Dealing w/ Stalkers when trying to publicize + being a Recovering Addict
June 10, 2016 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I've filed a civil harassment order against a former college professor for stalking me online regularly in the last 4 years that has started to take its toll on me.

It finally hit the fan when I saw that he drove out 3 hours to "find me" in my current town after I disclosed my location (w/ my BF) on Twitter for the first time in months. This prof. is married, has children and I'm pretty sure has NPD or is a Sociopath... He seduced me in class, I fell for it (never went physical), broke away from him, moved away and stayed NC. But through the years, I've told him 4-5x's to leave me alone, I've threatened taking him to court... yet, like all the other stalkers, he doesn't listen and still thinks I'm infatuated with him.

He's managed to always find me through new aliases, accounts I've created, even my LinkedIn/Amazon/Google+ info (after I hid and deleted my accts) and seems to spend an extraordinary amount of effort tweeting/FB/searching me, posting related content about me/my interests, and creating events he thinks I'm going to go. I've also msg'd his wife asking for her to help to no avail. Unfortunately, knowing the US system, I don't expect it'll rule in my favor as I know restraining orders are extremely hard and usually involve physical violence. I don't believe he would result to violence... Yet the fact he drove out 3 hrs through L.A. to find me is a pretty big red flag and just the beginning... one would think.

My question: I'm a web designer and enjoy using sites like Twitter/Instagram, use it to connect w/ some old classmates/industry friends, industry events, tutorials and news. I have used private accounts, but it's not the same when you can't connect to people, trying to publicize business or talent, or when it's in private (as it is now). I've anonymized everything which is a shame, nor does it really work for business. All my friends think I'm weird for now using an alias on FB as I can't even have my own profile shot on there.

I do feel there is some paranoia on my side as I'm a recovering love/Alanon addict - do have some long-term sobriety - so my worry or anxiety around this could be greater than a normal person? I tried to monitor not checking up on how much he (or others) are stalking/checking on me when I'm in "public," but it is disconcerting and maddening when he is copying/fishing/intriguing/trolling my personal info online. His intriguing to me as a student originally is what ignited me into Recovery when I couldn't control myself. I feel I'm far better now, I monitor how much I'm on, and I know he is sick and chasing after some fantasy that'll never be there. However, I just don't know if I'm discerning enough to know is staying online for the sake of networking and business worth it given this is still emotionally taxing as a recovering addict? *If you are in recovery, please do respond w/ your experience or wisdom. Thanks.

PS. I've read this thread: My Ex Stalked me for 11 Years. Was quite helpful. Unlike her tho, my family was super dysfunctional and my Father is a NPD like this man. I was the scapegoat.
posted by sam3cat to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
FWIW, you don't sound paranoid to me. This sounds frustrating and frightening and you shouldn't have to deal with this in your life.

Criteria for a restraining order varies quite a lot among jurisdictions. If I were you I would investigate this further in your particular area. A local domestic violence organization might be able to advise you on this - and they often have a lot of experience in dealing with the social media issue as well. Even though this isn't physical violence at this point - it's still scary and threatening.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:30 AM on June 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm 46 and I don't understand a lot of your references? It's unclear he's actually doing anything + you wouldn't/couldn't know unless you were following him on social media. Do I have that correct?

Please explain the driving 3 hours thing. He drove from somewhere to LA? Or drove 3 hours across LA because there was heavy traffic? What did he do once he reached your area? How do you know about all of this?

I am entirely anonymous online and it hurts me professionally and sometimes I wish I had come up with another solution. It's hard to provide you with solution alternatives because I can't make out what's going on. My stalker lives closer and had a habit of tracking me down then calling incessantly/writing/driving by my home or place of work. I had to move, change phone numbers, all of that. I'm sure they still search for me online but I wouldn't have a way to know about it.
posted by jbenben at 10:30 AM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @pantarei70 - Thanks. Glad to know I'm not the only one who thinks this is super unusual, psycho stalking behavior. I'll look into the groups you advise. Unfortunately, per even that horrible "Ex stalk me for 11 Years" story - the police/sheriff won't do anything unless you get a restraining order, but even that, its hard to get it unless the perpetrator actually hurts you.

@jbenben - So, am I getting this right - you actually don't anonymously check up on what your stalkers are doing online sometimes? What do you do for your offline safety?

He is stalking/phishing/gathering info on me and posting them online. Yes, it does involve me actually anonymously checking up on him and seeing what he's doing - but unlike him, it's not warranted. He's also contacted friends of my friends, I think so his name will show up in their pages' - I believe in hopes I'll see him. It's the same as doing drive-by's or going to places I frequent (which was why I filed and got a partial restraining order, still to have the hearing). In LA terms, anyone knows it's already a burden to drive through the city just to say, go to a party. Let alone, drive 3 hrs in "the hopes of seeing someone." It was on one of HIS social media sites that I wasn't even aware of and found out weeks later -- He apparently drove out the day after I disclosed my town, and he even took photos of himself there. This was after trying to be anonymous for 6 months. I felt it was safe to do so - so guess I was wrong.

In recent weeks, a couple attorneys and a judge advised me that I can bring/litigate the stalker in court for Libel and Defamation as slander against my character or identity... but I feel that's not the point. This creep wants me for sex (or something of that sort). Suing for libel or defamation is not going to keep him away from me, altho I sense the longer this continues, the more angry he'll get and he has tried to make me look bad by obviously ignoring my public requests for NC, while continuing to post things covertly about me and possibly trying to physically increase his engagement with me. F#cking creeper.
posted by sam3cat at 12:18 PM on June 10, 2016

I'm afraid I don't have any experience with the things you're going through, but it doesn't sound like your social media presence is worth the hassle, though I understand why you'd need it in your line of work. Try to figure out what you're getting specifically from twitter and instagram. Maybe you can have an online portfolio that you can show people, or a website that has a contact form that sends messages to your email (you@thatwebsite) so he can't contact you directly should he find it.

It sounds like he's not contacting you, but you are able to tell that he's looking for you. It doesn't sound like this in and of itself is dangerous to you. You just need to make sure he isn't able to find you physically. Posting your town online was a bad idea, and now you know that you shouldn't do it again. It sounds like he wasn't able to find you (might be harder to find you if you don't have a car and work at many sites or at home), so make sure it stays that way. Maybe you could move again, which I know is a big deal, somewhere not too far, but enough to be out of his orbit should he come to your town again. Maybe you could put it out there that you're moving and actually NOT move, and hope he takes the bait. The odds of him finding you in a big city would be pretty slim unless he knows where you or your friends/family live or work, but always be careful. You said he creates events he knows you'd be interested in- don't go to anything unless a friend or a friend of a friend is hosting.

And you know what they say about paranoia: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. I think keeping tabs on his social media and tracking his (so far fruitless) searches might be overkill and making you feel more anxious than you need to. Your keeping track of him in a sense makes him feel closer. As long as you're careful, he shouldn't be able to find you. Tell people close to you that you're being stalked, or that someone you once knew might try to contact you through them, and not to give out your personal information. Consider this, though. He might be finding you with your aliases through close friends or people you tend to follow on every alias. Have them take a close look through their friends/followers and remove people they don't know, because it might be him (and you do so yourself as well). He might be using one or more aliases to keep tabs on you. Maybe you can research how to keep yourself safe and hidden from a stalker. Research the requirements for prosecuting a stalker or filing a restraining order. It probably won't include online behavior if there is no credible threat to your safety. You probably shouldn't tell him to leave you alone. The contact will probably just encourage him.

You're lucky your stalker isn't as bone-chillingly creepy and resourceful as the one in the article. I want to reiterate though that you're likely safe. Just be ultra-vigilant about what information you're putting out there, and who can see it.
posted by serenity_now at 1:09 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It finally hit the fan when I saw that he drove out 3 hours to "find me" in my current town after I disclosed my location (w/ my BF) on Twitter for the first time in months.

Lower your online/public profile until your recovery is further along. You have been socialized to play into the hands of men like this and you are engaging in unsafe behavior. When you are more recovered, it will be safer for you to post publicly. While your profile is lower, work on learning to communicate more safely in public spaces, like the internet.

Your implicit assumption that a boyfriend is some kind of protection is not effective logic here. The man is married and it isn't stopping him. Further, that assumption implicitly agrees that women are rightfully male property. This will just fan the flames of this nutcase. He will read comments about a boyfriend as "You have competition and need to try harder if you want to win me."

This was after trying to be anonymous for 6 months. I felt it was safe to do so - so guess I was wrong.

Okay, I realize this line of thinking may work with other kinds of problems, but it will not work here. Time alone will not fix this. Simply having no drama for six months in no way suggests it is better.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. No drama for six months is evidence that lying low is working. It is not evidence that he has suddenly stopped being bat-shit insane and will not bother you again.

In the absence of affirmative evidence that something has changed -- like seeing his obituary or an announcement he is incarcerated -- you need to operate on the assumption that he is like the terminator and will never, ever stop until one of you is dead. You may be able to keep drama to a minimum as long as your guard remains up. But you cannot drop your guard until you have information that indicates a real change has occurred on his end.

Work your recovery program. Get yourself healthier. You can unlearn some of the sick socialization that helped create this mess and that tends to put out the fire with gasoline.

I suggest you pull the plug on your Facebook account and most of your so called friends right now. An old recovery saw is "Change your people, your places and your things." The folks that hit it off with you when you are a mess tend to be people with unhealthy habits that will tend to keep you stuck. My experience has been that genuinely making forward progress involves ditching most so called friends at every major milestone.

I am not blaming you. I know you will probably interpret it that way. It might help to think of it like quarantine while ill.
posted by Michele in California at 2:02 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

You sue for libel. You make it clear on the stand the initial advances were unwarranted and rebuffed. You make sure his wife knows. Do not save this man's dignity or privacy. Drag him down and make it clear to anyone who knows him that is in a position to help him make the right decision and leave you alone.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:14 PM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Stop making assumptions about what the police or the courts will or will not do. Document his behavior, your responses, the timelines, and the criteria for a restraining order in your jurisdiction and follow the steps to proceed. Taking legal action is a much faster way to get his behavior to end. (I suggest a restraining order rather than suing for libel because the chances of having to engage with him are much lower that way, and you have a better chance of success. Besides, you want him to leave you alone, not pay you money (which he would drag out, just to get to see you in court). You cannot stop him from googling you, so you need to be private online forever. Sorry, them's the breaks. Your mental health will improve if YOU stop googling HIM but I get why you are doing so. Work on the legal options, Work on getting him out of your head, Work on letting go of the desire to broadcast your life online.

(I was stalked and got a restraining order against an ex with out physical violence by following the advice of the good people here on ask.mefi who were more helpful than the police. I maintain extremely tight control over my online presence and never, ever post my location. It has been almost six years since I have heard from my stalker but I will not change my behavior - that's all I can control.)
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:23 PM on June 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

I have to live with that my very abusive father may forever stalk me.

I have never used my real name on the Internet until I got married and changed names in an undisclosed state.

I've gone to great lengths (for example I have no contact with my grandparents on my father's side, an uncle and aunt and around a dozen cousins I grew up with), and have lectured and lectured my moms side if the family that if they give information to my father I will disapear. My brother does not have my contact information due to risks.

Protect yourself. Document everything. Take screencaps, keep a notebook. Time, date ,event. And you've already said 'no' so absolutely zero contact.

Do not feed the narsassist.

I'm so so sorry. It is a huge burden. It is not your fault.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:59 PM on June 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: "he is like the terminator and will never, ever stop until one of you is dead."

... I've thought of that. Just didn't want to believe it was that severe in my situation. [sigh] It's crazy when that acceptance becomes true. Fortunately I'm going overseas this coming fall to attend Grad school, and hope to eventually stay in that country, so that may solve the problem. (It's certainly not the reason why I'm going, but it would definitely help) He's not the only married weirdo that has been after me, unfortunately... which belongs in another thread...

My hearing is on the 28th. So will def. go armed with all my screenshots, previous emails and record of how he acted out w/ me 4 yrs ago in class. He shouldn't be allowed to teach in any capacity as I know he's intrigued w/ dozens of women and I believe has been in a couple affairs by his behavior online... so guess will see how the judge rules.

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses and own experiences, esp. those who have some recovery background. I'm rather powerless over my own anger/need to control his crossing of my boundaries as well as checking up on what he's doing in intimidating/copying/researching about me, so it was important for me to hear those of you who have stopped that and moved on w/ your lives'. I do feel the same that there will always now be this lingering "what if" over my shoulder, even if I am in another country and that's super unfortunate... and pisses me off given I didn't ask for this. And I feel like my identity has been jeopardized... However that's what it is. So thanks for all your prudent/safety suggestions, that's what I needed and got -- and thank you for all of your understanding.
posted by sam3cat at 6:35 PM on June 12, 2016

I haven't seen this mentioned (so it may be a horrible idea!) but have you contacted a dean or higher-up at your undergrad college? Is he still teaching there? I would imagine this type of behavior by a faculty member would be of interest to them and I would have no shame about exposing it to his superiors.
posted by amicamentis at 2:05 PM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @amicamentis Thank you - Yes, I've thought of it. However... I've reported previous incidents of men being inappropriate w/ me at other workplaces and the last, at a vocational college (which is in actuality, operates like a company enterprise and is not an accredited American educational institution) where two women (so just not one) with substantial hardcopy proof of them bulling me -- all to no avail, and much denial, rebuttal and denial on THAT school's end. Yet the harassment got to the point of me going to court where I was able to get half a restraining order on one of the women involved (who used hate language in an email and I showed multiple proof of her stalking/harassing me), but I was not able to get a full restraining order on the staff, nor the school -- unless I sue the school for libel/defamation. Unfortunately, I do not have the monies or more importantly, time to take that school to litigation at this time.

Anyway, I think in America its such a corporate-led culture that individuals have very little rights when it comes to harassment, etc. This is why we see so many harassment, employment, discrimination suits in the court system and most are privately settled. The Uni or my Undergrad where I attended with this male psycho-professor teaches, is a private one/very snobby... thus, I feel if I report anything of this nature to HR from previous experience, it's just going to give me a load of problems. (Not to mention create problems in my industry or career). However, I have thought - if I can bring him to court and get the restraining order passed, then I will mail those documents to my Uni, absolutely.
posted by sam3cat at 11:51 AM on June 17, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for taking the time in responding to my posts, your thoughtful and different suggestions for help and recovery, as well as for your empathy or understanding in my situation. I hate picking a favorite as all of your answers will help me, but Michele's was some solid advice in where I need to improve myself. It's been years since I've posted or been on MetaFilter and I'm super grateful it's still here. I know I can always count on this forum for the members' brutally honest advice, feedback (sometimes very direct!) or wisdom. I appreciate the type of people it's always attracted... and hope that doesn't change. Peace. <3
posted by sam3cat at 9:26 PM on June 17, 2016

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