On Being Stalked: What it’s Really Like to Be Terrorized

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When I was fifteen, a nineteen year-old guy from the neighboring town decided he was going to have me. I knew right away that he was trouble and tried avoiding him, but he always found me. He’d corner me at parties, the pizza shop, even the school parking lot. It wasn’t long before I fell into his clutches.

Our first sexual encounter was nothing short of rape, but I was too ashamed to tell my mother, who was impressed with this guy’s persistence and the way he asked her for my hand even though I'd already told I don't like him. What I wanted didn’t seem to matter much.

My Iranian parents were open-minded about me dating and didn’t mind our age difference, even though it was statutory rape. I became this pedophile’s girlfriend out of pure disorientation.

He showed up wherever I went with my girlfriends. I was always nervous about him finding me, even when there were no guys around. Over time, he didn’t even need to make an effort to curb my freedom; I gave it up myself, out of sheer terror and exhaustion. I didn’t manage to break free of my warden until I was safe at college.

When I was twenty-eight years old, I replayed a similar dynamic with another man. This time, he wasn’t older, but he was even more controlling. I didn’t see any of this at first, however. Over time, he not only forbade me to go out with my girlfriends, he obsessed over my “revealing” clothes and broke into my email accounts (cyber stalking). He read my private journals whenever I wasn’t home, and after I began locking them up in a filing cabinet, he became an expert at picking locks. My live-in stalker’s name was John. I began calling him “Johnny” because jani in Farsi means murderer. I was terrified of what he was capable of doing to me.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when John’s behavior became more aggressive over time. I usually blamed his violent temperament on his drinking, but sobriety only elevated his rage. I went into complete shock the first time he tried to choke me, but over time I got used to the intimidation and became docile just to stay safe. When I finally got the courage to tell him I was leaving him, he raped me in our living room. After I moved out, he showed up wherever I went and made it a point to come to at my apartment at random, which made dating other men impossible.

Vultures always sense easy prey: A colleague of mine at Rolling Stone magazine drugged and raped me only a few months after I left the abusive boyfriend and moved back to Manhattan. After the assault I did little more than avoid my rapist for fear of losing my job, but he rode his motorcycle past my apartment nightly and idled outside my window. Sometimes, I was so afraid, I slept in my clothes, ready to fight him off.

After I was fired from that job, I finally tried to file rape charges, but the Kings County courts said I had no case. I could only file a restraining order against my rapist, but the terrorizing sounds of his motorcycle continued. I kept hoping he’d tire of terrorizing me. When he didn’t, I moved.

People use the word “stalking” loosely, and while I’m not here to set definitions and parameters around sociopaths invading anyone’s privacy, stalking is a very real danger that countless women face in a lifetime. It often threatens our lives. Strangely enough, the behavior is overwhelmingly seen as persistence or love sickness by those around us. But it’s not either of those things and the only goal is to terrorize and control. 

Ironically, I wrongly confided in James Lasdun, my former writing professor, about the rape and the stalking. I needed help. This was while we were involved in a twisted flirtation and while I was trying to finish writing my book. Instead of finishing my work, however, I finally had a nervous breakdown. While I unraveled, I wrote James countless nonsensical emails, and I began hallucinating that he was the love of my life, not a philanderer who was trying to sleep with me behind his wife’s back. I then became furious at him when he cut me off.

As my sanity and health deteriorated, my family finally sent for me and transplanted me in California. A few years later, James Lasdun wrote a memoir in which he called me a stalker for all I’d written while I was gravely ill, much of it while I was living across the country.

James Lasdun offends every self-respecting woman who’s ever been stalked by calling my excessive emails and nasty reviews of his misogynist and racist fiction as stalking. The sickest part of it all is that the publishing industry and mainstream media gobbled up the idea of a depraved hundred-pound Iranian-American terrorizing an innocent Jewish man twice her size (all except The New York Times, which called him “paranoid” and “self-indulgent," thank God. ).

Meanwhile, literary agents say my personal life is too messy for them to represent the other side of what happened. Others say that they don’t think a response to a book written about me by a well-established writer will sell. They also don’t think that people will care to know the details of how and why I was drugged and assaulted by a colleague at Rolling Stone magazine. They also don’t think you care to know how the niece of the Minister of Development under the Shah has come to feel so disenfranchised as an American citizen.

Right. I know what time it is. I think you do too. Support indie writers.