A Matter of Public Record


I am going to divulge something personal, not only because it’s already a matter of public record but also because I am ready for it not to matter anymore.

I was stalked.

Not on the Internet—this was many years ago, before Google & Facebook did the heavy lifting for stalkers—but at my workplace. Mine was a garden-variety stalker, who had apparently fixated on me after seeing my photo in the campus newspaper.  He was no longer matriculated at the university, and the campus police had made it clear that he was no longer welcome there.  This did not dissuade him from leaving the defaced photo taped to my office door one night.  I stopped biking to work and never walked around campus alone; I unlisted my telephone number; I took a course in self-defense.

I lived like this for a few months before obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order at the local courthouse.

After that, he left me alone. Alone with my newly-developed anxiety issues.

Several months later, my stalker was arrested for reckless driving when he crossed a median into oncoming traffic.  He told the police officer that he wanted to find out how it would feel to kill someone.

I still remember teetering on the precipice of a full-blown panic attack when a resourceful reporter from the city paper called me for a comment—at my unlisted telephone number.  The documents from my court hearing to obtain the TRO were a matter of public record.

From the distance of decades, I can tell you how this experience affected my outlook on privacy.  For many years I eschewed publicity, even after I moved cities and legally changed my name.  I preferred not to be photographed and was reticent when interviewed by journalists. I declined numerous invitations to appear on a local cable network.

Until 3 years ago.

Then my life became a matter of public record again.  I registered my domain name, began blogging and joined Facebook.  My book jacket includes a photograph.  My Twitter bio lists my location. The public record looks completely different now than it did 20+ years ago, and my digital footprint is indelibly stamped on its cached pages.

Still, I remain cautious. I am, perhaps, a little more anxious than my peers. I do not allow my Facebook friends to “check me in” to places and I have untagged myself in posts.  I moderate all comments on my blog. I experience a moment of uneasiness when I see my name on publicity materials for lectures and I am startled when I receive emails from strangers via my website.

I celebrate the technology that allows me to write and you to read this post.  I lament the technology that ensures my words will remain a matter of public record.



Comments (2)

it’s amazing how events so far in our past can affect our present. thank you for your honesty. i’m happy you were able to overcome at least some of your anxiety so you have the freedom to share your thoughts and insights with us!

I have found that healing from emotional trauma takes a long, long time. Much longer than physical traumas. I have also found my writer’s notebook to be one of the most useful tools in this process. It’s filled with scribbles, sketches and words–many of them tear-stained. I wrote this piece a few months ago, when I agreed to appear on AIB. More news about that next week…

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