Not long after I bought my home in Pennsylvania in the early 90’s, my immediate superior insisted that I have a separate phone line put in for company business. I rarely used the remote computer access in those days since it was deadly slow and I was in the building so often. It was much easier to use the in-house system when I was at work. My boss insisted and his assistant scheduled an appointment to have the line installed.
The phone installer from Pennsylvania Bell was at my house for almost 8 hours. He could only run the phone line into my basement. The old farm house I lived in made it impossible for him to run the line to my first floor office. He said it was something about the old world construction of the place. The walls were not connected? When I asked him if he could run the line outside, he told me that was another department. He said he would make an appointment for me. In the 10 years I lived in the house that was the last I ever heard about it. I continued to access the company computer when I was in the building. It worked fine for me.
However, now there was a phone line in my basement that the company had registered in my name. Since I was a public person due to my on-air job at QVC, my regular phone line was unlisted. I had also purchased the home using an anonymous corporate identity. Many of my peers, especially the female hosts, had really bad problems with stalkers. I had a few weirdos who had tried to contact me over the years, but nothing major at that point.
But now, with an active listed phone number in my basement, I was pretty easy to find. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about it until the first car pulled into my driveway late one night. The person sat in her car until I walked out and approached her. When she recognized me, she got out of her car and said she was a big fan. I explained to her that I valued my privacy and that if she ever came back, I would press trespassing and stalking charges.
I asked her how she found me and she said I was listed in the hone book. I contacted the phone company the next day and cancelled the line, but it was too late. The phone book, still relevant back then, had already been published. The genie was out of the bottle.
I had several more “visitors” over the years, all of whom found me in the phone book. I was able to put the fear of God into all of them. But the real problem started when an out-of-state woman tracked me down via the phone listing which also listed my address. She started sending me letters. It was pretty obvious from the tone that she was a stalker. I never met or spoke to her but somehow she found out my real home phone number. When I changed it, again having it unlisted, she found it again in a few weeks. I had a fax machine attached to the line and she sent me endless faxes the text of which was a rambling of her “love” for me and a bunch of social issues that she thought I should be involved in.
How did she find my unlisted number? The only people who had it, other than close friends, were QVC employees. Obviously, one of my friends or coworkers was giving her the information. I was never able to find out how she was receiving the info, but she kept getting the number every time I changed it. Again, I never met her, spoke to her or corresponded with her.
Some of her ramblings were very threatening. I applied for and was approved for a concealed carry permit. I was already a good pistol shot and practiced regularly at the local range. I started carrying a gun 24/7. I had to unplug my phone every night. The local police weren’t much help. I was told they couldn’t co anything until she actually tried to harm me or my family. I am glad that the laws have changed since then and now it’s easier to prosecute and convict stalkers.
Just when I was at my wit’s end about the whole affair, I heard that she was killed in an auto accident. Since I was in her address book, I got her death notice in the mail. The next time I would be that happy about someone’s passing would be when the news about Osama Bin Laden broke. Fate stepped in and stopped her continual harassment of me and my home.
Long after I left the world of TV shopping, I was approached by another stalker while living in Nashville. It was a person whom I never met, spoke to or corresponded with. It was just someone who saw me on TV and thought she knew me. My infomercials with Ron Popeil were still running heavily when she started contacting me. Some people think they know you if they see you on TV or hear you on the radio. Unfortunately, I had a website at the time and she was emailing me from it. Every time I blocked her address, she got another one.
Keep in mind that I never met or wrote back to this person. Eventually she sent more threats to me, including my family. I finally had to contact the cyber crimes division of the Nashville police. They were used to dealing with stalkers from all of the country superstars who live and work there.
The Nashville Police contacted the police where the woman lived and found out she was on welfare. They threatened to have her welfare cut off if she didn’t leave me alone. The logic was if she had time to bother me, she had time to get a job. That ended it for a while.
As I said, today’s stalker laws are much more comprehensive. Media personalities have more recourse these days. Still, the stalkers are out there. Sadly, most are clever enough to avoid crossing the line. They manage to harass their victims much like siblings in the back seat of a car who keep repeating “I’m not touching them,” every time they are confronted by their parents.
One of my former colleagues from QVC had to go public recently to the local news about her stalking problems. She stated she lives her life in fear and is always looking over her shoulder. Several of her stalkers have been convicted and some even jailed but they keep coming.
Stalkers are sexual predators and cannot be cured. Once they start stalking they will never stop. While my most recent stalker was allegedly shut down by the authorities, she continued to try to friend me on various social media outlets. For that reason, I never approve a contact from someone I don’t know or who does not have a profile photo. It is a major crime to use a photo to impersonate someone else. Most stalkers are clever enough to know that. Still, I have to be on my toes every moment to make sure she doesn’t break through.
Since they can’t be cured, prison is useless. While I have no intention of starting a debate about the death penalty, I do believe it’s the only solution. Once someone is convicted of stalking and harassing an individual, making that person live in fear for the rest of their lives, they should be put down. Problem solved.
Harsh? Of course. Ever have to check to see if your gun was close to the bed, loaded and ready to use? Every night? Are you afraid, like my former colleague, every day of your life? This person is very nice and, like most people who are stalked, never met or spoke to any of her potential attackers. She and everyone else who is stalked have done nothing to deserve it.
I’m pretty sure society would never approve the death penalty for stalking unless it led to the death of the person being stalked. Although the laws are better now, the penalties need to be more severe. Stalkers need to know they will face extremely serious consequences when they’re convicted.
Although my stalking problems are minor compared to my former colleague, they are important to me. I will do whatever it takes to protect my family and home. Like everyone who is stalked, I am tired of having to look over my shoulder every day and be suspect of every contact from someone new. I hope stalkers will just get a life and stop bothering innocent folks whose only crime is that they are in the public eye.
I wish you good health and success…and no stalkers!