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I Was Stalked – And Here’s The Impact Years Later

I-Was-Stalked-–-And-Here’s-The-Impact-Years-Later

A few years ago, I watched the TV series You, and at the end of watching season one, I wished I hadn’t.

Like so many other shows and movies, You both normalizes and glamorizes violence against women, instead of presenting solutions to this insidious social issue. And for that reason alone, I wished I hadn’t spent hours taking in this content (you’ll remember me saying, what we consume matters)!

But watching You also brought back the vivid memory of my own personal experience with being stalked when I was in my 20s. As difficult as this is for me to do, I want to share my story with you because it’s important that we be vocal about how violence against women is a real thing (#MeToo!). But I also know that sharing our pain with others is important for healing. And I want to continue to heal in an authentic way.

So here’s what happened to me:

It all started when I was in my mid-twenties, living in downtown Toronto. I was living by myself for the first time, and I felt so grown up and was excited to be living my life as an independent woman. Then one early Saturday morning, my landline telephone rang (omg, remember the days of only having landlines!?). The loud bell startled me awake because everyone who knew me at the time knew not to call me before 10 am so as to preserve my sleeping-in time (I loved a night on the town then and I still love it now!).

I picked up the phone with a very groggy, “Hello?”

*Silence*

At first all I could hear was heavy breathing. Eventually a low, deep male voice that I didn’t recognize said my name very slowly and in a sexual way, “Ritu…”

He then launched into a string of vile sexual comments that literally caused my whole body to freeze. I listened only for a few moments, before slamming down the phone. But hanging up on him didn’t matter – he called back repeatedly that morning, and every time I answered, it was a string of vile sounds and sexual comments.

Because I didn’t have call display at the time, I tracked the calls using *69 (remember that?!).  I soon learned that he was calling from alternating pay phones, so I answered his calls in hopes that I could figure out who it was and make him stop. But it didn’t work. The calls continued.

By then I was a young lawyer on Bay Street, and I also had some knowledge about what to do in this situation because of my past volunteer experiences with the Toronto Police’s Victim Services. I called the police and opened up a case file with an officer who was very helpful along my journey. (It was this officer who ultimately had to caution the man who was harassing me.)

While it helped to know that I had a direct line to a police officer, it didn’t fully alleviate my fear. After all, I was 25 years old, living by myself in a mixed income neighborhood downtown, and as a young lawyer, I worked long hours and often came home late. Knowing that someone knew where I lived and could be watching my every move meant I was petrified.

The calls went on for months and months and would come at random times, mostly on weeknights and weekends when I was alone at home. As you can imagine, the experience took a toll on me.

I was afraid to be alone, I would constantly check over my shoulder, I was afraid to talk to anyone I didn’t know, and I absolutely did not want to date any new men. I didn’t know who this person was, if I was being watched, or what they were capable of. I became afraid of my own shadow.

The breaking point came when this man showed up at my condo, and this time, I happened to be home.

Long story short, I figured out who he was through the condo’s security video. It turned out that I knew him – he was dating one of my friends at the time and we had met very briefly before. In true horror movie fashion, the calls were (metaphorically) coming from inside the house.

Once I told the police, they took over. They called him in for questioning and quickly learned that he had a history of stalking women. Not only had he been convicted of criminal harassment before, but he had other charges pending. He was cautioned and the police assured me that, in speaking to them, he would never bother me again. At first I was skeptical, but it was true: I never heard from this man again.

Obviously there’s more to this story, but this is what I’m ready to share at this moment. To be honest, I never thought that one day I’d write about my experience with stalking, because even though the actual stalking stopped, the memory of this traumatic experience is still with me.

Being stalked literally changed my life and how I live. I continue to be fearful of sexual violence and to fear for my safety, which causes me to be hyper-vigilant. I make efforts to protect myself, but I still often feel vulnerable (for example, when I’m alone in a parking lot). Even now – nearly 20 years later – being in the public eye as a professional speaker and author can sometimes feel uncomfortable.

Even as I sat down to write this blog, I could feel those old feelings of stress, anxiety, and sadness in my body. But I’m sharing this now because I know how important it is for each of us to use our voices to interrupt gender violence and gender supremacy.

I hope that my story inspires you to use your voice to call out violence against women and to share your #MeToo stories. We must share our stories, when we feel safe to do so, in order to shed light on the prevalence of violence against women.

I'm Ritu.

I’m an award-winning life coach, empowerment speaker, author, and inclusion expert dedicated to helping you live your best life.

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