes her inappropriate behavior significantly less affecting. It is weird writing this knowing she is probably reading - weirder, reading server logs/stats, knowing she is watching/browsing/saving/clicking far, far more than she is writing. For your own mental comfort, you may also find it useful to stay away from those kinds of information sources. I do not have a Facebook account for this (and other) reasons.

Good luck and memail me if you want to talk further.
posted by fake at 10:41 AM on January 26, 2011

... and in a weird turn of events, that girl from above friended me not too long ago on FB. Besides the initial "HEY, what's going on!! OMG etcetcetc." I honestly have not thought of that until now. He needs help, and authorities may help him get it.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:42 AM on January 26, 2011

I've been in this situation twice. Both times, after telling them directly not to contact me, I set up an email filter that marked their messages as read and saved them in a folder where I didn't have to see them, so that if things escalated, I would have a record of the harassment. I resolved never to acknowledge their contact in any way. In both cases, it took a couple of years for them to really give it up, although after around six months the emails began to slow down.

The "ignore" approach works, but if he already showed up at your house once, I would do that and call the police too.
posted by milk white peacock at 12:49 PM on January 26, 2011

Call the police. Provide them with documentation that you have asked the person to stop contacting you, changed contact info, and the person is persisting. Let the police deal with it. You may need a restraining order, and may need to go to court for one, which is probably worth doing.

Make sure your house, car and office are reasonably secure and private. If you usually leave curtains open, consider closing them. Make sure the office staff know not to share your schedule or contact info. Lock your car.

This must really suck; I'm sorry you have to experience it.
posted by theora55 at 2:26 PM on January 26, 2011

I had a guy who wouldn't stop emailing me for years after I rejected his (out-of-the-blue) marriage proposal. I changed email addresses, but he found the new one. I sent a fake automatic bounce email in response to his new attempts (he wasn't very tech-savvy, so the fake didn't have to be very good), and he eventually gave up. It helped that I moved countries.

If you don't have an international move coming up, I agree with others that you should contact the police.
posted by lollusc at 3:19 PM on January 26, 2011

Before you do anything (other than continuing to ignore) please read The Gift of Fear. Its been recommended here on the green a million times for a really good reason. I don't even have a stalker and it changed my life.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:35 PM on January 26, 2011

Nthing The Gift Of Fear. I think EVERYONE should read it.

And what everyone else said - do not contact, document document document, contact the police.

I won't put my horror story out here (it isn't wholly applicable to your situation), but do what you can to document and protect yourself just in case.

Be safe.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:49 PM on January 26, 2011

From the OP:
"Thanks for all the responses.

Re: restraining order - my friend who's a cop says you can't get it unless you can show proof that the person is threatening to harm you (otherwise you could get a restraining order against any old person out of spite). Any info he's missing or I'm missing?

Also, what do folks think about my husband emailing the crazy and instructing him to stay away/stop contacting? He's dying to email this guy and even wants to get his # and call him so he can tell him over the phone to scram. I'm not sure if this would make things better or worse."
posted by jessamyn at 8:05 PM on January 26, 2011

I think everyone here will advise against having your husband contact this fellow because that will give the guy one more link to you. And it probably won't work in the situation you've described thus far.

I know I didn't let my husband answer my phone or confront my stalker ex in any other way for precisely this reason. For the stalker, it's about obsession and drama - it's not really about you. Don't fuel the fire. Take precautions to safeguard yourself.
posted by jbenben at 8:37 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

My friend had a similar situation and literally the only thing she found which worked was to reach out to the crazy person's family. They, far more than the police, employer, FBI or any other organisation, had the incentive to contact the guy and tell him to cut it out, take his meds, etc.

Hope this helps.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:31 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Regarding husband/police, I think most psychologically disturbed stalker-types interpret even negative third-party contact as encouragement, so if your husband contacts him he will think that your husband is keeping you away against your will, and this is proof, otherwise why wouldn't you tell him yourself? The only reason you don't answer his emails is obviously that your husband won't let you! Or he may think that you are actually sending secret messages through your husband, that your husband is unaware of — so when your husband says "Anon never wants to hear from you again," the secret encoded message is: Anon wants to hear from you again.

It sounds like AmbroseChapel's friend had the right idea.
posted by taz at 10:05 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, what do folks think about my husband emailing the crazy and instructing him to stay away/stop contacting?

Don't do this. Aside from the fact that this will reward him with attention, it's entirely possible your stalker could turn his attentions to your husband as well.
posted by hot soup girl at 10:19 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Read The Gift of Fear. It's flawed, but on the whole excellent advice for situations like this.

Do NOT respond in any way to your stalker*. Do NOT wait for 30 e-mails or phone calls to drive you crazy and then contact him; this only teaches him that it takes 30 contacts to get you to respond. Any interaction you have with the stalker will be interpreted, most likely, as some type of chess-game move in the larger relationship inside his head.

* Your instinct here is correct. This gut check is, indeed, what Gavin de Becker calls the gift of fear. Your unconscious is telling you, below the level of rational thought, to approach this situation with extreme caution.

How can I make this insane person leave me alone?

This is almost the wrong question to ask. I know it is an attractive outcome, but the question should really be How can I stay safe while this person remains interested in me? If they are crazy enough, they may never lost interest in you entirely (e.g. Letterman's stalker, whose career of breaking into his house was only stopped when she walked in front of a train). Unfortunately, this may mean taking measures that make you less accessible than you would like to be -- locking down your Facebook profile, for example, or getting an unlisted phone number or using an answering service. In extreme cases, changing your name and moving.

Ultimately, you see, you don't control this other person. You may feel that making them stop is gaining back some control, but your actions may only serve their goal of having extremely weird interactions with someone or any interaction with you. So reframe your approach to the things that you control. You don't control other people. Similarly, the law doesn't control people -- it only offers them consequences for their actions, and is predicated on rational responses to choices and consequences. This may prove less useful when the person is irrational.
posted by dhartung at 11:28 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

As far as I can tell from your info above, he's only found an updated email address for you. He most likely has no way of telling if its an address you are even using, much less whether you have received or read his note. Mark his address as spam and filter all messages from him to be automatically so marked and disposed. Game over.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:14 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

As far as I can tell from your info above, he's only found an updated email address for you...

^^ This is what I meant in my very short comment above. Mark him as spam/junkmail and just carry on. There's a lot of elaborate solutions mentioned in this thread, but unfortunately so many of them involve you investing emotional effort into solving the "issue." The fact that there is an issue in the first place, is what keeps him going. He's getting off by triggering your emotions..regardless as to whether he gets a reaction or not. The fact that you're posting your question here means that he's getting to you...which is exactly what he wants...for in his mind, causing duress makes him think that you're identifying with his doesn't have to be that way. If you mentally close this guy off and politely ignore him...he'll eventually disappear. The key here is your emotions about how you go about it. Never overreact, pretend he never happened...demonstrate a higher level of maturity...and be confident. He hasn't been threatening towards you yet, just persistent. Odds are you'll be fine...just annoyed.
posted by samsara at 7:03 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Re: restraining order - my friend who's a cop says you can't get it unless you can show proof that the person is threatening to harm you (otherwise you could get a restraining order against any old person out of spite). Any info he's missing or I'm missing?

You don't say where you live, but this list of resources posted by sophie1 should be able to clarify your state's stalking laws, including who qualifies for a stalking protection order, standards of proof, etc.
posted by virago at 12:16 PM on January 27, 2011

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