When Kate Brennan dumped her controlling boyfriend, her troubles really began. First, he started calling obsessively and driving around her block; then he moved in across the street to keep an eye on her. The police said they couldn't help. Today, 14 years later, she still worries that he'll find her. Brennan (a pseudonym, for security reasons) wrote the new book In His Sights, in which she describes what it's like to have a stalker.
Q: What was the first sign something was off with the guy?
A: When we moved in together, we had a wonderful time for months. But what evolved was in some ways the classic pattern of a controlling person: He wanted me to quit work, so I would be dependent on him financially. Then he started saying cruel things. In the early days, he would tell me how beautiful I was or compliment my style or how I carried myself. But later, he started criticizing me. We'd be going to a party, so I'd put on lipstick, and suddenly he'd say, "You're going to wear lipstick? I think women who wear lipstick look like whores."
Q: What happened after you broke up?
A: Once I got my own apartment, I would find that my power was out or my phone line was disconnected; then I realized I wasn't getting any mail. He'd canceled the mail-forwarding so he was getting all my correspondence. And he'd call and tell me that he knew I was in a particular place at a particular time. Or I would come home and the door would be ajar or unlocked, and things would be moved around as if someone had been there. He tried to destroy my sanity. When he moved into a house across the street, I went to the police.
Q: What did they tell you?
A: The police asked him to come in for questioning, but then said it was virtually impossible to build a case against him because I didn't really have any hard evidence. But they also warned me that I should fear for my physical safety. They advised me on security measures and on how to hide.
Q: So what did you do then?
A: I moved. During the worst of it, I moved 20 times in 18 months. That included weeks spent at B&Bs, hotels, and friends' or relatives' houses.
Q: What's your situation now?
A: I haven't had any significant romantic relationships since I left him. I saw him in a store about five years ago, but haven't seen him since. I live in a place where strangers are pretty obvious, and people would notice anyone new on the property or anything suspicious. I've been advised by police and private detectives that as long as he's alive, I should never let down my vigilance.
Q: That's helpful ... What's your best advice for others in similar situations?
A: I'd encourage them to ask for help: tell family, friends, and work associates, as well as the police, and get counseling. If I had it to do over, I would have asked for help much sooner than I did.