Home Office Worker Alone Faces Stalker
Q: I am a female, independent sales rep whose apartment is my only office. It took time to find the perfect location -- one with a lot of natural light, is quite and peaceful and convenient to my company's warehouse. I love my job and my company, and often work seven days a week. That's why what has happened is so upsetting.
One of my female neighbors hangs out with a man who visits her all day, once or twice a week. They are both regular drinkers. They invited me to join them one day, so I did, but I am not a drinker. The man who visits seemed "off" to me, but I mostly talked to my neighbor, not him.
One day I found a letter by him in my mailbox. It contained delusional messages with descriptions of me "opening the door to a relationship with him" and wanting to kiss me and take me to special place. A week later, he followed me in his car for quite some time. I lost him when I got on the freeway.
The next week he left me a second similar type of letter. What he wrote is all in his imagination, which is creepy. The apartment building is small and casual, without serious locks on the windows and the doors. I often work seven days a week, and my work requires concentration and many business calls. Several times when he and my neighbor were outside drinking in the common area, he childishly tossed pebbles against my picture window and shouted for me to join them. I ignored him. He also walked up to my door and looked through the window at me to get my attention. I was on a call so I angrily motioned him away. The next week he knocked on my door to see if I could store meat in my fridge for him. I quickly said no and shut the door, but days later, he knocked on my other neighbor's door, which he has never done, to invite the man to drink with them. I know he did this to look into my apartment because my other neighbor has never socialized with either of them.
I since found out he has two incidents of threatening people and he is a big guy. Most importantly, this has interfered with my work, and I don't have the time for this. I chose this apartment for many reasons, so moving or working with the blinds closed all day are not options. I am so angry he has ruined a perfect environment for me.
A: A threat assessment professional (who will remain unnamed) says this is "stalking," which is a crime in all states. Stalking is far more than an inconvenience to your work. According to the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice programs, "Stalking is a crime of power and control. It is conservatively defined as 'a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated (two or more occasions) visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear.' Stalking behaviors also may include persistent patterns of leaving or sending the victim unwanted items or presents that may range from seemingly romantic to bizarre, following or laying in wait for the victim, damaging or threatening to damage the victim's property, defaming the victim's character or harassing the victim via the internet by posting personal information or spreading rumors about the victim."
Stalking classifications range from misdemeanor to felony (1st degree to 4th degree). Each state categorizes stalking behavior differently, so it's important to know your state's stalking laws, legal procedures, and punishments. According to the Attorney General's Office of Texas, "All stalking incidents should be reported to the police. Request that each incident be documented. Request a copy of the report from your local law enforcement agency. Give police any written correspondence and report any phone threats. Put dates on all correspondence from the stalker. Know the name of the law enforcement officer in each incident." It is also recommended to keep a diary, get a protective order if you have ever lived with or had a child with the stalker, tell the stalker to stop calling and hang up, record, date, and keep messages, keep all correspondence, touching the documents as little as possible to preserve fingerprints, and tell co-workers, friends, and neighbors to report when they see the person.
Email life and career coach LindseyNovak@yahoo.com with all your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.