2020 has managed to be quite a terrible year, and the horrific isolation of coronavirus, it certainly has given quite a bit of time to think about things. This is the first year I’ve ever shared this story so extensively, I previously wrote about it on my blog, and now I’m writing it here. I do finding healing in writing sometimes. I did not realize until this year how much of this I am still working through. Oh, and content warning for stalking (obviously), harassment, sexual abuse in detail, and more.
Gay life was quite different in 2010, and I had just gotten out of my first real adult relationship. I really did not have much frame of reference for what relationships were supposed to like look, so I had no idea what I should have been doing or looking for. I was the one who ended it, but I did not take it well. I also began to withdraw from anti-depressants because I did not have insurance, and could no longer afford the psychiatrist. What a time!
I did not take the breakup well, and I was only 21, so I certainly was not emotionally well. I dealt with it, and the withdrawals, with lots of substance use. I also was naturally pretty vulnerable.
That’s where Jack comes in!
Jack saw I was going through it on my Facebook, and took the time to message me and connect. I hadn’t spoken to Jack in some time. Jack was my manager at a grocery store that is popular down here about 5 years prior, when I was 16. He must’ve been 23–24 then. There was nothing beyond a usual, professional manager to employee relationship back then.
When he contacted me on Facebook, he told me he just ended a relationship of 5 years. He told me he was reaching out because he could relate to the pain, and how horrible his ex was, the cheating and manipulation. I felt bad naturally, because my ex wasn’t like that, he was just really emotionally unavailable and inattentive, and I was young, needy, and immature. Jack then told me we should go for a drink, and talk about it, just us guys. I said that sounded fine, but I assured him I was not looking for anything more than just friendship at that point in time.
I met Jack at a bar, and had a drink. Because I was driving, I stayed pretty sober. He told me he was tired, and it was late, and he did not think he could safely make it home that night because he lived 90 minutes away. He asked if he could stay at my place, which I said no. But he persisted, and I eventually gave in. He followed me to my house in his red truck, and I told him that I had to work at 9am the next morning, and that as soon as he felt safe to go, he needed to leave, no reason to wake me. Sure, he tells me.
Discusson of sexual harm in this paragraph: As I’m trying to sleep, he grabs my genitals, and starts doing a handjob, which I start rejecting, as I was like, half way asleep. He stops, and then continues again, and I keep rejecting it. I was not aware of, or informed about, unwanted contact, as silly as that sounds. I had no frame of reference. Eventually, he stopped. When I woke up at 8am, he was still there. I got him to wake up, and he was in an incredibly playful, and loving mood, but I was not. I wanted him to go. It took a really long time before he would leave, but he finally did, and I made it to work on time.
He continued texting me, and I was responsive. We wound up hanging up another time, such a poor move on my part, but I had never understood enforcing boundaries, so I had not even rationalized the gross misconduct that had happened. When we would hang out, we naturally engaged in conversations. I can’t really remember them. I do remember, though, talking about my love for classic sitcoms. I remember that, because the next time I saw him, he brought me an I Love Lucy customized license plate that could be used as decor. One thing about Jack, he really listened, and paid attention.
I brought Jack to my favorite coffee shop, and then to my favorite gay bar at the time, which he came along with his best friend, a woman. We had fun, I remember him letting loose, and poorly dancing on the dance floor. His best friend was fun, too.
He has pretty engaging, which was perfect for my co-dependent self, which I did not know I was back then (might explain why I struggled recovering from breaking up with my ex). I admit I liked the attention, and especially someone paying such close attention to me.
But romance was not something I wanted with him. I simply wasn’t really attracted to him in that way, and he seemed content with that.
I remember the only time I went to his house, which was really 90 minutes away, and he broke down and got very emotional. He told me about how he had to move out here to live with his parents to get away from his horrible ex. He then told me, with great detail, about having been sexually abuse by an older man as a child, and how the man was caught, and sent to prison. He told me he felt the guilt of that to this day, and even wrote letters to that man, and how confused it made him. He cried. I was one of those co-dependents that thought I was empath, also known as, I had no boundaries, and felt I had ownership over other people’s problems and healing, and that story really worked on me. I felt so many feelings in that moment, and provided hours of comfort and care. Looking back, of course, I have no way to know if the story is true in any way.
The casual friendship still continued, but not for much longer. I was the most loving, caring, kind, and compassionate individual he ever met, the only individual he could truly, fully trust.
I started dating a guy I was really attracted to that I met online, and once we became Facebook official, man, I wasn’t the loving, caring, kind, and compassionate individual anymore. I got barraged with harassing text messages, and an angry phone call. He was angry. He called me trailer trash, said I had ugly teeth, said I was ugly. He slandered me as a drug abuser (wasn’t really wrong, though…not back then), and that I was a psycho. He started calling me by my legal first name, which I never use in social relationships, and the texts amplified to one after the other. At one point, I received over 120 texts in one hour, and several phone calls. I was tagged in slandering Facebook posts.
I reacted to them, of course, and it was not going well for me.
It did not help that I started to see red truck driving by at night, back and forth, and not knowing if it could be him, since he knew where I lived still. My nerves were shot, I found myself pacing in the night, and unable to truly sleep.
I had to keep my phone off to avoid the harassment, and blocked him on social media. Soon after, the attacks start coming from the best friend, so I block her.
Remember he was a manager at a grocery store I worked at? He no longer had that job by then, but knew I was really respected this one Manager I used to work with. He found what store she worked at, and drove to it. He slandered me to her, told her I was doing drugs (which was true), and mind you, this was a drug free workplace, he started calling around other stores to slander me with untruths though, including that I was a liar, and a manipulator, and was trying to find what store I was working at. Old co-workers from different stores, including the Manager he visited, were reaching out to me to ask me what was going on, as Jack was saying I was this person who was abusing him, and causing harm to lots of other people, and that I was a manipulator. He was describing me in ways he described his ex to me initially.
The Manager told me she had actually recently talked to someone else who had casually mentioned Jack was going around slandering him as well. She connected me with him, we will call him Allen, and Allen told me a similar story of this having had happened to him. Allen, however, had actually managed to connect with Jack’s ex, and learnt that his ex had been verbally and emotionally abused for 5 years, was miserable, and was still being slandered by Jack, with the help of his friends. That was a scary prospect to think about, but Allen did deliver the good news, that eventually Jack will wear off of me, and find someone else. Allen had been Jack free for some time, about the length of time I had been.
Allen became a helpful resource, and we connected quite well, plus he was much older, in his 40’s, and more financially secure, so he had been able to connect with more resources.
More on Allen later.
Jack also remembered my favorite bar, and one night, in the midst of his harassment campaign, popped in the bar with the best friend. My best friends, who worked there, saw him, and immediately threw him out. I turned my phone off.
This enraged him, and he went on a Facebook rampage, threatening to sue the club, and sue me for defamation, and claiming he had been discriminated against. His rage was the highest it would be at any point, and the phone calls came more often, and the texts became more abusive.
I was exhausted.
I finally call the Tampa Police Department, and one officer arrives, looks at my texts, asks me what I did to lead him on, and took my statement. He told me I had 21 days to file for prosecution, and left. He certainly did not work to provide any resources, or attempt to encourage me to find a safe space to go, after all, Jack knew where I lived. Public safety at it’s finest!
Jack became enraged when he learned a police report was filed, and by then, I had blocked his phone number (for some reason Verizon wouldn’t do it until I had the police report, not sure why…..) He called me from a third-party phone number, probably the best friend, and began telling me how awful I am. I did some fawning at that point, let him know how great he was, and how he needed to move on, because I was scum. I also told him my attorney said that it was a felony to continue to contact me, and that if his friend enables it, she would be charged with a felony too. That was a full on lie. I had no attorney. That was the last time I ever spoke to him. He never contacted me again.
I’m sure it was because he found some other target, but I guess it did not matter. I never filed the prosecution paperwork, because I did not believe it would bring good results for me, and I did not believe I would be protected.
Luckily, he did not return to contacting me after 21 days. To this day, I still have never heard from him, although his best friend did follower me as a non-friend from a new, unblocked account a few years back, which of course resulted in a re-block. She also wound up liking a page I moderated, which I also removed her from. Other than that, I had not heard from her again, or him again in any fashion. I have no idea where he is now, and if he is still engaging in this behavior.
Yet, I realized, I still feel a sense of vulnerability from it. 10 years later, and although it was a very short time in my life, I still feel very concerned, and fearful of his defamations, especially with the increase of virality and cancel culture. I imagine how much easier it would be now to slander me than it was then. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but I still feel the fear of it, truthfully.
Where ever Jack is, I hope he has healed from whatever caused him to be this harmful, but even if he has, I hope to never see him face to face again.
Detailed sexual harm mentioned in this paragraph: Now, back to Allen. He was a pretty pivotal individual in this situation, an older man, stepping to provide me with support, compassion, and relatedness. I did not know it then, but looking back now, Allen took advantage of my vulnerability. With us connecting even more, he took me out to a bar in a neighboring city, and drinks were on him. It was Long Island Iced Tea night, and I was drinking them like they had no alcohol in them. I had no sense of control over myself at that time, and was masking my vulnerability. I do not remember that ending, but he took me to his house. I woke up the next morning to see two unwrapped condoms, and I don’t remember a moment. He took me home, and I felt odd around him afterwards, though I did not dissolve the relationship until he moved out of town. I did not realize then that it was sexual harm, that it was a violation of boundaries because I was so incredibly black out intoxicated, so I did not name it as such then, and just thought it was normal, and acceptable.
Since then, I drink responsibly, if I drink at all, which is rarely these days, and I make healthier relationship choices. This isn’t to self victim-blame, and saying I deserved it, I did not, no matter my behavior, but I have definitely worked to prevent myself from harming myself in that regard. I recognize my co-dependency, and although it still manifests, I set much healthier boundaries, and stronger sense of my self.
I’m proud of these developments, and writing about it shows me the growth since then. Yet, in my mind, I still sometimes feel that fear, and randomly feel unsafe, or uncertain out in public. 10 years later, and the situation, which was only a small chunk of time, still has some ownership over my being.
I think it may always will.