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July 13, 2011

The Haunting of Erin Andrews

Two years after that infamous video, the ESPN reporter still can't escape it — even though she put her stalker behind bars. As she gears up for college football season, she opens up about the public and private battles she's still waging.

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erin andrews

Erin Andrews reports from North Carolina in 2010.

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You faced Barrett for the first time in court in December 2009, five months after the video went online. What was it like to see him face-to-face?
It was awful. He ended up walking in right in front of us, and I started to hyperventilate. I looked at my dad and was like, "I can't breathe." My dad was a rock. I had these notes, and he goes, "Look down and concentrate on your notes." I looked down, and you could just hear teardrops hitting my paper. And it was funny, for a guy who stood behind a door and took this video of me and stalked me, he didn't look at me once in court. He couldn't look at me.

At the sentencing in March, the judge let me speak to him. I got so nervous and geeked up that my heel got caught in the carpet on the way to the podium, and I almost fell on my face. Then I started telling him what he'd done to my life. I yelled, "You're going to go to jail for how many years, but I'll never get this off the Internet — I'll have to explain it to my future husband and my kids!"

That spring, you went on Dancing With the Stars, causing a new storm.
Yes, my whole reason for doing the show was to get away from my life. I did it to get my smile back. Then Elisabeth Hasselbeck said my stalker should have just waited and he could have seen me naked on Dancing With the Stars, referring to the costumes. That was basically throwing stalking in the face of every victim and laughing about it.

Your stalker is now in jail but gets out next fall. Does that worry you?
That's something I think about a lot. I'll need a restraining order. I'm not married; I'm not dating anyone. When I finally have a life and a family and someone who wants to be a part of all this, I'm going to have to explain, "So, my stalker's getting out of jail ..." It's going to be a different life with him out of jail.

How can women protect themselves, and their privacy, in hotels?
If the clerk says your room number out loud and there are people standing there, ask for a different room. If you get a room with an adjoining room, prop a card against the door so you can tell if it's been opened. Cover your peephole with a Band-Aid. Put up the "Do Not Disturb" sign — no one needs to be in your room. If you're there for a few days and need towels, call the front desk.

The athletes you report on need to protect their privacy as well, or they could be embroiled in a scandal ...
Oh, yeah, I'm seeing a lot of colleges educating their athletes, saying, "Look, you've got to be really careful about what pictures you put on Facebook or in social media because there may be people who try to take advantage of you."

Last summer, you lobbied for a bill that would strengthen laws against stalkers, but the bill didn't pass Congress. Now it has been reintroduced. Will you keep lobbying for it?
Yes. The laws are so outdated, and technology has just gotten better and crazier and faster. The laws need to be strengthened — they're a joke. Hopefully, we can get something done. I've brought attention to the crime. Now let's fix it.

Speaking out about your experience could arguably cause more problems for you. What motivates you?
When someone embarrasses me publicly the way this guy did, I feel I have no choice but to fight back. And at the time everything happened, I got a ton of letters from women who were stalking victims. People had set up video cameras in their homes, whether it was a neighbor or a handyman. The videos were on the Internet, and the women couldn't get them down or get these guys arrested. They said, "First, we want to welcome you to the sorority. But we also want to tell you to please fight this — you're our voice." I had to.


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