A CHAPTER OF MY STORY
Today I want to share something different from the usual creative content I post on my blog. I actually wrote this a few months back and am now deciding to share this chapter of my story with you.
For the last 4+ years I’ve gone back and forth on whether I should share, how I should do so, how it would affect others, how it would affect my life, my business, you name it! As you can probably imagine, over this period of time I had many thoughts and reactions to what I’ve been experiencing. Although I share some aspects of my life here on the blog, I’m overall a pretty private person and at times this situation caused me to open up to a few people. Most of the times I stated facts when opening up but never gave too many details and even that process was frustrating for me since I am private. I never wanted to come across as publicly complaining so I would often ignore the situation but over time it escalated and weighed on my mind.
There were moments when I thought maybe I was the only one experiencing this kind of issue (due to the lack of information and available resources) but through past life experiences and watching many Oprah shows with my Grandmother as a child I knew I could not be the only one. I even came across variations of my story but nothing quite like it.
I am sharing my story, not for sympathy or attention but with the hope that another person going through something similar can feel their concerns and experiences are valid and know they’re not alone. As you read this post, I ask that you remain respectful of my privacy and focus on the core issue at hand.
So what exactly is this chapter of my story? Well, to get right to it I have been stalked by another woman for the last 4+ years.
Just typing that made me want to erase all these words, delete this post and close my laptop because I’m very private. As a matter of fact, I’m staring at this draft with a knot in my stomach about opening up and wondering what to say next. I usually share a lot of details and anecdotes in my regular blog posts so I think I’ll use that as a framework for this entry.
In early Fall of 2014, I found out my partner of over 8 years at the time had been unfaithful to me. I was so disappointed and like many other women in my position I wanted to know who this other woman was. I would eventually come across her Instagram profile and like many other women, I scowled and called my girlfriends and sisters to discuss. We were all upset but mainly towards my ex-partner. I mean who knew what this woman knew or didn’t know about our relationship and in the end she really wasn’t the one to blame in that situation. I chalked it up to an unfair and hurtful life experience but there was something about her that my instincts kept raising as a red flag. I really could not explain it and even thought maybe it was just related to my emotions at the time but something inside me couldn’t ignore the feeling and eventually I decided to block her from my Instagram page.
Simultaneously (to provide some more context) while I was dealing with my personal relationship situation I was also preparing to re-brand and re-launch my new website. I started sharing more stories on Instagram about my personal life and how I was transitioning from my old blog (Crafty Habit) to my current site. I spoke about my love for fashion, my career path, talked about my old handmade accessory business, alluded to influences from my family and culture, shared my passion for great interior design and even discussed how I used digital platforms such as Blogspot, Etsy, Polyvore and Looklet as resources for my business and blog. I was mainly sharing these anecdotes on Instagram as a way to engage my followers while I completed the build of my current site. I was basically giving more insight into who I was and my life.
Fast forward a few months to February 2015, my girlfriend reached out to me and said she had randomly checked in on the other woman’s Instagram page and noticed some strange things. She said she suspected the woman was trying to copy what I was doing. My friend said she noticed her profile image and a few other things looked similar to mine. I was curious and went to the woman’s page to find she had recently painted an accent wall in her place that was identical to the accent wall I had painted in my old house and posted about on my Instagram back in 2012. In the moment I raised an eyebrow but ruled it out as coincidence but over time my friend and I would start to notice more and more similarities and I began to think maybe she was right after all.
The “coincidences” ranged from similar content posts, similar formatting to many of her images showing right next to mine or in close proximity of my images under several hashtags. At this point I assumed her behavior was that of a petty woman and figured it would be short-lived but as time went on I noticed other changes not only in her dressing style but with things such as hair, makeup and apparent interests. I assumed she would get over whatever she was going through soon enough and go back to her own life. I thought what human could keep up with that type of imitation behavior? How long could one go on being petty and pretending to be something they’re not? Surely life would get busy and she would stop.
Well, I would find out through experience, that was not the case. One day in late Nov 2015, I came across a series of posts by this woman in an outfit that looked extremely similar to something I had worn and shared in Aug 2015. At this point the behavior wasn’t very surprising but what stood out to me was the fact that she indicated she was celebrating her 30th birthday. I immediately got on the phone with my friend, showed her the images and exclaimed “How could someone do that to themselves on their 30th birthday!” I had always perceived turning 30 as the mark of coming into your own, especially as a woman and just couldn’t wrap my mind around why any woman would want to imitate the appearance of another on her special day. This was the point where I felt the situation was deeper than your average petty/catty behavior and possibly related to some kind of self-esteem/mental issue. She was somehow trying to be me and that didn’t sit right with me at all. While annoying and frustrating, the situation was still confined to social-media so I continued to ignore but in Oct, 2016 this woman would escalate her behavior to the point of showing up to my colleagues’ and friends’ event that I was a main part of.
I had promoted the event earlier that month on my Instagram page and was also part of the video ad as well as a representative/model for the event that night. When I noticed her at the venue, I simply could not believe it. This was such an invasion of my privacy and caused me to become very leery. We had no contact at the event and she along with two other females (who accompanied her) stayed on the outskirts of the room. At one point I noticed them snapping pictures in a corner before leaving after spending about 15- 20 minutes total. I would later find out that an acquaintance (now friend of mine) who attended the event was approached by this woman in the lobby area of the event space. She had asked my acquaintance/friend to take a few pictures of her and her group, then inquired as to what brought my friend to the event. My friend replied she came to support me (explicitly stating my name) and the woman indicated she had planned to meet another friend at the event but the person couldn’t make it. After that chat, she asked my acquaintance/friend to connect with her on Instagram so they could stay in touch. That would be the first of in-person incidents.
I encountered many things ranging from her sourcing exact clothing as mine, claiming aspects related to my digital media occupation, figuring out my favorite vintage brands, claiming interests in DIY, jewelry making and interior design, using language from my social and blog posts, frequently going to places I shared on social media, tagging the same accounts and images the way I would, targeting business/individuals I supported or collaborated with,lying to others about things such as the length of time she had acquired pieces in her closet, copying my Instagram layouts and the list goes on.
Of all those incidents, the most worrisome to me was her attempts to invade my offline in-person spaces. She had figured out ways to gain access to my workplace and even tried to be-friend some of my close workmates who I had previously shared pictures of on my Instagram. Fortunately, I was never in the office when she got access but was alerted by my co-workers who she attempted to befriend. One co-worker actually got as far as connecting with her on Instagram to then realize who she was and alerted me right away to confirm.
These experiences were disturbing to say the least and while I was reluctant to even share details, I hope they can be helpful and provide context of what others in similar situations might be dealing with as well. I tired my best to summarize a few of the events from my experience while still providing some level of detail to help you comprehend the situation as you think about what this kind of stalking can look like. Oftentimes, we associate stalking with a stranger lurking in a dark corner but my experience shows there is no one way to encounter stalking and harassment, especially in the day and age of social-media and online access. My goal is to shed light on these types of incidents and help others who may be experiencing unfortunate and unjust situations like mine.
I may never understand this woman’s full reasoning for her behavior but I did find a rare article from a website called Hurt2Healing that details the psychology of a stalker and identifies her type of stalker behavior as same-gender stalking which is noted as an extension of resentment stalking.
According to the article, “same-gender stalking can appear to be admiration, but it then it gives itself away as a malicious form of obsession rooted in jealousy or envy, hence the resentment. Many same-gender stalkers feel as though something has been taken from them that they deserve (i.e. attention, praise, material possessions, status and lifestyle). In their mind, they believe that the presence of the one they envy and resent invalidates their existence. So they attempt to take (on) the identity of the one they are stalking in effort to superficially acquire what they believe belongs to them. You may see this manifest by way of how they take on the other person’s characteristics, style of dress, occupation or aspects of it, hair style, and other interests unique to the one stalked.”
“They are motivated to not only be like their object of obsession, but can even seek to “out do” them as a way to prove they’re superior. It actually proves false if they have to take one someone else’s identity to feel superior. This is, to the rational person, a loathsome and repulsive mindset.”
“They are one-track minded and focused on vain achievements, lacking substance, and need something outside of themselves to validate and motivate them. They tend to lack creativity and a sense of self for this reason as well, which is why it is easier for them to imitate (copy) someone else. Also, and just as disturbing, these individuals are driven by narcissism (as most stalkers tend to be).”
IF YOU’RE BEING (SAME-GENDER) STALKED
I am not an expert and finding expert resources on the intricacies of this particular situation was quite a challenge but keeping in the theme of sharing my story, I want to provide you with a list of things I believe could help if you find yourself in a similar situation:
Trust your instincts! Your inner compass is there to help you, trust it!
Acknowledge the situation - fully come to terms with what you’re dealing with and call it what it is
Sometimes it can be a challenge to categorize the individual’s behavior since it’s not familiar and unlike other popular descriptions of stalking. If the person’s behavior seems similar to cyber-harassment or stalking (even if they do not directly contact you but use other methods to make their presence and invasion of your space know), treat it as cyber-harassment/stalking and keep a record of as many incidents as you can.
Avoid engaging with the stalker. “Stalkers consider any interaction with you a victory, so any reaction (no matter how negative) reinforces their behavior.” source
Know that all your concerns and array of feelings/emotions are valid
Know that stalking (in any form) has traumatic effects on victims. This will help you to understand and identify any emotional changes you may be experiencing. Many victims of stalkers usually express they feel fear, stress, anger, frustration, embarrassment and experience hyper-vigilance, just to list a few.
Seek support and tell people! You may be reluctant but start off by sharing with your family & close friends. Feel free to also consider support options from legal and law-enforcement professionals, your workplace HR department, counselors/therapists and experts in the field of stalking.
Share your story. It’s not always an easy task to seek support and open up to others. It took me years to write this post so that should give you some context. I believe sharing our stories not only empowers others but raises more awareness around these issues so they can be recognized especially by experts and law enforcement.
Know that sharing in the beginning with others can be an awkward experience for you and for the person you’re sharing with. You might feel embarrassed or may not be able to fully convey all the details/ articulate what you’ve been experiencing and that’s okay.
The person who you are sharing with may not know what to do so be prepared to receive a mixture of reactions. Some will be supportive, some will brush it off (since it doesn’t affect them personally), some may see it as harmless since the stalker is same gender, others might have experienced flattery or overt attention/support from your stalker and will lean in to that attention or some will simply choose to ignore.
Oftentimes you may be told "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” To that I say there is absolutely nothing flattering or frivolous about someone stalking you and trying to take on your identity in a private or public manner. Regardless of the reactions of others, know that sharing your story holds power and eventually you’ll get a better sense of when, what and who to share with. I hope this post helps with that process as well. Also reference my resources section further down in this post for more info I recently found on sharing.
Sign up for some kind of physical and/or mentally-stimulating activity that helps you feel empowered. Kickboxing, self-defense classes, meditation and yoga are all good options.
File a police report if you’re able to.
If you feel threatened call 911.
IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS BEING STALKED
If someone you know is being stalked (according to the National center for victims of crime):
Don’t blame the victim for the crime or suggest they alter their own behavior to somehow change the behavior of the stalker.
Remember that every situation is different, allow the person being stalked to make choices about how to handle it.
Find someone you can talk to about the situation.
Take steps to ensure your own safety.
Please comment with any other helpful resources you may know of and please feel free to share this post with anyone you think this story may help or empower.
Last but not least, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this chapter of my story. It has been a process and I am truly grateful for your support. I won’t call any names but I want to take the time to say a big thank you to all who continue to support me through this experience and to those who have encouraged me to share my story. You know yourselves and I express my sincerest gratitude to you.