Stalking, Safety Plans, and Dreams of a Life without Fear

“Stalking is unpredictable and dangerous. No two stalking situations are alike. There are no guarantees that what works for one person will work for another, yet you can take steps to increase your safety.” — National Center for Victims of Crime

Israel - Lisa-Michelle Kucharz

For the first time in four and a half years, I hope to have a break from the overwhelming stress of having a stalker. You may not have realized the extent of the threats of violence and stalking I experienced, as most of the media coverage of my story focused on cyberstalking, often referring to it as cyberbullying.

All forms of harassment can be devastating, and my ordeal broke me in ways I didn’t think were possible. In addition to the defamation of character, ridicule, and hate speech, there were constant claims of stalking, intimidation schemes, and threats of violence. I had to completely change the way I thought about professional opportunities, posting my location, sharing personal information about myself with anyone other than the tightest group of friends, making new connections, getting from one place to the next, and even just being in public places.

Like many people who have orders of protection against those who may cause them harm, the documents don’t relieve my fears. Don’t get me wrong, they help in some ways, knowing there are court ordered conditions which bind my harasser to stay away from me and places I may go, as well as prohibit her from contacting me — official notification of unacceptable behavior with clear ramifications.

“Victims of stalking cannot predict what stalkers will do but can determine their own responses to the stalking behavior. Personal safety and harm prevention is of the utmost importance for victims. While victims cannot control the stalking behavior, they can be empowered to take steps to keep themselves, family and loved ones safe.” — Stalking Safety Planning, National Center for Victims of Crime

I’ve lived with my safety plan for four and a half years, adapting it along the way through the advice of law enforcement, probation officers, victim services, and consultants. The best information I found online is from the National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center.

My safety plan is now engrained in who I am, and I can’t imagine life without it. My family, friends, colleagues, and others have been helpful in ensuring my safety and understanding that my plan also includes their protection.

While living with a safety plan can be somewhat of a relief, constantly considering harm prevention also can be draining at times.

As I head off to Israel — the first time leaving North America since my ordeal began and a country that most likely would not allow entry to someone with five recent convictions, including death threats and criminal harassment, who is currently serving a two-year probation and 10-year weapons prohibition — I’m hoping my trip will also give me some peace of mind, even if it’s only temporary. I’m not sure it can or what that would even feel like.

Of course, I have a safety plan in place for my trip, but there’s part of me that would love to wake up in a couple of days feeling completely safe and free from worry about my stalker.