Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Letter to a 16yo Becky

Today's HAWMC prompt is to write a letter to your 16yo self. There are so many things I could say to my younger self, but since this is a health-related prompt, I'll stick to a health issue. It's one I haven't talked about here before, but it's one I feel passionately about. Stalking.

So, here's my go at it.

In many ways your life has been straightforward. It will continue to be for the next several years. But there are a few things you should know.

That ex-boyfriend you can't decide whether you're done with, please know that you are done with him. There is another boy, who you'll meet in a couple of years. He is by no means perfect, but he's just right for you. This one is not. He will not realize that for several years, though.

That sick feeling you get in your gut, listen to it. The ex is going to get a little crazy. That gut feeling will keep you safe. Listen. To. It. You will be scared sometimes, unnerved frequently, but you will be okay. As long as you listen to that gut.

He will show up. At your house. At college. Out in public. He will leave 25 page letters at your front door in the middle of the night. When you wake up at 2am, it will be because he is standing by the tree in your front yard. When you go on vacation, he will break into your house and steal one of your bras (for a 2nd time). He will call. A lot.

He will talk about how he can't live without you. And while he will never verbally threaten to hurt you, it will feel slightly implied. Just enough to make you worry about when the next time he will show up will be, but not enough to be able to really verbalize why you feel so icky.

Here's the other part of what I want you to know...talk about it (just not with him - that, I can promise, will only fuel the fire). Mom, your friends, a teacher, the police officer mom will call when the 2nd bra is stolen (yes, she really will. And yes, it will be embarrassing to talk to that man about your bra. Horribly, awfully embarrassing). Find someone. Because maybe they can make him stop sooner so you don't have to deal with it, with him, as long as I did. Also, maybe you talking about it, especially with your friends, will help them realize when they are the victims of stalking themselves. Because that will happen, too.

There's a lot you don't know yet about life. And that's okay. You'll learn it when you're ready. There will be bumps, some little, some mountainous. You will make it over them all. Lots of things will not happen like you expect them to. That doesn't mean you won't be okay. Because you will. You will be better than okay. You will be great.

The you that's twice your age.

Today's Lesson: The legal definition of stalking is "a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear". 3.4 million people in the US are stalked each years, most of them by someone they know, many by someone with whom they had an intimate relationship. Many of them don't even realize that's what happening. I didn't.

I'd been a social worker for 10 years before I realized I had been stalked by a high school boyfriend. It went on for more than 5 years. And while I never identified my uncomfortable and nervous feelings, my frequently looking over my shoulder, and wondering when he'd next show up as stalking, that's what it was.  We need to talk about stalking because it is a real and very prevalent problem in our society.  He never hurt me. I was lucky.


Astrid said...

That is so scary and s omething I have never experienced. I found myself wishing that 16-year-old becky stays safe, then I realized that she has grown up already. What I do wish is that young women in similar situations find ways to be safe. Thank you for talking about this!

mommy someday said...

Wow, what a scary post! (hugs)

M said...

That is scary!

Anonymous said...

I was abused and stalked by someone I thought was a friend. Many people would consider it bullying, but, given her obvious (in hindsight) studying my behavior to attack me, it was stalking. I was 10 or 11 the first time she attacked me and it happened several times over 3 years. It was just before my 32nd April 10th, that I realized *I* had been stalked. I simply never thought stalkers could be other children, even really obviously messed up older than you children.