Abusive family seems to know where I live. What do I do?
December 23, 2013 6:32 AM   Subscribe

My abusive mom that I cut off ties with (along with the rest of my abusive family) emailed me a few days ago and seems to know where I moved to. She said that she tells everyone back home where I moved to. She made it sound like she just guessed it, but I find it highly unlikely. If it wasn't just a guess, I don't know how they found out (since I haven't contacted them since arriving in my new city) or how much they know. Am I in danger? Should I move? What do I do? Please help.

Hi Mefites, I am rather unsettled right now, but any advice you may have would be much appreciated.

So, when I left home, I cut off ties with my abusive family and explicitly told them I wanted no contact in a letter I left behind. But, all 3 of them (mother,father & brother) have contacted me, particularly my parents. My mom calls me a lot and starts every message saying "this message is for 'anonymous'" and tells me to call her back when I have time. She keeps on doing this, despite no response from me. On Thanksgiving, she called and left a voicemail saying that if the number belongs to someone else now, to call her back and let her know, as she is my mother. Ugh. I got an email from my mother a few days ago, and she said that since I don't want any of them to know where I live, she tells people back home that I live in Washington, since I (very briefly, 8 years ago!) applied to a college there and was considering going to school there. But I feel like it's highly unlikely that she would remember such a thing, since she didn't pay much attention to me, it was a passing interest of mine and I never spoke to her in recent years of my interest in Washington. It sounds more to me like they found out I moved to Washington and thought back to 8 years ago when I applied to a school here and tried to rationalize it that way. And it bothers me that even if it was a guess, I expressly told them I wanted no contact and did not want to say where I moved to, but they're going around telling everyone back home (with whom I also want no contact) where they think I went as if I went there, lying in the process, as if they're still in touch with me and a part of my life.

I am very upset about this and concerned for my safety. I wonder how they found out, and if there is any part of my identity I should change, to make it less likely for them to find information about me. Did they find out through AskMe? Should I not post here anymore? Should I move to NY sooner now? Do I need to contact police/ a lawyer? There are some changes to my identity/ contact info I wanted to make, and I'm thinking if I do move, I should make those changes first so that they don't follow me to the next place.

Finally, as I'm really upset, especially by their continued contact to me, a part of me wants to email them one last time and tell them off. When I left, I left it open that maybe I would get in touch again, or maybe I wouldn't, but that it would be my decision. I'm very upset that they have shown zero respect for my reasonable need for space and privacy, and now I'm certain that I want absolutely nothing to do with them ever again, in any capacity. I haven't contacted them since I moved here, but I wonder if I should email them a final goodbye and good riddance?

Please help, Mefites. Am I in danger? What should I do? Any advice is helpful. Please let me know if I left something out. Thanks for any help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
They want you to react. They really want you to overreact, because then you're the crazy paranoid one and they're not the abusive villains.

Ignore them. Continue to ignore them. If -- and this is a huge "if" -- anyone shows up on your front stoop, tell them to leave and call the police and say, "My [family member] is trespassing and will not leave" if they don't.
posted by Etrigan at 6:37 AM on December 23, 2013 [53 favorites]


Well, first, I'd contact the mods and have them remove any and all location information from this and any other post you've made. It may be paranoid, but best not have any connection between you and any location on the publicly-searchable internet.

Second, do not email them! One last time will never be one last time, and it will not, in no possible way, give you or them the closure that you're imagining. It will just prolong contact, which is the opposite of what you want.
posted by The Michael The at 6:37 AM on December 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


one member of my estranged family sent me an email saying that they read my posts here *hi*, to my surprise. My answer is, if posting here under your reg name would somehow stir a pot you don't want stirred, post under a sock and omit identifying details

i guess my biggest question is why you should take action. I get why you care, and I get that it's impossible not to, but I think you should work on not caring. Focus on your own life *unless you are in danger*
posted by angrycat at 6:39 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


a part of me wants to email them one last time and tell them off

Yeah, that's the part of you they built. Don't let it drive.

It takes two not to tango.
posted by flabdablet at 6:41 AM on December 23, 2013 [61 favorites]


do not email them one last time and tell them off. do not ever contact them again, actually, but save the evidence of their attempts to contact you. it's clear that hearing from these people and engaging with them makes you uncomfortable and anxious. follow your instincts and do not continue engaging. do not have one more "good riddance" conversation. it sounds like it won't make you feel better and will only inflame their desire to continue to be in touch with you when that's not what you want to have happen.

in the meantime, i would suggest you do the following: remove yourself from social media, possibly de-register yourself to vote (easy to look up someone's address this way when you know what county they live in), start receiving mail at a PO box rather than giving out the location of your residence, make sure that your workplace, school, or any organization you are a part of doesn't publish your name, photo, or info about you online (this can be as harmlessly intended as "so and so volunteers with us, works at blahblah, and loves her home in the blargh neighborhood of yarble." NOPE.) get a new phone number on a cheaper network (boost, metropcs) and start using that, but keep the old one open to intercept old calls for a while. you can also create new online accounts and email addresses and give those out judiciously, or block them from being listed to people who are not in your network.

i am sorry to have to say this, but you need to treat the attention from your family as you would attention from a dangerous and unwanted stalker. whatever you do, do not contact them back or get in touch. when you do reply it just teaches them that in order to hear from you they have to leave X number of voice mails or send Y number of emails or whatever, and next time they'll harass even more.

if you really want to stop getting the voicemails from your mom you could have someone in your life whom she doesn't know call her number back and explain that she has the wrong number and needs to stop leaving messages, they've never met you, they got a new number and a new phone plan last month and they don't know why she keeps calling over and over asking for someone who is not connected to that number anymore, etc.
posted by zdravo at 6:43 AM on December 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'm so sorry you're going through this.

How long have you been no contact? If she's not giving your address on the phone or showing up at your door it might just be a bluff.

In my experience with my own abusive mother, it's remarkable how many casual comments she remembered and worked up into giant offenses, so it's not completely out of the question that your mother is the same.

I have a note in my file at my apartment office that under no circumstances is anyone allowed in my apartment unless I have given written permission provided in person - you may want to do the same. Other than that I agree that she's trying different things to get to you - just keep ignoring her.
posted by winna at 6:43 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


My mom calls me a lot and starts every message saying "this message is for 'anonymous'" and tells me to call her back when I have time. She keeps on doing this, despite no response from me.

Change your phone number, and get a new email address. Let her leave messages on the old services to her heart's desire. Once all the people you actually want to stay in contact with have got used to your new phone number and address, change the passwords on the old services to something long and random that you then don't write down, making it impossible for you to check them again.
posted by flabdablet at 6:44 AM on December 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yeah, as people are saying, one thing you do is get a new phone number, but keep the old number working so they can keep leaving messages on it. Ditto your email. The state most people get to is that they are simply removed from the contact that these people make, not actually totally removed.

It sounds like you haven't scrubbed your online presence perfectly. It's really hard, that's understandable.

Only you can tell us if you're in danger, we won't be able to know. But it takes work to actually disappear. You can't give money to political campaigns, you can't be on Facebook, you can't register to vote.... it goes on and on. Better to erect a shield of false access, in most cases.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:45 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Change your phone number. If you want to keep your current number (so that you don't have to go through the hassle of disseminating a new number to people you trust and actually want to have contact with), you can port your phone number into Google Voice. You'd get a new number for your phone, but your old number would still ring on all your phones. And you can make a list of all the family members' phone numbers and block them in Google Voice, which would mean that any time any of those numbers called you, they'd get a message saying that your number is out of service. You'll be able to see that the number called you (you get a list of when blocked numbers call you, so you can keep track, for your own safety, of whether they're still trying to call, but they have no idea that they got through). You can even set it up to whitelist only specific numbers you choose, and to send all other numbers to a voicemail box you set up, which you can have say anything you want (including having a friend record an outgoing message saying that it's someone else's phone number). It just gives you a lot more options than a normal phone number does.

The bottom line is that they desperately want you to react. To them, a reaction of anger or fear is as gratifying as a reaction of joy or happiness, because either one proves that they still have power over you. You need to not give them that reaction, because they will keep trying to goad you into reacting more. The best way to do that is to cut off any way they have of contacting you, and especially any way of getting through to you. The book that everyone always recommends, and rightly so because it is very good, is Gavin DeBecker's The Gift of Fear. It gives concrete strategies for dealing with stalkers (and make no mistake, family members who hunt you down and keep trying to contact you when they know you don't want it are stalking you), but its most important message is that you should not let your stalkers get any reaction out of you, because that will only spur them to keep trying.

I'm so sorry that this is happening to you, and I hope there comes a time when you have peace from your family.
posted by decathecting at 6:49 AM on December 23, 2013 [37 favorites]


Instead of disappearing, you might purposely redirect them - put up a searchable Facebook profile that says you moved to Florida, include a Google voice number with a Florida area code, etc.

If you think you are in physical danger, look into getting a temporary restraining order.
posted by desjardins at 6:51 AM on December 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Contact a local abuse shelter/organization, and tell them what you've told us: I made a clean break from my abusive family, moved, left no forwarding information, and not only has my mother located my e-mail and phone, but she keeps contacting me. How worried should I be and what steps should I take? They generally have social workers, lawyers, or referrals to the same who can help you assess the threat and take necessary steps, whether that's a restraining order stopping them from contacting you or a change of identity where some steps are obscured by court order, or just getting a burner phone where they don't know the number.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:51 AM on December 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


When you change your number, ask a friend who knows the full story to listen to the messages for you and tell you anything actually useful so you don't have to go through the emotional pain and energy or worry about missing actual emergencies.

The lying to people back home is totally part of the pattern and all about them saving face. No-one's going around saying "Oh my kid cut off contact because I'm a narcissistic abuser." Instead they say how you have a very busy job and called just last week for a long chat, etc.

Ignoring it is easiest, but if it really bugs you, start being blunt if anyone from the home town asks about your family: "I don't have contact with them because they're horrible people." But that way can lead to drama with people rushing to intervene, imagining some kind of tearful family reunion they can heroically create, so be prepared to have to shut down "helpful" advice.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:01 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would contact a local domestic violence organization and see if they can recommend a private investigator or other professional who specializes in protecting your identity from stalkers. This is an issue that many victims of abuse have dealt with and there are people you can hire to help you through this. Do not have any online accounts linked to the email address they know, or any email address or name they could figure out (Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Flickr, etc). Location data can be found from images. Really, you should quit social media all together. Don't do business with any establishment that you did business with while living in your parents home (many places forget to change your address in their system and will send mail to your old address).

Here are some resources that may be helpful:

New Social Security Number

Ditch Big Brother and Disappear Forever

Place a security freeze on your credit reports

Change name in WA and have record sealed for your safety
posted by melissasaurus at 7:12 AM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't think they want to hurt you physically. I think they want to guilt you into returning into the same horrible patterns that they've become used to.

So for sure, don't respond at all. Do keep your old number and get a new one to circulate amongst your friends where you are. You don't even want to give them the satisfaction of knowing that they reached you and made you change your number.

One thing you might do is get some dude with a basso-profundo voice to leave an outgoing message on your old number, "This is Sampson, leave a message."

You think your family has more power than the actually do. They can't read your mind, and they don't know where you are, not really.

If you're concerned, speak to the police or folks in the family abuse arena. But I think they're bluffing.

Don't let them get to you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:14 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe you could get a new name. That would add an extra layer of difficulty to their sleuthing. Also then, you wouldn't have to think about your family name every time you write a rent check.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:39 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Get the mods to anonymize this thread [including redacting the username in the original question], delete it, or both. (Use the "contact" link at the bottom right.)

Here's the problem: you posted this question under a username which your mother knows is you, and which she presumably monitors. All the good advice above about not responding in any way, not giving mom any indication that she's getting to you? Well, if she's seen this thread, you've just given her exactly that. Don't know how often she checks, so maybe if you can get it anonymized quick enough, she won't see it.

That also ruins attempts to convince her your phone number now belongs to someone else, per zdravo or Ruthless Bunny, by having someone else call from that number or record the outgoing message for that number (an idea which I otherwise like) — if she's seen this thread and read those recommendations, those attempts are no longer credible.

New email, new phone number, new MeFi account (never referring to this one), new social media accounts (never under your real name).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:50 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Answer the OPs question, don't start fights with other commenters]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:53 AM on December 23, 2013


one thing that might stop the calls is to have a friend use your phone and call yr mother back and tell them that it's his phone and to not call anymore.
posted by lester at 8:12 AM on December 23, 2013


Get a Google voice number--you can reroute those calls to any device and it makes callers identify themselves. Change your email address and set up a folder so that any messages from those people get archived. (Then you can delete or save, depending on how you feel.) Get a box at a post office or mail facility and never use your home address for anything, including taxes, paychecks, whatever. And make this question anonymous.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:12 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


[anonymized per OP request]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:20 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds to me like you are way over-dramatizing a relatively normal and restrained reaction to a child vanishing from their lives. Based on your previous questions, its totally understandable why you wanted to get away from them, and it's fine that you don't want to talk to them, but I feel like some small part of you wants to keep the drama going. Just stop listening to their messages and don't respond to them. I don't think you need to delete your social media accounts or anything drastic like that. Your parents are going to find out where you are, no matter what you do, unless you cut out all contact with anyone who knows anyone who knows them.

Unless they do something actually threatening beyond leaving passive-aggressive voicemails, I don't really know that you need to do anything here at all. Just ignore them.
posted by empath at 8:20 AM on December 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think maybe we could be more helpful if we understood more specifically what you were afraid of your family doing. Are you afraid they'll be violent towards you? That they'll defame you in some way? Or are you more worried that they'll continue to stay in touch with you and exert control over you? Because if you move and change your name because of a voicemail from this woman, you're already giving her a huge amount of control over your life.

Also, it's not clear how long ago you cut ties with your family. If it's only been months or a year, your mother's response is, though disturbing to you, a pretty ordinary response. I mean, presumably your parents don't perceive themselves as being abusive, so your departure from their lives is probably surprising and distressing to them. (Not defending them, just saying.)

I think you're doing the right thing by not responding, and that you should continue to do not respond, and that you should maybe shift your phone number over to Google Voice as others have suggested, but don't take any extreme measures unless there's more to the story than we're getting here.
posted by mskyle at 8:29 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Everyone else has done a great job with outlining the nuts and bolts of what you need to do. So I'm going to address the other side of "What do I do?" which is: focus on your emotional reaction to this event.

From your previous Asks, it's clear that you are an incredibly strong and focused person and that you have come so, so far in developing your own life. Really - you sound amazing! But it might take sometime for your heart to catch up to the freedom you've given it. To really know that you won't ever be under their thumb, again, ever.

So, don't respond, don't feed them information. But also focus on feeding yourself, teaching yourself, to not respond. The emotional side of putting them behind you is just as important as the details of address changes.
posted by Dashy at 8:37 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unless she knows more than just the state you're in (unless she said something like "I know you're living on x street in Seattle"), don't worry too much: if all she has is the state, then she's most likely just guessing. Sure, you only mentioned it once years ago, but at this point she's grasping at any & every straw she can. If she does know the exact address, you need to think about how she might have gotten it: who might have passed on that information to her? Figure that out, so you can make sure not to ever let that now-formerly-trusted person have future information.

As for your phone and email: the best thing to do would be to change them both, since apparently you've had the same ones since before you broke free of your family. But, yeah, I can see why you might want to keep the same phone number and email address; in that case, you're going to have to find ways to block her from contacting you. Block her phone calls, and maybe the next couple of times she calls and leaves messages? Ask a friend to answer it..... "who the hell is this?!? Look lady, stop calling my phone! I don't know who this 'anonymous' person is, but they ain't here!" As for the emails, send all her emails (unread!) directly to a holding folder, then ignore them. Never respond to any of her messages: that'll just let her know that yes, she has reached you at that phone number or email, and she'll just ramp up the pressure.

And let your landlord or apartment manager know (preferably in writing!) that you absolutely do not want them to let anyone into your home --- just in case your mother shows up and insists on being let into your apartment, they are not to let her or anyone else, no matter who they say they are, in there without your express permission.

And remember, they can't force you to do anything you don't want to do. You're an adult (since you mention applying to colleges '8 years ago', I'm guessing you're *at least* 26), and even if your family has your exact street address and does something massively stupid like calling the police to check up on you, even if the police did come knocking on your door, all they'll do is say we got this call, you'll say you're an adult and don't want anything to do with your family, and the police will say thanks we'll be going now. They will not force you to interact with anyone from your family, and they certainly will not force you to go with that family.
posted by easily confused at 8:40 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and this is hopefully unneeded, but: go to a lawyer and make out a Medical Power of Attorney, stat. Name that lawyer or a trusted friend to be the one who'd make any and all decisions if you are incapacitated...... because otherwise, it's gonna come down to your family, no matter how long it's been since you've been in contact with them.
posted by easily confused at 8:46 AM on December 23, 2013 [33 favorites]


There is a good chance that they have no information at all and are simply trying to trick you into thinking that they're having their tabs on you, and to make you react somehow.
I think the most important thing is to not do that (the second important thing may be to establish a help network where you live, along the lines of some comments above, and to change all your phone numbers, email addresses and so on).
posted by Namlit at 8:59 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why haven't you changed your email and phone yet?

You know what? If you have changed your primary phone number already and are just holding on to the old one out of nostalgia - let it go. Cancel the number. Just do it.

I'm pretty sure they are not coming after you, but they are going to email, call, and text until you cut off those points of access. So cut off those points of access.

I know you're freaked out. You need more distance.

If these people can leave you messages that you are regularly receiving, you have not effectively cut off contact with them.
posted by jbenben at 9:22 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


1. Maintain no contact. They might be stabbing in the dark, but if you contact them, they will have much better information about exactly how to find you.

2. Your family has no right of entry to your home, workplace, or anywhere else that you go. The mere fact that they're blood relatives doesn't give them any rights over you, or to be near you. You absolutely CAN call the cops if they show up and refuse to leave. They're still trespassing.

3. That said, most people in your life (coworkers, roommates, apartment building super, etc) who don't know you well will probably facilitate helping them. Because it's assumed that most people are on good terms with family, and folks don't want to be rude. You need to tell all these sorts of people in your life what's up, and that if your mom, dad, or brother come looking for you, to tell them to leave and not give them any information. I know this is difficult to do without coming off as kind of nutty. You need to come off as kind of nutty right now to protect yourself.

4. Block all their email addresses and phone numbers from your stuff. This is a no-brainer.
posted by Sara C. at 9:24 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and this is hopefully unneeded, but: go to a lawyer and make out a Medical Power of Attorney, stat. Name that lawyer or a trusted friend to be the one who'd make any and all decisions if you are incapacitated...... because otherwise, it's gonna come down to your family, no matter how long it's been since you've been in contact with them.
posted by easily confused


Holy smokes, yes, do this.
posted by azpenguin at 9:29 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a feeling their backs are bumping against the wall of their denial, for reasons beyond your awareness. Telling everyone back home where you moved to? Sounds to me like they're trying very hard to maintain a front that everything is okay (anon's just still loving Washington, can't leave because of her job, etc).

Also bear in mind that if they were unhealthy people who never had to absorb the consequences of their actions, it's highly unlikely that's changed. On your mother's end, she's probably telling herself that she's being a good dutiful mother by keeping the door open for you until you figure things out -- which would be far less distressing than facing the truth that her daughter has separated from the family for good because, in part, she was an unfit mother who failed to keep her own child safe. I'm sure they're all sharing in the delusion that you're going to come back one day, cuz y'know... family (because it's a well-established sick system in which every member holds a highly valued role in helping the system maintain its status quo).

I wonder if the panic you are feeling is the fear of being pulled back into your old role in the family system... as if all the progress you've made in the past 8 years will count for nothing, should your family infiltrate your new life.

If so, don't panic to rush your plans for your next move to New York. See them through, including with the changes you already intend to make to further ensure a sense of security around your identity and contact info. Let the memory of old-anon fade into a ghost for them to hold on to, if they continue to choose to do so. Afterall, they're already holding on to a ghost of their idea of you. It might not feel like it, but it really has been 8 years --even coming from a normal family you wouldn't be considered the same person then as you are now. Take your time to cover all your bases, and let your next move be a closing of this chapter in which old-anon found her place in your past so that new-anon can keeping spreading her wings to fly.

Also, I agree with this: If these people can leave you messages that you are regularly receiving, you have not effectively cut off contact with them.

If you're leaving a door open for them, acknowledge that. Consider therapy at some point to better understand your perfectly valid reasons for doing so. I really hear that you don't want to be hurt again in your post, but I think I also hear that you're not done understanding exactly what was happening there. Maybe even the sheer loss of identity that comes with making such a break is worth spending some time talking about with a trusted companion or counsellor. It really sounds like you are still living your life in reaction to them, rather than independently of them. Consider breaking that link in the cycle, and you may find it to considerably improve your buffering capacity for future incidents like these (at the very least, without being incited into survival mode at a moment's notice). Just some food for thought.
posted by human ecologist at 10:24 AM on December 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yes, get the medical power of attorney thing settled ASAP. If you have any assets, you might also create a will naming friends or a charity. I used will software to do that inexpensively.

The following has worked for me:

- Earth Class Mail: In addition to giving you an address in a different state, they scan the envelopes so you can easily trash junk mail just by logging in. I've had an ECM address for a few years and like the paperless convenience and the fact that the address stays the same no matter where I am.

- Totally locked down Facebook account: Unless I've friended you, all you can see is that I have a Facebook account. No location, no identifying photo, nada. I also use settings that mean that no one can tag me without my approval, etc.

- Fastmail.fm for email. It's easy to set up blocks or filters so you don't see or simply can't receive email from certain addresses. I also set it up so my "core" email address is basically secret -- I never use it anywhere except as my Fastmail login. All the addresses I use in public are alias emails that I can easily throw away if they attract unwanted emails. Maybe Gmail can do that too; I don't know.

- Removed address info from public web sites, such as groups I belonged to and some of those "people finder" sites. I dimly remember using a service for some of that.

- Don't respond, literally or emotionally. It sounds like they're trying to keep up a front in your home town. That's their issue. You've got your own life now and whatever they might be saying about you has zero effect, because that's their problem, not yours.
posted by ceiba at 11:50 AM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ceiba mentions a fastmail account. Years ago they had a feature that allowed you to bounce spam, making it appear that the address was invalid. I wonder if they still have that?
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:13 PM on December 23, 2013


Oh, and a followup to the Medical Power of Attorney thing: this is yet another reason to delete people from your phone's list of numbers.

In case of an accident, one of the things most First Responders will do is check in your phone's memory for your family; they won't know if you don't want the family notified, all they'll see is 'Mom' or 'Brother' or whatever and call them. Delete these people entirely: don't have their numbers stored in your phone, and if you insist on keeping them listed in a paper address book, make sure there's a note not to call them. Meanwhile, do make sure to have a 'contact this person' notation in your phone list.
posted by easily confused at 12:49 PM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


There are (mostly) free, (completely) legal ways to potentially find a person's address, besides the standard Whitepages.com/Intelius type sites, that have not been covered here. Memail me for details, if you would like. (I'd get into it here, but I understand there's a chance your family saw your ask. I don't want to feed anyone ideas. This stuff is my job and most people don't know about these "backdoors," so to speak.)
posted by coast99 at 1:09 PM on December 23, 2013


Tapir-whorf, I remember that great "bounce" feature at Fastmail. They don't have it anymore. Now, the emails that meet your rejection criteria are just "discarded" without you seeing them and no bounce message is sent.
posted by ceiba at 4:04 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Forgive me OP, it sounds from your question that you are still using your old email and phone number you had before you left the family.

That is crazy business, if - as you state - you actually don't want any contact with them at all. I can totally understand why you haven't changed it - you might want to keep a number and email you've had for years and everyone knows; but I suspect, to be honest, you are still a little nervous about _completely_ cutting ties.

You need to change number and email immediately; you are enabling and perpetuating the existing unhealthy relationships with your family by keeping them. It's not good for you to keep listening to these messages and hearing repeated attempts at contact. It's like picking at a scab. Have the courage to believe you did the right thing. You can always reach out and contact them later - but there is nothing you are getting from this contact that is healthy for you, and if you think about why you didn't change the numbers - when logically, given your stated goals, that should have actually been one of the first things you did - it might be helpful for you.

Best of luck,
posted by smoke at 4:14 PM on December 23, 2013


One thing. There is a website called 411.com. When I worked in the flower business I used it a lot to pull addresses or phone numbers of people when my customers couldn't remember.

Go there and plug in your info and see if you come up. And then conduct yourself accordingly.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:34 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


seems to know where I moved to. She said that she tells everyone back home where I moved to. She made it sound like she just guessed it, but I find it highly unlikely. If it wasn't just a guess, I don't know how they found out (since I haven't contacted them since arriving in my new city) or how much they know.
... I cut off ties with my abusive family and explicitly told them I wanted no contact in a letter I left behind. But, all 3 of them (mother,father & brother) have contacted me, particularly my parents. My mom calls me a lot and starts every message saying "this message is for 'independence under the radar'" and tells me to call her back when I have time.
... I got an email from my mother a few days ago, and she said that since I don't want any of them to know where I live, she tells people back home that I live in Washington.
...It sounds more to me like they found out I moved to Washington.
... it bothers me that even if it was a guess, I expressly told them I wanted no contact and did not want to say where I moved to, but they're going around telling everyone back home (with whom I also want no contact) where they think I went as if I went there, lying in the process, as if they're still in touch with me and a part of my life.
... I am very upset about this and concerned for my safety. I wonder how they found out, and if there is any part of my identity I should change, to make it less likely for them to find information about me.
Did they find out through AskMe?
Should I not post here anymore?
Should I move to NY sooner now?
Do I need to contact police/ a lawyer?
...
There are some changes to my identity/ contact info I wanted to make, and I'm thinking if I do move, I should make those changes first so that they don't follow me to the next place.
...a part of me wants to email them one last time and tell them off. When I left, I left it open that maybe I would get in touch again, or maybe I wouldn't, but that it would be my decision. I'm very upset that they have shown zero respect for my reasonable need for space and privacy, and now I'm certain that I want absolutely nothing to do with them ever again, in any capacity. I haven't contacted them since I moved here, but
I wonder if I should email them a final goodbye and good riddance?


Lots of good info here for anonymizing your phone and email and MeFi account(get a new one). Contact a family violence program and/ or legal aid and get any help you can. I would continue to avoid any and all contact. You get to control your life, but not how they respond to your choices. They get to say stupid stuff to people, feel however they want, etc. Work on detaching, which is the healthiest thing for you.

Unless you have reason to believe they are coming to where you live, it's unlikely you're in danger. Be cautious about who you share information with, be cautious in general, and focus on you, not your relation to, reaction to, feelings about them.
posted by theora55 at 7:16 PM on December 23, 2013


Do you own property by any chance? A house or condo? If so, you're findable by a simple public records search. There's no way to opt out of being listed, at least in the U.S. You would need to change your name to evade this method of discovery.
posted by SakuraK at 11:12 PM on December 23, 2013


I've always been against trying to go underground as a way of avoiding people you need to cut off. Why should you have to erase yourself? It's ridiculous - and with most stalkers, it doesn't work. Nutty people are persistent, and that would be especially true about family members who feel they're on some sort of righteous mission to bring you back to the fold.

I was stalked for twenty-five years by the same person. Going underground, moving a lot, staying unlisted, changing my contact info, keeping my name off apartment registers - none of that helped. I finally went to court and got a restraining order against the guy - who continued to stalk me, but with less ferocity. I didn't eliminate the problem, but I minimized it to the point where the guy knows I have legal recourse at my disposal, and it gives him pause. He no longer breaks into my car to leave me bizarre gifts, but he still sends me the occasional Facebook message, then deletes his account and goes away for a year.

Your mother will be persistent - you may never be free of her attempts to contact you, and you can't control what she does. But you can control your own responses. Don't take the bait, and make the decision that you will no longer interact with her except through your attorney. So -

- Start keeping documentation of every contact
- find a family lawyer or criminal defense attorney with experience defending stalking and harassment victims
- Do what they tell you to do

Stay safe and good luck!
posted by cartoonella at 4:04 AM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the OP:
Thank you all for all of the helpful advice and support. It's not only helped me with the practical / legal side of what to do, but also emotional. I won't contact them. I did change my email when I left, but I still kept the old one, to document their attempts to contact me. I thought that reading their emails would help alert me if they tried anything, but it's not healthy for me, as you all have correctly pointed out. So, I'll be making the changes (email and more) you all have mentioned, so that it really is no contact. If anyone else has anything more to add, feel free to post. Thanks so much for all of your help and support. I'm very grateful for all of your advice.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:35 AM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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