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Oh Captain, my Captain

I broke contact with my family and moved across country from them ten years ago. It was a decision made by several years of mixed bag abuse. My dad is a creepy stalker who still haven’t given up and the police have been involved more than once. I have no hope that they’ve changed their ways.

Now I’m moving back. I got a job offer that’s just to good to ignore. I don’t want anything to do with my family. I’ve Googled them so I know where they live. I’ve done the therapy and anxiety meds route. My therapist claims that I’ll be able to run into my family without any big hoopla, and on a good day I believe her. I’m not there yet but it has become easier each time in the past. Less of a shock and easier to stand up for myself.

I cut all contact with several friends and gave up interests in hope of being left alone. Now I want reconnect but I’m scared that my family will find out. I have an old flirt who I’d love to catch up with but his family is basically besties with mine. Is it worth the risk? Any good scripts for why I haven’t been around for ten years that doesn’t invite too many questions?

On one hand I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and re-starting hobbies. I love the city and I’ve been there before several times without incidents. But OTOH, I’d be right there! Like an hour away. What if something happens and I can’t get away? All the self defense and martial arts training doesn’t help much against people who think their abuse is for your own good.

Sincerely,

Freak Out

Whenever I read or see anything about stalking, I always end up dwelling on the unfairness – especially the financial unfairness – to the victim. Moving costs money. Beefing up home security costs money. Having to go to court for restraining orders, etc. costs money in terms of lost wages. Leaving behind possessions costs money. Changing one’s name costs money (and more than money). Therapy costs money. Leaving behind a lifetime of professional contacts and friends and a sense of belonging has costs – both financial and emotional. Being fired from your job because your workplace is afraid of your stalker costs money. And stalkers know this. They love it. They use it. They try to make it as expensive as possible as a way to control you. What is the price of feeling safe? And even if you pay it, do you ever really get safe or feel safe? Stalking is violence; stalking is also theft.

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Back when we changed the format for submitting questions, I strongly encouraged people who were currently experiencing a crisis to call a hotline or helpline and talk to a friendly person rather than wait for me to sort through the bulging email box and get to their question. The questioners who wanted help  composing their suicide notes, the questioners who had possibly just been sexually assaulted and wanted me to tell them if they really had been, the questioners who were literally holding ice packs to their faces in the aftermath of partner violence were definitely 100% Above My Pay Grade. It was unhelpful and dangerous for them to wait; it was overwhelming for me to try to run a crisis hotline out of my email.

The excellent PFC Marie pointed out that the prospect of calling a hotline was daunting and wouldn’t have necessarily occurred to her when she was in crisis mode, and suggested that we find someone who had worked on one to demystify the process. Thankfully, one of our community members stepped forward. Their experience is obviously not universal to every kind of hotline/helpline, but hopefully it will help people feel less nervous about picking up the phone. Hopefully other volunteers will weigh in and give a diversity of experiences and what to expect. The poster has asked to remain anonymous for this post, which is kind of the point of hotlines when you think about it.

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Hi Captain,

I started dating a friend recently, someone I trust(ed) wholeheartedly. However, I found some old internet postings of his that seriously freaked me out (jokes about domestic violence, et al.) I asked him about it, and he explained that he isn’t that person anymore and isn’t proud of what he’d said. I accepted that- it’s a reasonable enough response. But I still feel weird about the whole thing. Added to the stress is the fact that he followed this conversation up with asking me how I felt about being intimate, a question I wasn’t really prepared to deal with under the circumstances. (I asked if I could get back to him, and he said yes.)

Captain, I don’t know what to do. I want to trust him, and I believe him when he says he’s not that person anymore, but I still feel unnerved. However, it doesn’t feel fair to him to condemn him for something that I believe he’s moved past. Should I try to push past my worries, or back away from dating him? I don’t know what to think.

Be Careful What You Search For

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