It Never Ends-My story begins 16 years ago, and has yet to end. I know it is a long story, but please, bear with me. I think it's one that I need to write, and one that many need to read.
When I was 16 years old, I thought I had met a really great guy, "Dustin": good-looking, charming, attentive, interested in all the same things I was interested in. And for two years, he remained that really great guy. My family and friends adored him, and so did I.
Then I found out that our whole relationship was a lie. He'd been cheating on me the entire time, with women AND men. He'd even slept with my male best friend. I had no idea, until I discovered him in bed with my female best friend...and he hit me for it. It was the first, but not the last, time he ever hit me. I forgave him, but things rapidly got worse. One day, he demanded sex. I refused. He made it very clear that I was in physical danger if I did not comply, that refusal was not an option, so I "gave in." Afterwards, he acted as if nothing at all had happened, but I felt horrible and afraid.
I left him, but soon discovered I had become pregnant on the day he'd raped me (it took years before I even realized or admitted that it was indeed rape). When he found out, he seemed very happy. He insisted I move into his apartment, and hung the ultrasound photo up on the wall. But that also soon fell apart. He began cheating again, and when I questioned him, he beat me. He began beating me and raping me on a regular basis. He would lock me in the apartment during the day with no telephone and no keys (the door locked automatically). He made sure I knew that if I was not in the apartment when he returned, he would hunt me down and kill me. He even called the police on ME one evening, telling them I was "irrational" and had "attacked" HIM! After the police were gone, he told me he'd done it so they would never believe me should I try to call them on him.
And then one night, he decided to make good on his threat. He attacked me, beating me severely and threatening me with a knife. He told me he wanted to cut me up into small pieces and flush them down the toilet. I was six months pregnant. He only stopped when I began having cramps. He would not allow me to go to the hospital, but did allow me to call his aunt, a registered nurse, provided that I not tell her why I was cramping. Thank God I was all right, and the baby was fine. Very soon after that, I was able to escape to my mother's home.
And even after all that, I forgave him and he moved in with me at my mom's. My last two months of pregnancy, he once again became the charming, sweet man I'd fallen in love with. And once again, he was doing it to cover up for his cheating.
He disappeared shortly after our son was born. Over the next several months, he would show up for small periods of time, insisting he wanted to be a father but never actually contributing to my son's physical or financial welfare (in 13 years, he has only once given me any money for my son...and the check bounced). A few times, he beat me again. Once, he attempted to kidnap my son from a church nursery, but was stopped by my priest and the police. During this time, he was also diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and was repeatedly institutionalized. He began to brag to me that now that he was "legally crazy," he could do to me whatever he wanted and get away with it. I was terrified. I ended up fleeing to a domestic violence shelter to get away from him and get some help for myself.
It worked. The therapy I recieved at the shelter helped me to realize that Dustin was an abuser and would not change, would in fact only get worse. They helped me to deal with the family and friends who still believed Dustin was a sweet, charming man. It gave me the strength to break it off for good. I got my own place, went back to college and began building a life for me and my son. I even reconnected with an ACTUAL great man I'd known since high school, "Luke," and began dating him.
That's when the stalking began.
At first, it was phone calls. Only a few here and there, mostly with violent or creepy music playing into the reciever (the Police's "Every Breath You Take" was a favorite of his). Soon, I was getting so many calls all day, every day, that I would change my number and turn the ringer off. He would still find my new number, and it would start up again. Next, he began parking his car down the block from my house so he could watch me. He'd follow me to the store, to school, to visit family. There were no stalking laws in our area at the time, and the police could do nothing to help me. To be frank, they were very unhelpful in the extreme. Many jeered at me, and asked me what I had done to "egg Dustin on." As if I had deserved somehow the treatment I was getting. It was a hopeless, dehumanizing experience.
Luke and I decided to move in together and I became pregnant again. When I began to show, the stalking and harassment escalated. Our answering machine would daily be filled with Dustin's threats and diatribes. He began mailing me letters which would start out begging me to come back to him and end threatening me. He would steal my mail, and then inexplicably began to use my address for his OWN mail. I found out why very shortly thereafter: he was trying to establish that he lived with me so as to avoid child support! And it worked. The support bureau did not believe me when I told him that not only did he NOT live with me (I lived with Luke), that he had NEVER lived at that address. They did not believe me; after all, Dustin had in his posession mail addressed to him from my address.
This time, I thought I could get help from the authorities, because of the mail theft and the lies to the government. But once again, the police did nothing.
Finally, a few weeks after my daughter's birth, Dustin broke into our home while we were visiting family and completely trashed it. He stole money, small items and photos of my son and me. He urinated on the carpets and wiped feces on some windows, breaking the rest. He shredded my clothing and urinated on Luke's clothes. He wrote threats and words like "Whore" and "Bitch" on the walls. He tore up or defaced photographs of Luke and my daughter. He tore all the food out of the fridge and cabinets and spread it across the kitchen floors and counters. He discovered the box in which I kept all the letters and threats he sent me...and destroyed it, writing "ha ha" on the lid of what used to be the box.
We went to the local police one last time...and again, they could not possibly have cared less. They told me that as no one had actually SEEN Dustin do this, they could not assume that he had. One even told me that "this Dustin seems like a pretty nice guy, are you sure it was him?" I realized then that the police could not and would not protect me.
I contacted the domestic violence shelter, who suggested I move out of state and tell no one where I was going, not even my family and closest friends. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. We moved across the country and started a new life. For an entire year, we were Dustin-free. It was wonderful, to not have to look over your shoulder or be afraid to check the answering machine. It is the kind of freedom that most people take for granted---I know I once did.
But not having contact with our families proved to be too stressful, especially as my mother was chronically ill. After a year, we made contact again. Within weeks, Dustin arrived in our new state. We still do not know who told him where we were. We felt we could not trust anyone, which is a horrible feeling. And Dustin was enraged by our attempt to move out of his reach. He began to watch us again and befriended a few of our neighbors, with whom we were friendly. He charmed them into believing WE were the bad guys, having "stolen" his son and taken him across the country (the same son he has never shown an interest in, never sent a birthday or Christmas card to, and never paid a dime towards his care). Dustin, like most abusers, is very charming and manipulative...he can make almost anyone believe almost anything, and it's almost always a pack of lies. The neighbors believed him, too...until items in their home began to turn up missing. One of them connected these thefts to Dustin, and began to question the truth of Dustin's statements. The neighbor called me on the phone, let me know Dustin was in town and watching me.
It was then that I learned that our new state was completely different from our old one in regards to stalking and abuse. The police here took me VERY seriously. They have, in fact, been absolutely wonderful and supportive. They helped me to obtain a restraining order and to serve it on Dustin, who at that time wasn't even aware that I knew he was in town. He learned his lesson from it, however, and has since made sure I do not have access to any address he might be at so that he cannot be served again, and has bragged about it to me on the telephone on more than one occassion. He purposefully stays with friends or in hostels...or even, on the streets. He never has a car in his name, and recieves his SSI checks at his mother's house, who then forwards it wherever he happens to be. He thinks this makes him very smart.
Over the next decade, Dustin would show up periodically to stalk and harass me, always managing to stay out of the reach of the police. He has become a master at avoiding detection: he telephones me from pay phones, no longer puts any of his threats in writing or on the answering machine, and never stays in one place more than a few months. He uses aliases frequently, and even sends messages through his friends or lovers. When he does show up personally at my doorstep, he does so during times when it would be difficult for the police to arrive quickly (during rush hour, for example) and never stays long enough for the police to get there. Often, he comes with a friend to intimidate me. Once, he attempted to break into our former apartment by crowbaring the windows. He left a rambling, unsigned "poem" on my door another time. He tries to talk to my friends, neighbors or my husband's (Luke and I have since married) co-workers. He has confronted my family, including my very elderly grandfather, demanding information on my whereabouts. He even stalked my babysitter on two occassions, to see when we might leave the kids alone with her.
His actions have also become more and more erratic. Some years ago, I recieved a phone call from a former roommate of his, who had gone out of town and returned to find her apartment trashed and many items missing. She also found two things that made her fear for my safety: a note with the name of the city I live in and a bus schedule, and a 'frozen death spell' with my name (and maiden name, he refuses to acknowledge that I am married) in the freezer. He has also taken to telling people that he is dying of AIDS and needs to see me "one last time." I have no idea if it is true or not. These are only a few examples of the endless harassment and torment I go through at Dustin's hands.
Three years ago, I moved from the apartment to a new home. Shortly afterwards, I recieved a call from Dustin. He told me he was taking his medication and was "better." He then denied that he ever tried to kill me or rape me and said he had "forgotten" about all the times he beat me. He "couldn't understand" why I was afraid of him and didn't want anything to do with him. He said I was being "unfair and cruel" to "live in the past." He claimed he kept trying to contact me because he thought that was what I wanted! I asked him what he thought the restraining orders were about, and he told me, "I thought that was Luke's doing." He then began begging me to give him a second chance to be a father and a "friend" to me. When I told him no, he said he would "never contact" me again. I did not believe him.
Two years ago,my friends began reporting that Dustin was attempting to find out "where I was hiding." He approached my male best friend in a nightclub and demanded my phone number (I had once again changed it). When my friend refused, he snidely informed him that "I know where she lives, in that apartment." He was then seen stalking my friend and his significant other on two other occassions, hoping he would lead him to me. I was relieved to hear that he thinks I am still in the apartment and thus does not know where I live, but I am not foolish enough to believe that he will not eventually discover it.
That was the last time I have heard from or about Dustin. I know he is still alive (so much for his dying of AIDS story), as I have seen arrest reports in our hometown for him: he has been repeatedly arrested for various crimes such as theft and prostitution.
This has been the longest period of time I have been Dustin-free since I was 16 years old, and I am now almost 32. But I fear it's only a matter of time before he finds me again. Last week, I got a phone call on my voice mail: music. I felt that fear again, in the pit of my stomach. And anger, anger at him for doing this to me and to my family, to our lives.
My children are homeschooled, largely in part because I am afraid Dustin will make good on his threat to take them from a playground or a parking lot. I have to be obsessively careful about where I let them go and with whom. They have never spent the night at a friend's house or gone away to summer camp. When my son does leave the house, he takes a cell phone with him. He knows Dustin exists, and knows he must be ever vigilant. It's so very much to ask of a young child.
As for me, I have to constantly look over my shoulder and be aware of my surroundings. I have to be careful and suspicious of every new friend I make, and even of the ones I've had for years. I don't answer the telephone if I don't recognize the number on my caller ID. When the doorbell rings, I feel that fear in the pit of my stomach again. I do not answer it, if I don't know the person on the other side. I am even afraid to answer the door to repairmen or utility workers, as Dustin once had a friend pretend to be a representative of the phone company to try to get into my house. I can't keep anything even remotely resembling a regular schedule, because stalkers like Dustin use those as tools to attack and harass. I rarely leave the house alone, and Luke and I almost never go out without our children. I keep a baseball bat by the door, and a can of mase by my bedside. I do not allow my children to answer the telephone. I encouraged my kids to learn martial arts, in part so that they could defend themselves if it became necessary. I am afraid to go out at night alone. I could not even have a honeymoon, because Dustin had been seen in the area once again and I could not leave my children alone. And once a year, I must go to court and renew my restraining order, telling my story again to a judge and hoping that this time, it can be served and Dustin can be arrested and answer for what he has put me through all these years.
The police have informed me that the next time Dustin shows up at my door, to call 911. They will then serve the restraining order on him in jail, and I can file for a stalking order, which would also be served on him in jail. If he violates those, he would go to jail for many, many years. I hold on to that hope, that someday I will have justice for all he has put me through, for the years of my life that he's taken away and all the normal things he's stolen from my children's childhood.
Sometimes, people ask me if I am afraid to face him in court. I am not afraid to face him in court. There, I will be protected by bailiffs and sheriffs and metal detectors. No, I'm not afraid of court. I'm afraid of someday opening my front door and finding Dustin there, holding a gun to my head. I'm afraid of making breakfast one morning and finding my son missing. I am afraid of finding out that once again, someone I thought was my friend has given Dustin information to help him stalk me, to terrorize me. Afraid of court? How could I be, when that would end all these years of fear I've had to live with?
This story doesn't have a happy ending, or a sad ending...it doesn't have an ending at all. It won't end until I have that day in court, or he is jailed for something else for the rest of his natural life, or he simply dies. At this point, I do not care which, so long as one of them occurs. That may sound cold and callous...but I have been held hostage by this man for more than a decade. More, my husband and kids have been held hostage as well. We do not deserve that. We deserve justice. We deserve peace. We deserve the normalcy of slumber parties, weekends away from the kids, answering the phone without fear.
I only pray to God that someday, we have it. It Never Ends
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