Between 8 and 17% of women will be stalked at some point in their lifetime. At the most, that’s 1 out of every 6 women. And, for the longest time, these numbers didn’t mean anything to me.
Then, when I was just 14 years old – the week before starting my freshman year of high school – I became part of that at-most-17%.
It wasn’t stalking in the traditional sense. Generally, victims are stalked by someone they know (at least 2/3 of female victims), receive unwanted phone calls repeatedly (the most common form of stalking), or are stalked more than once (46% at least once a week, 11% for 5 years or more). Instead, in my case, I was walking home from band practice with my close (male) friend and neighbor when a white sedan began following us down the street. The stalker was a stranger, and the whole incident probably only lasted about five minutes. If we’d taken a different route home, we may have been able to avoid it.
So if it wasn’t a “typical” situation, is it still considered stalking? That’s a question that I’ve been asked – and that I’ve asked myself – multiple times. And in my opinion, yes, it was. A “traditional” definition is by no means the only definition. In that scenario, I felt threatened, and I was followed against my will – two things associated with stalking.
But the reason I most think that my 14-year-old self was stalked is because of the aftermath. I honestly felt threatened, and for several days I couldn’t get the image of my stalker’s face out of my mind. I’m now 17 and a high school junior, and in these past two and a half years, both my friend and I have avoided the street where we were stalked as much as we can. I think I’ve only walked down it once or twice, and even then I wouldn’t go unless I was with a group of friends. To this day, I’m afraid of walking alone, even across the parking lot at my public library or to the end of my driveway at night when it’s garbage night, the trash can is at the curb, and I need to throw something away. It’s hard when you’re always scared that a repeat situation is going to happen.
One question I tend to ask myself is, Why me? And the truth is, I have an idea why. It’s because I’m a girl. Because that 14-year-old, not even three years ago, was more than just a victim of stalking: she was a victim of public opinion. Girls and women are considered weak in society – and that’s one reason why we’re preyed upon. Weak and submissive – isn’t that how we’re “supposed” to be?
If my stalker thought that the bigger fight would come from my friend than from me, well, he was wrong. Yes, my friend was older than me (by six months), and male. But I had a clarinet case in my hand, and dammit, if that man got out of his car and came toward us, I was going to use that clarinet. (I have mentally turned my instrument into a weapon multiple times, and that was probably one of the first things that I thought about, given the situation.) Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean that someone gets to take advantage of me.
Ultimately, I wasn’t raped, I wasn’t kidnapped, and I wasn’t sexually assaulted. But that doesn’t change the fact that I was stalked home, probably because my stalker viewed me as a vulnerable young girl. Even though it may not be as publicized as rape is, stalking is a major problem when it comes to women, and it can also have some long-lasting effects. I am most likely going to be scared of white sedans for the rest of my life because of something that happened when I was barely a teenager, and I don’t deserve that. Sure, maybe only one out of every six women is stalked, but the other five face the effects of that stalking, too (namely, fear). We girls and women are not as weak as people make us out to be, and we, as a whole, don’t deserve to live in a constant state of fear.
It’s about time that society realizes that.