Ask A Feminist #7: A personal story

// 20 March 2012

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This week I’m handing over to Linda, who got in touch to ask if she could share her story of being stalked after being left by her ex. She would appreciate any comments and thoughts from readers, particularly those who have had similar experiences.

yellow question mark chalked on a tarmac road

This is my story.

I was being stalked. Not by my ex, but by his and his girlfriend’s friends. I went to the police and I worked with them to catch the main culprits.

There were many, many people doing this. I counted over one hundred, all strangers to me. All recognised me straight away. All either laughed in my face, shouted at me or called me the most disgusting names. Some even threatened my physical safety. This was mob rule of the worst kind.

I became very, very frightened. I was recently forced to leave the city I lived in because of this. I became very ill from it. These people knew that this was hurting me. They openly enjoyed watching me suffer. This could happen any time of the day or night, and even just when I was walking to a nearby shop. In these people’s eyes I stalked and hurt my ex. He did, indeed, get hurt, but no stalking occurred.

So I gave full information to the police as to my whereabouts/activities on any days my ex called into question, to clear up any perceived misunderstandings. They also questioned my ex, and he flatly denied setting up any circumstances where I could be harassed by his friends. But I clearly heard them use his name when they were slandering me. The police agreed that something pre-orchestrated and deliberate appeared to be going on.

The most reasonable explanation that we could come up with was that my ex, or his girlfriend, or their friends, used a popular social networking site, emails and texts to spread my photo around so that people would recognise me and spread lies about me; it was cyber-bullying. I also believe that some of them may have attempted to look into my private financial information.

So I began to fear for my safety in a city that I used to adore. These people pursued me relentlessly for over a year. And I cried in fear and humiliation, almost every day of that year.

Friends said that this was just blatant jealousy. That was all very well, but it did not feel like that when I was in the middle of a gang of them and they were jeering at me. Or slowing down their cars at night, to scream at me in his/her name.

Jealousy or not, I do know that this was sexism. My ex and I had a very stupid and ill-advised affair, some time ago. He went back to his girlfriend. They are still together. But as I explained to the police, it’s like he got everything he wanted from both of us. And yet, I was the one being punished on a daily basis, by this harassment.

No doubt about it, I acted like a fool for a guy I cared deeply about. You see, I pursued him for sex. I initiated much of our sexual activity. I was hurt, but not destroyed, after he chose her and left, again. I continued to walk the streets with my head held high.

But I did not deserve full-on mob judgement and daily fear from his peers. These people were punishing me for supposedly hurting my ex. This, I now realise, was about petty revenge, not justice. He got hurt. I got hurt. But my feelings, my humanness, did not seem to matter to these people.

This was objectification in the extreme.

And I feel that this story clearly highlights the underlying misogyny that society pretends does not really exist, that is, until a woman steps out of her role as a victim and continues on with her life as normal.

I would appreciate any support or advice you can offer. I am currently receiving therapy for the trauma I suffered. I am safe and I have moved away. And this is partly an opportunity to vent, I have to say! But I guess it is also a plea for some logical thoughts from all of you in the F-Word community. I am proud to say that I am one of you.

Comments From You

Claire // Posted 20 March 2012 at 5:38 pm

You’re right that is 100% sexism. Women are held responsibility for the moral behaviour of men. Men can’t be expected to be faithful to their partners if any temptation comes their way but anything a woman does is a matter for public scrutiny.

Shadow // Posted 20 March 2012 at 6:16 pm

I hope Linda the therapist you are seeing, respects you and does not hold you accountable for your ex boyfriend’s decision to subject you to 24/7 verbal/psychological harassment.

Remember you did nothing wrong and it is irrelevant that you ‘pursued this male for sex.’ If he was not sexually interested he would not have engaged in a sexual relationship with you. Neither did you at any time subject him to constant harassment in order to force him to submit to your sexual demands.

This male clearly thought his male pride had been ‘hurt’ and he had to take steps to reassert his pseudo male power and control over a female! He clearly instigated the campaign of harassment and stalking because his friends (female and male) would not have had access to your private live and personal details.

Sadly many women believe men’s lies that males are superior to females and also believe that pandering to men will ensure the woman will not be subjected to similar male hatred/male contempt. It is called women’s internalisation of male hatred/male contempt.

We all live in a rampant misogynistic women-hating world and one furthermore wherein increasing numbers of women are believing the lies men tell us. Women’s hatred/contempt for women arises because the Male Supremacist System constantly tells us men are default humans whereas women’s only asset and value is in their being men’s disposable sexual service stations. These women foolishly think they will gain a few crumbs of male respect by subjecting another female to harassment and stalking – these women are so wrong. But gaining a tiny amount of power over another female does make many women feel ‘superior’ and just might earn them short-term male approval.

Accountability lies with your ex boyfriend and whilst we cannot ignore these women’s accountability we need to recognise they did not create misogyny and women-hating – men did and ultimately it is men who must be held accountable.

I sincerely hope you are able to share what has happened to you with relatives/and or friends who are indeed true friends and do not believe the lies men tell us about women.

Maria B // Posted 21 March 2012 at 12:44 am

Deepest sympathies for you and I am very glad you now feel safe where you are. Last year my boyfriend met a lady in our place of work (we run a nightclub together) who relentlessly followed him around; to the point of stealing a copy of the work rota so she could show up when he was on shift alone. The story is long and upsetting but ultimately culminated in him waking up at a mutual friend’s house with this woman having tied him to the bed. This has since led to a court case and her not being permitted to be within 50 metres of him. I just wanted you to know that at no point in any of this have I felt the need to encourage my friends to do any of the things that have happened to you. The sad fact is that some people, be they male or female, get a kick out of knowing they have upset someone else, especially when they feel upset about something in their own life. Best wishes with moving on from this experience.

Suzie // Posted 21 March 2012 at 10:33 am

It sounds like you have taken responsibility for your actions, but he has not. It is much easier for him to blame you. You mentioned his girlfriend’s friend were involved – I’m not sure whether this is on her command, but again, it is easier for her to blame you than to think he betrayed her. Personally I don’t think you are in the wrong at all – he is the one who has betrayed someone he loved, not you. You may have persued him, but he should have shown some restraint. The idea of fidelity is that you don’t give into temptation. Not that there should be no temptation. If he hadn’t given in to you, he probably would have given in to somebody else. I don’t believe that you were the problem with their relationship.

I think if you had been a man there would have been more sympathy for you. This stereotype which exists – of a man as an uncontrollable sex animal and the woman as the gatekeeper to sex, with the responsibility for both partners’ actions – has proved here to be detrimental to you. I hope you can move on now that you’ve had a fresh start, and don’t ever believe that this was your fault, it’s pure sexism.

Rose // Posted 21 March 2012 at 12:57 pm

They’re jerks.

Years ago now, a group of 5 of us slept over at a friend of a friends house after a gig, (rural area, no way to get home at night). The host started trying it on, getting grabby, and not backing off. I kept turning him down. I didn’t leave the house, ‘cos I had nowhere to go, and there were a group of us, it wasn’t dangerous just unpleasant. He seemed to think that harassing me could lead to a relationship, (wtf?).

A little over a month later I was raped by one of his brothers – which he told his friends about as sex. On realising the connection, they started a ‘slut-shaming’ campaign against me!

So their friends, the ones that were strangers to me, were shouting insults from moving cars and spreading lies about me. I didn’t think there was any way I could go to the police because with that campaign going, who would believe my story?

The harassment that I suffered was in no way on the scale that you suffered – but I think my case helps to reiterate quite how heavily the judgement falls on the woman.

I turned two brothers down – neither listened to my voice. So I was a slut. And sluts need shaming.

And they say it’s not a broken society!

I’m glad you raised this – I hope it encourages more people to call their friends on it.

Clodia // Posted 21 March 2012 at 4:17 pm

You had every right to pursue him for sex; he responded or you wouldn’t have had a relationship. No one is the property of anyone else and he willingly had a relationship with you even if he later went back to his former partner. While her jealously and rage are understandable, that does not give her or anyone else the right to bully you. Of course it is sexism; if he had pursued you no one would have ascribed the same level of blame. Why can’t a woman be a sexual initiator as well as a man? Of course she can, but both men AND woman who have been conditioned by patriarchy make her suffer for it. Don’t accept it; it is not your fault.

Holly Combe // Posted 21 March 2012 at 5:26 pm

This should never have happened to you. IMO, violence and intimidation is a far worse thing to suffer than being cheated on and, apart from anything else, it was your ex who had (presumably) made a pledge and then broke it, not you. It’s a shame that mono-centric culture persudes us that the worst thing one woman can do to another is “steal” her partner. The rules of fidelity in relationships are morally complex but subjecting someone to a campaign of intimidation is always wrong.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 21 March 2012 at 6:33 pm

Linda, this is such an awful experience you have been through. I’m glad that moving away has helped, but nobody should have ever made you feel you needed to move!

I’m so sorry you had to put up with all that, I hope you can continue to move forwards with good support.

Linda // Posted 22 March 2012 at 10:42 pm

Hi there!

It’s Linda, the person who wrote this post. I just wanted to thank all of you for your encouraging and supportive comments. Some of them made me quite tearful….I guess you could call this the beginning of my not blaming myself for the harassment, anymore! And your comments really, really helped me.

I am going to reply to each comment so sorry for the lengthy post!!

Claire: “Men can’t be expected to be faithful to their partners if any temptation comes their way”. Hear, hear!! My ex used this as a pathetic excuse to her so she would accept him back. Personally, in her place, I would never have accepted it. Thank you for being spot on!! My life did, indeed become totally public. It was almost like being famous…in the most horrendous way.

Shadow: I agree with you in the main. These women certainly, were hating me over subconscious misogyny that they transferred onto me. However, I also believe that as feminists we cannot leave other women unaccountable for their actions. And the hideous actions of these women (and men) mean that they should take a huge part of the blame for what they did! Otherwise, aren’t we again just using the anti-feminist trope of women are little girls who need protecting? These women certainly did not!! But I definitely take your point about their anti-woman motivations. Also,“He clearly instigated the campaign of harassment and stalking because his friends (female and male) would not have had access to your private life and personal details.” This is not quite true although I can certainly see why you would think it.

I believe (I have strong suspicions), it was his girlfriend’s best friend who gained access to my financial details. He had no access to any of my private details. I believe the whole campaign of harassment was instigated by him and his best friend. Her and her best friend. They all colluded…that’s why it became so massive and widespread. But yes….my therapist is wonderful and she in no way, blames me for the harassment.

Maria B: Thank you so, so much for your post. I cannot imagine the fear you and your boyfriend must have gone through, over this woman. There must have been many times you felt like you wanted to hurt her in revenge for hurting him. I am awed at your strength to endure without the need to fight back. And thank you for showing me that some people would show compassion not spite in such trying circumstances. I only wish my ex. and his friends had done this. I get asthma and some of my harassers even watched as I had an attack from stress and did nothing. Some even giggled. Thank god there are people like you still left!!

Suzie: “I think if you had been a man there would have been more sympathy for you.” Again…this is so true! I heard recently, that he is still flirting at least, with other women…and his friend’s are the same. They all keep their secrets for one another…then blame the women they use. The difference was – I stood up for myself and got angry with him. I didn’t act ashamed. Maybe if I had I would never have been harassed? I don’t know. But thank you.

Rose: Your story was the closest I can identify with, I think. You are very courageous to share such a story to help me….thank you. To be raped and then blamed and harassed, is beyond disgusting. I truly hope that you have been able heal this and had all the support you need.

One thing struck me : “He seemed to think that harassing me could lead to a relationship, (wtf?).” Yeah…weird that one, isn’t it?! It’s an ownership thing with sexist men. You are mine…or I will take you. I truly think that my ex almost sees the harassment as some kind of a compliment to me!!! Perhaps he interpreted those police visits as me asking him out on another date?! Sorry. But it does make a valid point.

These men’s egos were bruised when you rejected them. So they hurt you in the worst way possible. My ex did the same thing. Please accept my sincere thanks for sharing your story with me.

Clodia: Many thanks to you. Your comment is finally enabling me to really become angry at my experience. Until recently….I had so much self-doubt. And I totally agree with all that you said. Thank you.

Holly: “It’s a shame that mono-centric culture persuades us that the worst thing one woman can do to another is “steal” her partner.” Spot on!! I had MAJOR difficulties with guilt over her during this brief affair with him…..I saw no such guilt in him. I am a feminist and I was angry at myself throughout. I believe (rightly) also that this applies to why the female (especially) harassers showed so much venom towards me.

I could almost hear them thinking “You think you can steal MY man?!” It was almost as though I became the evil “other woman” in every one of my harassers’ relationships!! It was very sick. I am considered conventionally attractive (as my ex is) and I think that many of these women transferred their fears about the attractive and crucially – openly ‘seductive’ – “man stealer” label onto me. Thank you for your thoughtful outlook.

Philippa: Thank you for such kind words. I am gradually healing emotionally. Although this has taken a big physical toll. My doctors have told me that my worsening asthma (due to the previous stress) will never improve. One day, I do hope they all get their Karma.

Just one last word. I wrote this post with much trepidation about the reactions I may receive. But I am now so, so glad that I did. Once again….I am honoured to be part of ‘The F-Word’ community. Thank you all, again.

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