My most recent blog post dealt with my experience getting harassed at work and how my management completely mishandled the situation. You can check it out here. I wrote the article because I wanted to highlight the sexism showed towards me at work and the casualness in which they dismissed my terror at being stalked on the phone. I hoped that if enough people read and shared it, then maybe change could occur. I sincerely thought though that that article would be the end of the story.
I was horribly wrong.
The following is an account of the past two weeks of my life, where I became a stalking victim and realized how difficult it is to get people to take the crime of stalking seriously.
About two weeks ago I was in my house when I received a phone call from the manager who had previously dismissed my telephone scare by telling me, ‘welcome to working at a bar.’ He asked me for the name of the man that had been harassing me. When I gave it to him, he sighed and said, “Well some mail addressed to you came to the restaurant tonight, and it’s from him.”
My stomach dropped. In the back of mind this was always the worst case scenario, but it had been a week since I last spoke to him on the phone and I thought it was over.
I asked my manager what had come and if he had opened it. He replied that three letters had come and yes he had opened them. He promised me it wasn’t that bad, saying he just sent me a lot of random shit like coupons but, “I would suggest coming down here and filing a police report because we’re definitely a little weirded out here.”
I was initially calmed by the fact that it was just coupons. Even though the nature of his phone calls was bizarre and creepy, I thought that this was probably just a lonely old man desperately reaching out for contact with someone. I even felt bad for him.
However, when I showed up at the bar I realized it wasn’t just coupons, and my manager’s definition of ‘bad’ was grossly different from mine.
Saying that the letters made my skin crawl just seems inadequate, but it’s the only description that comes remotely close to what I felt.
The envelopes themselves were disturbing. First off, he discovered my last name and addressed all the letters to me as if I was his wife, Mrs. Emily My Last Name, His Last Name. Then sprawled across the envelopes in different directions and color inks were little messages to me. He wrote things like, “I love you,” “Marry Me,” “Wife of First Responder” (Since he told me on the phone he was a first responder on 9/11), and perhaps the most terrifying of all, “I will be back,” which implied that he had been to the bar and was planning on returning.
Each letter had a different return address, though all of the letters, had locations that were listed in Queens, were addressed from “Your Four Star General” (I think he was trying to impress me) and sickeningly all shared the same zip code, “69-69-69.”
And that was just the outside of the envelopes.
The two male managers who had previously dismissed my claims of harassment, proceeded to hand me the contents of the envelopes with one even saying, ‘Now this is where it gets a little weird.’
Oh good. Because it wasn’t weird or scary at all before this moment.
The piles of papers I was handed was the most random and horrifying crap ever assembled. He included creepy religious zealot pamphlets on the seven deadly sins which was about how everyone was going to hell because of their gluttony and one on how Santa was equivalent to Satan. There was an informational letter about how the beetle population was rising in his area, a flyer for a movie screening for the new Judi Dench film, a manifesto on how Asian people are ruining this country, a newspaper article on a sex offender who believed he was like Cary Grant, and simultaneously the most frightening and perplexing, were the medical records of a child born in 2011 with seemingly no relation to him.
There were also about ten business cards where he had crossed off all of their information and left his name and number. And one coupon for a new pair of eyeglasses.
Then, on all of the papers he wrote little notes to me in his ghoulish handwriting like ‘thinking of you Emily,’ ‘stay safe Emily’ ‘we love you Emily’ ‘xoxoxoxo your general.’ In one note, he even wrote me his thoughts on Bill Cosby. (Honestly though, that note was probably the sanest thing he did throughout this entire ordeal. I couldn’t help but silently agree, his 2002 Medal of Freedom should be revoked.)
And that’s just the stuff I can remember right now as I’m writing this. There was so much more.
After I finished reading and processing everything, my manager said he would now call the police and ask them to send down an officer. When I asked my one manager if he had passed this man’s name and number along to the police, like he said he would after all the phone calls, he sheepishly replied no. Then I asked if he had called again since I had last worked, and he sheepishly replied yes.
I was livid. Not only had they not informed me that he had kept calling, but they had done absolutely nothing to make him stop, without thinking twice about it. The worst part? They never apologized to me. I went to them scared and afraid and they brushed it off and made me feel like I was crazy for even bringing it up.
My manager called the police and asked them to send down an officer because one of his hostess’ was going to need to file a harassment case. When the officer arrived and I proceeded to give him my statement and showed him the envelopes and it’s contents, he stopped me in the middle of everything. He said, “I need to stop you here. When I heard ‘harassment’ I thought you just needed someone thrown out of the bar. I was in the army for 20 years, and an officer for 10 and I’ve never seen anything like this. This is the work of some sick fuck, and it’s beyond my capabilities. You just need to come down to the station so you can speak to the Sergeant.”
Though I appreciated the officer’s honesty, I went from being afraid to utterly terrified within three sentences. Looking back, that probably wasn’t the best way to handle the situation, and it seems that this was the first of many mistakes by the police department.
As I was leaving, one of my managers asked if I wanted him to take me off the schedule for next week. I told him I was most likely quitting because I didn’t feel safe here anymore. Though he said he would respect my decision, he told me that my stalker would win if he forced me to leave my job and that management would work with me to make me feel safer here. I was pretty offended by that. I was quitting because I did not feel safe here and while that was due largely in part to my stalker, it was also because of how poorly management handled my situation. I was afraid of my stalker yes, and I agreed that I didn’t want him to negatively affect my life like this, but there was no way I could ever trust my managers again. And having them guilt trip me into staying right in the middle of a police investigation was not the way to win me back.
Long story short, after a lot of detective-ing, the officers were able to find the guy’s actual address and contacted the precinct in Queens where he lived asking for the police to send over his file. Turns out, my stalker’s M.O. was calling random bars and harassing female employees. He’s been doing it since 1998 and has been charged with harassment/stalking twice. The cops promised me they would go up on Friday (two days later) to this guy’s apartment and confirm it was him and get him to stop harassing me. They assured me the absolute latest would be on Monday.
At this point in time, I asked for a photo of the suspect. I still had no idea what this man looked like, and with written messages promising me he would be back, I was fearful that he had come into the bar and specifically targeted me. The police however could not release his photo because he was still just an unconfirmed suspect and it was a violation of ‘his rights.’
I know the police were just doing their job but I was so frustrated and afraid. It seemed like my stalker’s rights were being upheld more than my needs. I had to leave the station having no idea what he looked like.
To say my imagination ran wild is a bit of an understatement. For the next week, any time a man was behind me and gave me a look, any time a car was parked outside of where I lived, I panicked and assumed it was him, because I just didn’t know. I grew paranoid. I stopped going out as much and when I did, I followed the ever useful buddy system. I even got pepper spray for my key chain. I lived in constant fear.
91% of stalking victims know, or at the very least, have met their stalker before. Only 9% of all stalking cases involve a stalker targeting a complete stranger.
I anxiously awaited for Friday, the day when the detective promised me he would find this guy. I woke up early and waited by my phone, desperately waiting for it to ring. By 4pm I decided to call the police station and see if there were any updates. I was told by an officer that the detective handling my case was actually away on vacation and wouldn’t be back until Monday.
Are you kidding me?
One of his officers declared this the worst case of stalking he had ever seen, and the detective decides to take a vacation? At the very least I should have been notified he was taking a vacation so I wasn’t stuck waiting by the phone all day. I know he had said Monday was a small possibility, but I couldn’t believe it. The thought of getting through the entire weekend seemed so daunting.
To make matters worse, when I went back to the restaurant with a friend to pick up my last paycheck, I was informed by a manager that more mail had arrived for me. An additional three letters of the same fashion had come, proving he had no intention of stopping. When I asked for them, my manager informed me that he had given them to the police earlier in the day.
So not only had the police done nothing regarding my case, they had also failed to mention to me that my stalking had actually gotten worse.
Over the weekend, my parents and I left several messages for the detective on his work phone. When Monday rolled around we all expected a phone call fairly early in the morning as his shift started at 8. However by noon, we still had not heard from him. When we called the police station asking for him, another officer informed me that he had decided to extend his vacation and was coming back tomorrow.
I felt like my heart was breaking. It was now basically a week after I went to the station and told him my story and showed him the letters. A week after he told me that whoever had written them was ‘seriously disturbed’ and ‘a bad person.’ He promised me he would drive up to Queens and take care of this. Yet the very next day he decided to take a week long vacation without doing anything about my case, and had failed to keep me informed of on going developments or about his vacation plans.
I have never felt so small or insignificant in my entire life.
Three hours and a lot of complaining to the chief of police later, I got a phone call from the detective. He said he was called in from his vacation to work on this case.
Gee, I’m sorry my stalking case inconvenienced your time up in the Catskills.
He told me he was going to head over to the restaurant and see if anything else had arrived for me and then drive up to Queens and finally confront this guy. I hung up the phone excited that something was happening.
Imagine my surprise when the detective called me a mere 40 minutes later. I knew there was no way he could have driven to Queens that quickly. The detective literally said to me, “Well I decided to save myself a trip and just call him one more time, and uh, he picked up.”
I am SO GLAD you decided to save yourself a trip. After all the hard work that you’ve put into this case you really earned it. Besides, it wasn’t like you had promised me multiple times that you would pay him a visit.
Moving on, the detective told me that he spoke to my stalker AND his nurse. It turns out, my stalker is permanently disabled and has a live in nurse to take care of him. His nurse was horrified to learn what he had done and said, ‘Oh no! Not again!’ Apparently this is how he gets his kicks. He has limited mobility so he just sends threatening letters and makes constant phone calls. He even got in trouble with the Secret Service because he was doing the same thing to President Obama. His nurse promised the detective that she would keep a better eye on him and would reevaluate the situation and see if he should be put back into a home.
My head was spinning.
When I asked the detective how a permanently disabled man could mail letters, there was a long pause. He finally said he didn’t know but it didn’t matter because my stalker couldn’t come after me! He was practically triumphant when he told me he had limited mobility and could never and would never make it out to the bar. I was safe from him. Also my stalker knew now that if he continued any contact with me, he would just end up in the home again. The detective told me that if anything else arrived to let him know but otherwise he considered the case closed and promptly hung up.
For the past week I lived in constant fear that my stalker was coming to get me because the detective decided to take an extended vacation without actually working on my case at all. Then when he’s finally called in to do something he puts in the absolute minimum effort he could by making one 20 minute phone call. It was then, and only then, did he discover that this man was disabled and couldn’t hurt me.
I wanted to simultaneously cry and punch something. How could it take an entire police force, filled with a detective unit and sergeants, a full week to learn that this man was handicap?
How could they possibly let that happen? My only thought is because they, like my job, did not view stalking as that serious of a crime. I lived in constant fear, and I didn’t have to.
I’m hopeful that by putting my story out there, there will be an increase in sensitivity and awareness surrounding stalking, and it can be a little less terrible for the millions of people experiencing it. Only when people realize the imprints it leaves in it’s victim’s lives will we feel somewhat less alone and marginalized at the exact moment when we should be acknowledged and supported the most.