Severed Online Friendships Becoming Stalking...Please Help!

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Dottie W.

Posts: 0

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Wed Jul 03, 2002 1:57 am

Hello,

I just came across your godsend of a board

Hello, <BR> <BR>I just came across your godsend of a board and have a unique, complicated situation I would appreciate any advice on. I apoligize in advance for the length here but I want to be sure to paint an accurete picture. <BR> <BR>About four years ago I began corresponding on a number of websites and chat rooms devoted to a particuler political issue that was making a lot of headlines. I took a very contraversial stance on this issue and found several others did as well. I began chatting and e-mailing with them regularly and in time, very naively shared my real name, phone number and mailing address with several of them. The concept of any of these people turning out to be unbalanced or dangerous never occurred to me, though I realize now it should have. I was suffering from severe depression at the time and felt very isolated and lonely from the people in my life. I started thinking almost in cultlike terms...that the online people "really" understood and cared about me, and I retreated more and more into their world and away from my real friends and family. <BR> <BR>I went on communicating with an increasingly large group of these people over the course of a couple of years. During this time I put up a web site about my views on the issue that had brought us together. This site attracted some attention in the political media and in turn attracted more people. Though my name appeared nowhere on the site, it gradually became common knowledge that I was the one behind it. <BR> <BR>Finally, about a year ago, through the help of family and friends and counseling, I came to realize the unhealthiness of the extent of my involvement in this online circle and also the real danger inherent in talking to some of these people. After having nasty and threatening e-mails and posts written about me by one contact I had had a falling out with, and after getting increased signs of mental instability from others, I decided I needed to withdraw completely. <BR> <BR>This, however, is where I will admit I dropped the ball. Too afraid to firmly declare I was leaving for good, I wrote them all vague, still friendly-sounding letters saying I needed some time to myself but would probably be back soon. Then I disappeared. Over the next couple of months, many tried over and over to contact me by e-mail, so I changed addresses. Then a handful began sending me letters by postal mail, voicing concern about me and begging me to come back online. I did not respond to any of this and hoped they would give up in time. <BR> <BR>In the past three months, two very upsetting things have now happened. First, one man who lives very close to me took an old forwarded mail I had sent to him and others, and wrote to every other person on the forward list (mainly my relatives and friends) saying he was convinced something terrible had happened to me and needed to hear from someone to find out where I was and how I was doing. Thank God everyone who got the e-mail let me know about it and did not write back. Secondly, I discovered that a group of the old online crowd had taken control of my old MSN Messenger name, my old e-mail account name and my old web site (all of which I had let expire after I left the online world). They are using all of these online tools not just to form a platform for the inflammatory views that I no longer share, but also have posted "tributes" about how much they miss me and want me to come back. These tributes mention me by name. <BR> <BR>Then last week I started getting phone calls at my house from one of the group, something that had not happened before. She must have gotten the number by doing a reverse look up on my address, which she did have from prior correspondence. When I did not respond to any of the messages she left, she began calling several of my relatives who share my last name and live in the area, wanting to know if they could help her get in touch with me. I had warned my family that this might happen and so they did not answer their phones when they checked the Caller ID. <BR> <BR>I am very concerned that this situation is going to escalate. There have been no threatening or violent messages left to or about me thus far, but some of these people I know for a fact have histories of mental illness and have expressed violent views and thoughts. The fact that they are so fixated on me and my whereabouts frightens me, as does the fact that they remain so fixated after a year of no contact, and the fact that they are trying to find other people who know me when attempts to reach me directly fail. <BR> <BR>I am moving out of state to take a new job next month, but these people still know enough about me to make me very nervous. I am afraid that the attempts to contact me and my acquaintances and family will continue, and I am afraid of having personal information about me posted on these web sites and in these chatrooms. On the other hand, I feel as though I am to blame 1. for getting involved with these people to begin with, 2. for giving them so much personal information about me and 3. for not being explicit in cutting off contact. <BR> <BR>If anyone has read through this long, I would like to hear your feedback. Is this stalking behavior? If so, am I best advised to continue the practice of not responding whatsoever, or would a letter firmly stating "Leave me alone" be more effective? I just don't want to provoke any anger that could lead to violence, and I also don't want to encourage future attempts at contact. <BR> <BR>Thank you very much and good luck to all of you in your own personal struggles.
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Rex

Posts: 0

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Sat Jul 06, 2002 1:13 am

Dottie W,

HEY THERE!

Absolutely that is s

Dottie W, <BR> <BR>HEY THERE! <BR> <BR>Absolutely that is stalking behavior. Do you know why they are trying to get in touch with you? Have they told your relatives why they want to contact you? Do you know the person who is calling you? Do you know if it is just one person? <BR> <BR>Do you think telling the relatives, or whoever they are contacting to tell these people that you are no longer doing the political thing would be a good way to go? <BR> <BR>I say stick to your guns! Keep up with the no contact. I have been thinking about your situation, and have been wondering if your situation would fall into a political stalking type situation. A person who stalks a political figure has a different mindset then someone who is stalking their ex spouse, or a celebrity. I have been wondering what their motivation is for getting in touch with you. <BR> <BR>Do you know anything about the person who is trying to get in contact with you? I might be able to offer you some more strategies. I know that the rest of the pose here will have a lot of useful information for you too!! <BR> <BR>Hang in there Dotty your taking the right steps!!!
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Diane

Posts: 0

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Sat Jul 06, 2002 3:05 am

Hi Dottie

I have spent some time thinking about yo

Hi Dottie <BR> <BR>I have spent some time thinking about your situation and wondering what might be the best thing for you to do. It bears similarities to something that happened to me so I have been trying to consider what I might have done differently that could prove helpful to you. Unfortunately I can't come up with the "right" answer! <BR> <BR>Some thoughts though to see if they might help :-) <BR> <BR>I wondered if it might be possible for you to make a statement in order to stop people wondering what happened to you and hopefully if they are genuinely concerned then they would just accept this and leave you alone. <BR> <BR>Maybe a public post to one of the boards that you know they hang out? Something along the lines that you are aware some people have been asking after you and that you would like to assure everyone that you are ok and that you have made a decision to leave your website and the friendships made behind. Politely thank them for their interest and state that you would ask them not to make any further contact with you and under no circumstances contact yourself or your family in the future. <BR> <BR>If you don't want to do this publicly (which may start more of them trying to get in touch) then maybe as a response to anyone who either writes or phones. <BR> <BR>If you think this might be an option then you will have to be brief and blunt about it, leave no room for further contact and most certainly don't explain your position or offer excuses as to why you no longer wish to be in contact with them. <BR> <BR>With regards to them taking over your mail account, website and MSN name. Is it possible to contact the service provider of these and explain that you are no longer associated with them and ask for them to be removed? I'm not sure if they could help, but they might be able to close these accounts. Perhaps www.whoa.org might be able to advise you on this. <BR> <BR>Please don't blame yourself for these things that have happened. With hindsight we can all find better/different ways of handling situations, but at the end of the day we cannot take into account every eventuality and deal with everything "perfectly". <BR> <BR>I must admit that I am unable to state whether it might be better to do this or to continue as you have been and maintain your silence. Perhaps as you are moving state shortly you can leave things as they are for the time being? New job and new state will mean that you can make it very difficult for anyone to trace you, so I would keep the option of making a statement for the eventuality that they do try to contact you again once you have moved. <BR> <BR>Sorry to seem so wishy-washy and contradictory!! <BR> <BR>Good luck to you with the new job and everything <BR> <BR>Love <BR> <BR>Diane
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Rex

Posts: 0

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Mon Jul 08, 2002 7:14 am

Hey Dottie,

There’s not a lot I can tell you Dotti

Hey Dottie, <BR> <BR>There’s not a lot I can tell you Dottie! You have things figured out! You have a game plan and are sticking to it! You’re doing the right things! I really like the way you are sticking to your guns and are not contacting them back! <BR> <BR>When that person calls your aunt’s house again. When they ask for Dottie, have them yell out DONNY Telephone, have some other guy come and say “THIS IS DONNY HOW CAN I HELP YOU!” You could even have your uncle say that in a different voice.. Just a sneaky idea.. <IMG SRC="http://stalkingvictims.com/discus/clipart/wink.gif"> <BR> <BR>That sucks about your auntie and uncle! Them being harassed, and the phone calls. I can understand them not wanting to change their phone numbers. If the harassment escalates eventually they will change their mind. It sucks, it’s not fair, but they will deal with it. Reassure them that you love them, and appreciate all their looking out for you. You didn’t ask for this to happen, and you are doing everything in your power to get ride of it. They know that! They are frustrated right now and you know what they are going to be all right. <BR> <BR>I could go into a lot of contingency planning right now. Would if this, and would if that. I’m not going to though, cause bottom line!!! If they throw you curve balls YOU ARE GOING TO REACT! If they do target your family well then you might have to throw them curve balls. You might have to get the law involved. Dottie I can see you have the right mindset. You’re moving soon, and are covering your tracks, your keeping things as best as you can from escalating! Your going to get to your new life, and things will be a lot better!!! If something happens you’ll know what to do! If you don’t and want advice I’ll be right here. There is also a lot of other people here that are so much more intelligent then I am that will do what they can to help you. Diane, Feather, Jennifer and Techgirl are all here too, and would be happy to try and help the best they can.
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Dottie W.

Posts: 0

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Mon Jul 08, 2002 7:28 am

Rex and Diane, I want to thank you so much! I appreciate yo

Rex and Diane, I want to thank you so much! I appreciate your advice. I have to admit I have been so nervous in the past few days...I was even being paranoid about using my real first name to post on here, afraid "they" would somehow find me here. That's something I'm having to fight with a lot that I bet all of you have to deal with too...being so upset by the stalking behavior that you don't feel safe anywhere. <BR> <BR>Anyway, unfortunately the stalking-type behavior seems to have escalated over the past few days. My aunt and uncle have my last name and live in the same state. I spend a lot of time with them and in fact lived with them at one point. I worry about because they are fairly elderly, but I did warn them about the possible phone calls before they happened and so when my uncle answered the first call he knew enough to say it was a wrong number and that they didn't know anyone named Dottie. <BR> <BR>Anyway, they went away for a vacation last week. Unfortunately they had a family friend housesitting who unwittingly answered the phone when another call from "them" came through. The person asked for Dottie and the family friend, not knowing the situation, just said to try back again this week. <BR> <BR>Now they must know that despite my uncle saying it was a wrong number the first time they called, there is in fact a link with that phone number. I'm guessing that they either did a paid Internet search on me, which would show me having lived at my aunt and uncle's address within the past 5 years, or they narrowed in on my aunt and uncle because they are among the few people with that last name in the area. <BR> <BR>Anyway, my aunt called me last night to say that they returned to SEVEN MESSAGES on their answering machine, six from the same woman who had called originally, and one from a man who left a message saying that he and the woman were trying to reach me and concerned about me and wanted to talk to me right away. He left a number for me to call back. <BR> <BR>So now I am in a bad situation because my aunt and uncle, understandably, are not happy at being dragged into this. They don't want to change their number (also understandably) but they don't want the calls to continue. I offered to step in and call or write these people and tell them to leave me and my family alone (to answer your question, Diane, it is the same 2 people who keep trying to contact me consistently, but they are also in touch with about 10-15 other people from the online group. It's sort of like these two have become the "spokespeople". I used to write to them pretty often though we never talked on the phone; I actually thought they were the most harmless of the bunch, I'm sad to say. What scares me is that they seem to be operating under the "orders" of a new and seemingly violent, demanding person, whom I had heard of but never corresponded with directly before.) but my aunt and uncle don't want me to confirm in ANY way that their number is linked to me. They are afraid that the calls will just continue with demands being made to provide my contact information. <BR> <BR>My aunt says that the next time a call comes in (which I'm sure it will) she is just going to firmly say that there is no Dottie living at that residence and not to call again. In the meantime, Diane, I did consider your suggestion of writing an e-mail or messageboard post stating simply but firmly that I have moved on and do not wish to be contacted. However, the problem with that is that these people will, I am pretty sure, be so excited about the fact that I have "reappeared" and responded to their efforts that they will redouble their attempts to contact me, if only just to find out WHY I don't want to talk to them anymore. <BR> <BR>The other problem is that if I respond in any way to the web site, phone calls, etc., I am confirming that 1. yes, my aunt and uncle are related to me and 2. I am reading the tribute they have set up - in other words, that I have taken the bait they set out. I just don't want to do that. I would like to believe that it's just simple concern for my well-being that is prompting this, but I don't buy that, because it's been more than a year since I was in touch and the intense attempts at rekindling contact are only just flaring up again recently. And besides, if you are just concerned about a Net friend, would you look up their family's personal contact information and call 9 times?! <BR> <BR>As for the web site, thank you again for the great ideas, Diane. I really think they would work well if the situation were any less strange and complicated. But unfortunately, since I did let the e-mail account expire on its own, technically they did not do anything illegal by claiming it as their own. Likewise since I gave up access to the account, I also gave up access to the web domain, so I can't do anything about their having it and I can't even prove that I am the "rightful" owner. I also fear that getting the site and account closed would prompt more of a frenzied reaction from them. <BR> <BR>What I'm really afraid of is that the attempts at contact will not only not cease, but start to become violent and angry as they realize I am deliberately avoiding them. I am most fearful of that anger being targeted at my family, since they may be seen as the "gatekeepers" blocking access to me if these people don't believe my aunt and uncle's claims of a wrong number. <BR> <BR>I realize I'm not leaving many options open and I want to state again how much I do appreciate any and all advice from you. I have been looking forward to my new job and new house...I have only given the address and phone # out to the closest of close friends and family, and the number will be unpublished, so I'm not really afraid of anyone hunting down that information. I'm also following this site's advice and opening a P.O. Box that I will use for all bills, subscriptions, etc. But I am afraid that my family will continue to be harassed, and I am afraid that this WON'T just die out and go away. <BR> <BR>Thank you again for trekking through these long, long messages of mine, and thank you most for caring.
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Dottie again

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Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Mon Jul 08, 2002 7:32 am

P.S. I forgot to add, to answer your question Rex, the reas

P.S. I forgot to add, to answer your question Rex, the reasons they want to get in touch with me are 1. supposedly to make sure I am OK because they "care about me so much" and 2. because they want to restore my old site on the web and want me to supply the information they need to do that. They know enough to put up the gist of it but apparently they want to do it verbatim. I refuse to because the site stirred up way too much controversy and said some things I don't believe in anymore, but they are adamant about having it back. I don't understand why they won't just put up a similar site of their own, but they insist on having the original. I really think they view it as some sort of great symbol of their "cause" and unfortunately that means they have come to see me as something of their leader who went away and left them. I wish that I were exaggerating but I am beginning to fear that that really is the scenario.
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Rex

Posts: 0

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Tue Jul 09, 2002 6:47 am

Hey Dottie,

I feel nauseous every time I look at

Hey Dottie, <BR> <BR><B>I feel nauseous every time I look at this web page and my friends tell me just to forget it and go on with my life, but I feel as though I have an obligation to check and make sure no more personal information about me or my family is posted publicly. Should I just force myself to ignore it?</B> <BR> <BR>Ask yourself a couple questions. <BR>1. If something is posted about your family is there any way you can change it? <BR>2. Do you want to have advance warning if something is posted. <BR> <BR>Now it is critical for you to know if things are being posted about you / your family, personal information. You want the piece of mind to know what is being said. <BR> <BR>By you going to this website and watching it for information about you is making you a wreck. Dottie you need to have a clear head, you need to be calm. Right now if you are panicked, if you are all freaked out you can’t think clearly. You need to think clearly! It’s impossible for you to do that if you are going to that website and seeing everything that is being posted. You need to get a friend to monitor the website for you. If something serious is posted, your friend needs to tell you about it. Other then very serious issues that arise don’t have your friend tell you everything that is going on. <BR> <BR>Right now I think a lot of the fear you are feeling is worry. ACTION is the solution to worry! When we worry it stops us from doing constructive things! Just by worrying it feels as if we are doing something constructive. It will make you less safe! Get ride of the worry, and replace it with ACTION and the confidence that comes along with action!!! <BR> <BR><B>Also, should I work on convincing my aunt and uncle to change their number or wait and see if the calls continue?</B> <BR> <BR>Does your uncle have caller ID? Do they know what number they are calling you from? <BR> <BR>I don’t suggest having them change their number. Not yet. One good thing about them calling is it gives you some insight on their attitudes. Their tones of voice, words they use. <BR> <BR>Who knows you might be able to bore them so much that they stop calling. <BR> <BR>If your uncle doesn't know their number and he wants to try to throw a bluff their way. One thing you could do when they call let’s say your uncle answers. He says “Okay you’ve got me, I’m really her dad.” She lives far away and I won’t give out her phone number but if you leave me yours I’ll make sure she calls you.” He writes down the number that this person gives. Then he gets the name of the person. When they hang up your uncle can call back to verify the number is true. Then in a friendly tone have him casually mention the phone conversation is being recorded. He can then say that you are not related to him in any manner. Then he can tell her that he has talked to the police, and the prosecuting attorney and a layer. He can say that the prosecutor said he has substantial proof that he submitted to prove phone harassment. Then he can tell the people that prosecutor would seek prosecution for Federal Statue 47 U.S.C 223(a)(1)(c) Harassing Telephone Calls in Interstate Communications. He can read them this definition for it. “This statute makes it a FEDERAL CRIME, punishable by up to two years in prison, to use a telephone or other telecommunications device to ANNOY, abuse, HARASS, or threaten another person at the called number. <BR> <BR>This is a actual statue. The downside to this bluff is I don’t think they will prosecute it. I seriously seriously doubt it. You’ll have to admit that it’s pretty intimidating!!! Imagine how you would feel if you were the one trying to get in touch with someone and they slapped you like that. It would be pretty intimidating. <BR> <BR>Thanks for the message Dottie, those are some great suggestions!!! Everyone can benefit from that little jewel of and idea that you used to help keep your identity secret from the search engine!!!
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Dottie W.

Posts: 0

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Tue Jul 09, 2002 7:42 am

Thank you again Rex, from the bottom of my heart. What grea

Thank you again Rex, from the bottom of my heart. What great people are here on this web site. Just such a shame everyone has been brought together by such ugly circumstances! <BR> <BR>I have to admit I am having a hard time not giving in to the fear today. Yesterday morning the same woman who had been calling my aunt and uncle called four times. Finally my uncle became so angry that he picked up the phone, and when the woman asked for Dottie, he yelled, "There is no Dottie here, and if you call this number again I will report you to the police!" and hung up on her. I understand his reaction and frustration but now I am afraid because everything I have read on stalkers indicates that if you threaten or humiliate them, they tend to get worse or resort to darker tactics. <BR> <BR>Also I found out today that in addition to posting my name (First and last) in huge letters on my old web domain, this group of people have added a "Quotes" section in which they are cutting and pasting every single comment I have ever made to a certain messageboard that unfortunately remains public. My stomach just turns at the thought. For a panicked minute I considered making up a fake address and e-mailing them to say that I am a "friend of Dottie's" and asking to have "Dottie's last name taken off the site to protect her safety," but I am afraid they would either realize it was really me sending the message or just make things worse. I also considered alerting the web site provider to the situation, but it is so complicated and I have so little proof on my side that I'm afraid it would only make matters worse. Plus I know they would just buy another domain name and build it there. <BR> <BR>I feel nauseous every time I look at this web page and my friends tell me just to forget it and go on with my life, but I feel as though I have an obligation to check and make sure no more personal information about me or my family is posted publicly. Should I just force myself to ignore it? <BR> <BR>Also, should I work on convincing my aunt and uncle to change their number or wait and see if the calls continue? My ex-husband, who is a former corporate security consultant, suggested that if the harassment continues I should mail a letter in a month or two saying that it has been brought to my attention what is going on and stating firmly that the harassment needs to stop. I don't know if this is a good idea either...I am so panicked that I can barely type straight. Ugh. <BR> <BR>Again I appreciate everything that has been said to me here and am so grateful this board exists. I don't know where I'd turn otherwise.
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Dottie W.

Posts: 0

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Tue Jul 09, 2002 7:46 am

Since everyone has been so helpful to me I wanted to share

Since everyone has been so helpful to me I wanted to share a little story that has helped me. Back when my stalkers (I guess I should finally admit the seriousness and start calling them that) first started attempting to reach me by e-mail after I had cut off contact, they indicated that they had found an alternate e-mail address for me through a web page on Google. I used to freelance in the architecture field and some of my work is posted on various sites, which I had not realized before. (My stalkers claimed to have "accidentally" come across these pages but of course I know that's not true!) <BR> <BR>Anyway, recently I did a search on my name on Google and started e-mailing all of the web pages that have me listed. I explained that I was being stalked online and asked them to please remove all references to me. I have not heard back from everyone, but in the case of my old AOL profile, after AOL did not respond to numerous e-mails I sent asking them to erase the profile, I wrote to Google directly. To my surprise Google wrote back right away and said they would delete the listing from their cache. <BR> <BR>So to anyone being harassed online, I suggest you do a search on your name and contact all of the web sites where you appear. You probably won't get 100% removal, but you can at least get some of the online links to you erased. I hope this helps.
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celest cybertroll.tv

Posts: 0

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 5:00 pm

Post Wed Jul 10, 2002 9:25 am

Yes this is the similar type of stories many people have sha

Yes this is the similar type of stories many people have shared with me regarding their stalking by online predators. I put up a site at <A HREF="http://www.cybertroll.tv" TARGET="_top">http://www.cybertroll.tv</A> with the story. <BR> <BR>I know how you feel <BR> <BR>Celest

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