My friend is being stalked and harassed, how can we help?
April 17, 2011 2:46 AM   Subscribe

How can I help a friend protect herself from a stalker?

I have a very close friend who was being stalked by a man who lives a few houses down from her. He was ringing her doorbell at all hours, accosting her on her way to work, calling her cell phone (though she never gave him her phone number). She got a restraining order which he violated several times. This culminated in her coming home one day to find him in her backyard. He was finally arrested but signed a plea bargain to just a few days in jail and probation. He has since stopped contacting her.

However, since he signed the plea bargain my friend has been attacked on three different occasions by two different friends or possibly relatives of her stalker. About two weeks ago one of them grabbed her as she was getting in to her car after leaving a coffee shop. She ran away and called the police, but nothing came of it. Later that week at the same coffee shop the same man grabbed her as she tried to get in to her car. A bystander called the cops, my friend got a black eye and the guy got away.

Tonight she was trying to sleep in her car in the parking lot of a 24 hour drugstore (she no longer feels safe sleeping in her home). I suppose she forgot to lock her door and a man opened in and dragged her from her car towards an idling car with an open door. She luckily had her mace on her and maced him. He was arrested.

My feeling is that this is not going to end soon and likely in a terrible, violent way.

She's already taken an incredible amount of time off from work due to this and the fact that her mother was diagnoses with very serious cancer last month (when it rains, etc.) and is afraid of losing her job. She is planning to move on the 1st but our town is SO small and he knows where she works and what she drives so I doubt that will be very effective. I saw other askmes suggesting PIs but don't know how to go about finding one or what to tell them we want. Her feeling is that she'll never be safe because there seems to be an endless array of people willing to risk arrest etc. to harass her on behalf of her stalker.

ANY advice is greatly appreciated.
posted by Saminal to Law & Government (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This all seems highly unlikely. Are you sure there is not a lot more to the story than you are being told? Most people would not risk prison to harrasss someone for a friend.

Generally folk here recommend the book, The Gift of Fear for stalkers. But this situation sounds..."unique".
posted by taff at 5:06 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Texas Association of Licensed Investigators has a member search function. A PI will ask the questions they need to find out more.
posted by scruss at 5:24 AM on April 17, 2011

Just to get this out of the way, have you actually independently confirmed all of this? (That is, have you attended any of the court proceedings, seen official court documents, etc.?) Or are you going solely on what she's told you? This story sounds like the fabrications of a pathological liar, way too far fetched to be true.
posted by jayder at 5:33 AM on April 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

At the very least, she should be in contact with the court's victim/witness coordinator to ask what services are available to her.

That said, I think there's more going on here. The story as you've related it is possible but it's not very probable. She's telling you that she's been physically attacked three times in a two week period, and yet after the first two attacks (which took place away from her home) she felt safer sleeping in an open parking lot than she did in her home?

Your town is small, and yet the bystander at the coffee shop couldn't help the police identify the perpetrator in the second incident, even though he's obviously somehow related to the original stalker, which would presumably offer a lot of leads?

And what's the status with the person who was arrested after the third incident?

The story sounds like the fantastical exaggerations of someone who is very distressed and reaching out in a misguided way for some care and attention. Perhaps the stress of the initial stalking issue, combined with her mother's recent cancer diagnosis, has created an emotional overload.

Even if the story is completely true, she could probably benefit from talking to a mental health professional. As far as her physical safety, since she's your good friend, can she stay with you for awhile?
posted by amyms at 6:01 AM on April 17, 2011

If all this stuff is happening, and that's a big if, stalking has now escalated into assault and attempted kidnapping with multiple perpetrators, this is a very serious situation and your friend needs to get the hell out of Dodge. No more spending the night in an unlocked car in a drug store parking lot (???). Tell her to stay with friends/family outside of town. Just don't let that friend be you in case this is some sort of setup.
posted by 6550 at 6:04 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The National Center for Victims of Crime maintains the Stalking Resource Center. Some of it is geared towards organizations, but a lot of it is for individuals.

Perhaps a referral, if your friend has access to the Internet.
posted by Gorgik at 6:32 AM on April 17, 2011

Best answer: If she feels her life is in danger, she should move out of town where he can't find her and start over. She won't be any good to her mother dead. Tell her to clean out her bank account, get into her car and drive as far away as she possibly can. Don't tell anyone where she's going and don't contact anyone for a long time. Get a job wherever she happens to land and just start the hell over.

That's what I did anyway...
posted by patheral at 7:17 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she was so afraid she took to sleeping in 24-hr drugstore parking lots, she wouldn't have failed to lock the doors of her car, and check them repeatedly after that. I would take her to see the victim resources department at the local police detachment, they would have all sorts of phone numbers and assistance for your friend. That's what they do. Also a quick google search brings up six private investigation firms in your town. She can call them and discuss what they can do. But really, if things are that bad that she can be repeatedly grabbed off the street, then I would suggest she disappear as well, as Patheral above stated.
posted by pink candy floss at 7:20 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Her feeling is that she'll never be safe because there seems to be an endless array of people willing to risk arrest etc. to harass her on behalf of her stalker.

I don't mean to minimize the situation that your friend is in, but has she ever showed signs of paranoia or had psychiatric problems? For several different people in a small town to risk arrest and serious jail time on behalf of some other guy sounds very strange.
posted by amicamentis at 7:30 AM on April 17, 2011

Best answer: If these things are in fact happening and the police are not taking this seriously, I would suggest that your friend contact the local district attorney's office that handled the prosecution of the original stalker, and talk to the assistant district attorney (ADA) who handled that case. Ask that ADA what assistance they can provide in lighting a fire under the police to put a stop to this. Also ask the ADA who the original stalker's probation officer is. Contact the probation officer and tell him or her that the stalker's family and friends are harassing your friend. If this harassment is at the behest of the original stalker, it would almost certainly be a violation of the terms of the probation. On top of that, your friend should write a letter to the judge who put the original stalker on probation. Make noise; make sure everyone who had anything to do with the original stalker's arrest, prosecution, sentencing, and probation knows that the harassment is ongoing. Also ask the ADA if their office has a victim advocacy coordinator that they could put your friend in touch with; that person may have contact information for free women 's shelters for victims of domestic abuse and stalking.

I have had up close, personal experience with a horrible and terrifying stalker who victimized a family member of mine. I know this stuff happens. But your friend's story contains to many implausibilities to be believable. Before you put your own credibility on the line in helping her, do some legwork of your own to confirm this. Here are some steps I think you should take to confirm the story:
(1) go to the police station and ask to see arrest reports for all arrests your friend has told you about ( you can usually give police either the victims name or the suspects name). Not just the stalker's arrest, but the subsequent arrest of the guy in the drug store parking lot. Confirm also that the police have documentation of the other incidents (the grabbings, the coffee shop incident) where police were called but no arrest was made.
(2) go to the courthouse and ask to see the file for the original stalker's prosecution. Look at the charging document (sometimes called the affidavit of complaint). Do the details check out? Look at the probation order, too.
(3) while at the courthouse, ask to see the order of protection. Is there one?

Confirming these things will go a long way toward figuring out whether your friend's story is true. You really don't want to get sucked into helping someone who is lying, obviously; but at the same time, if this stuff IS happening, confirming it will then equip you to help her as intelligently as possible because she may not be considering all of her options.
posted by jayder at 7:47 AM on April 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

I agree with others that this doesn't sound plausible, and it might be the first sign of a mental illness. An endless array of people willing to kidnap her? A gang of men all on the lookout for her, beating her, dragging her toward cars with idling motors, and the police do nothing... in a small town where everyone knows everyone? Doesn't that sound unlikely?

However, assuming it's all correct, the next time she's thinking of sleeping in a drugstore parking lot, she might reconsider and drive the 11 miles to DFW airport. Lots of security, a huge airport, lots of people. Or, even the parking lot of your local police/constable seems safer than that of the drugstore.

Why doesn't she move now, to Dallas or some other part of the DFW metroplex? Is there any reason that her only option is to live in that one small area? Since she has been attacked twice in the past two weeks, is there any reason she's going to wait another two weeks to move, just so it can be the first of the month?
posted by Houstonian at 12:04 PM on April 17, 2011

Best answer: What the hell. You can search criminal records and restraining orders through the Dallas County Criminal Background page on the county's web site if you'd like to verify your friend isn't bullshitting you - that's step 1.

Step 2 is get her to go to the airport as others have said and rent a car. Leave her car there, drive back in the rental to a hotel room, check in there and don't visit any of her regular places during daylight hours. It'll be harder to spot her in an unfamiliar car at night.

Maybe a wig, too. Then move, and obviously call 911 if anything suspicious happens. She should also set up a texting code to send out to a group of friends and relatives if she's attacked (not 911, some other code that if she gets grabbed the perp wouldn't know/think of/fake on her behalf) to let y'all know to call the police and see if she's okay or start looking for her (hospital, safe house, etc.).

She should have a "safe house" set up somewhere to go if the motel gets compromised. I suggest someone's house the stalker has never met before and that she hasn't visited since knowing this person, such as a coworker's place or similar.

At this point, maybe it's time for concealed handgun training and a permit? MeMail me if you want more info on that, I have a friend who teaches classes and sells guns, plus he's got a shooting range for practicing that's private.

If this is fake, I'm sorry you're being sucked into unnecessary drama. If it's real, I suggest you stay a safe distance and just forward her this thread. Good luck.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:32 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I trust this person and have attended court, seen the protective order, met the eye witness to the first attack, seen the bruises from the third. I was with her last night as she was filling out the police report and the guy was getting arrested. I feel fairly confident that the story is true, even though I grant you that it sounds like a Lifetime movie. I agree that my friend is making mistakes and not great decisions but she is sleep deprived and panicked pretty constantly. The reason she was sleeping in her car is because she has a female room mate and feels (though we all think this is ridiculous) that she's putting her roomie in danger by sleeping at home and she hates being there because it's so close to stalker's house.

I've known her for several years and have never know her to create drama or make up stories.

The overwhelming advice seems to be to move. I am going to start STRONGLY advocating for this. Talking directly to the ADA is also a really good idea. I'm going to get her on that.
posted by Saminal at 4:16 PM on April 17, 2011

+1 the concealed handgun license, but get some training. The dragged from a car thing is DEFINATELY self defense grounds and she would have been well within the law to defend herself with deadly force in those circumstances. However if she is involved with something shady and this is some kind of payback or such than she is on much more shaky grounds in the eyes of the law and the prosecutor. Good luck and the easiest thing is to just move and establish new, unpredictable patterns for her daily life.
posted by bartonlong at 5:38 PM on April 17, 2011

Hire a personal armed guard until she gets out of town and/or until the police sort this all out. Hire a lawyer, file civil suits against anyone caught attacking her - this will recoup the armed guard cost and dissuade others from doing her stalker's dirty work.
posted by mikepop at 6:55 AM on April 18, 2011

she sounds like she might be involved in some kind of illegal activity, such as organized crime? perhaps she was a witness to something that she should NOT have seen? i'm sorry to be suspicious here, but normal people don't have what sounds like foot soldiers dragging their neighbors out of their cars in the middle of the night!

it's a very good idea to start talking to the ADA directly, run all the names involved in this past him. and you need to figure out somewhere else for her to stay ASAP. yesterday. don't wait to move until the 1st of the month. i'm second sleeping in the airport area if she needs to be somewhere that is populated at night, while in her car.

follow unicorn on the cob's advice...i would also recommend calling some PIs and security firms in the area and getting info from them about what services they can offer and what rates they'd charge for things like a) guarding the victim (during certain parts of her routine or all the time) or b) following & investigating the harasser and associates. a quick google shows there several options for you in the area.

she may want to get a gun and a permit but she NEEDS training to be able to use it if such a moment arises. i'd want that, if i were her! you can ask the security firms if they can offer handgun training or self defense training, or if they can refer her to a good place for it.

also: remind her that the best thing she can do is take good care of herself, and let trusted friends and family (and professional perhaps) HELP HER decide what to do. allowing others to assist and getting enough sleep etc. will help her make better decisions and will give her the ability to protect herself more effectively.
posted by zdravo at 4:55 PM on November 27, 2011

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