Someone I have known for over ten years is obsessed with me.
Not in a cute way that would make you want to decorate your pinterest board with an array of hallmark inspired quotes. Rather, this level of obsession is sadistic and even has local law enforcement alarmed.
I met Obsessed Othman a decade ago through another Muslim community. A handful of mutual friends, including my ex fiancé, warned me to be careful befriending him because he is known to be aggressive and “a bit off” – two descriptions that were repeatedly used.
Eventually, Othman got married to a lovely young lady, had two children with her, and I moved across the country in pursuit of my own life goals. I would only ever hear from him about twice a year when he and his now ex-wife would visit the West Coast.
This past spring, Othman called me to insist I fly all the way to the opposite coast and visit him. What made this even more alarming is that he offered to pay for my travel.
“Uh, you’re married,” I said.
“I’m separated,” Othman corrected.
“I’m so sorry to hear that. But I’m not interested in you like that,” I responded.
“I’m separated. Come on, I’ll fly you out tonight!”
“No. I’m not interested,” I insisted.
“I think you’re gorgeous-”
Do you see what he did? The first red flag is when a man, or anyone really, is not able to accept no for an answer and instead attempts to manipulate the direction of the conversation.
I continued to refuse his advances and felt a wave of embarrassment wash over me when he would not get the hint. At first, I thought he must be enduring some sort of extreme confusion over the unraveling of his marriage. After all, he was a husband, a father, and a religious man. These advances couldn’t possibly be serious. I ended up telling him I was busy and cutting off the call despite the fact that he continued to speak over me.
He texted me minutes later stating, “We need to discuss this!”
An hour later he called me thirteen times, consecutively, in an eight-minute time frame.
In the next twelve hours, he called over thirty two times without rest. I blocked his number. When he realized his number had been blocked, he started calling from a different number. This game went on for weeks. He would call at all hours of the night. My phone would ring, non-stop, for a solid 8-10 minutes, just from him.
Each new number he created, I blocked. I blocked him from all of my social media accounts. Subsequently, he made his phone number private so that I could no longer block his calls. The constant calling did not stop.
Living alone and receiving these calls during the middle of the night frightened me. Every phone call from him made me sick to my stomach. I had told him point blank stop calling me and leave me alone. But nothing I said mattered – he had become completely irrational. I often feared that I would walk out of my house one day to find him standing by my front door. Or what if he decided to follow me home one night? I was living in an almost constant state of fear.
As if the calls weren’t bad enough, I had a sneaking suspicion that he was using a fake account to monitor my social media. I was being watched without even knowing it.
When this mess first began, I decided against filing a police report – or getting this behavior on official record – because I knew he had already had some troubles with the law. His ex-wife had a restraining order put out on him over claims of domestic violence. I was afraid that if I went to the police, I would inflame the situation and either his wife, his children, or I would have to pay the price for it. I believed that eventually he would accept my rejection and just go away on his own.
This was a poor decision.
Othman was fixated on me for an unknown reason and, no matter how much I resisted, he continued to pursue me. There was a small point of peace when his calls ceased. That peace was broken towards the end of the summer when the calls started again. He even started commenting on my articles here asking me to call him, to fly to him, telling me that he was moving to the city in which I lived.
My superior sent him a formal letter demanding he halt all communication or it would result in legal consequences. My mentor even called and spoke with him, directly.
But even that didn’t stop the eerily intimate emails. In Othman’s mind, we are mutually in love with each other and this is all some romantic elaborate chase. His reality is completely severed from the situation. It was at this point that I took all the evidence I had been collecting since February and brought it to my local police station. It was time to file a formal complaint. I spoke to an officer and, to my utter surprise, they could do nothing to protect me from what they perceived to be simple phone harassment.
“So, when he chops me up into pieces, then y’all will have enough evidence against him?” I asked.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but we’re limited in what we can do. Keep documenting everything,” the officer said.
Now, to be clear, despite the lack of action from the police – Othman was involved in the act of stalking which is a crime in all 50 states. In California, stalking is defined as, “repeated harassment that creates a credible threat of harm either for the victim or the victim’s immediate family.” The police chose not to pursue because the threat of harm was not credible enough.
Fear became my new normal. I notified my neighbors and my coworkers, both locally and abroad, to be warned of the perpetrator. I adjusted my public settings to private, purged my follower base by the thousands to ensure anonymity and safety. Above all of this fear and anxiety, what hurts me the most is seeing my parents devastated over their dismay that they cannot protect me from 3,000 miles away. When law enforcement claims they are limited in what they can do, that tells me I have to accept this as my new reality. And I don’t.
This is not acceptable behavior. This is not legal behavior. This is not a man who truly loves a woman doing whatever it takes to win her over. This is a man who does not accept no for an answer. This is a potential danger waiting to implode.
It is a certain fact that when people fixate or harass an individual they are psychologically unstable and can even suffer from narcissistic traits. A minority of stalkers are even psychotic but this can often go undiagnosed. The longer a stalking episode lasts, the more intrusive it gets – the greater the likelihood that a mental disorder is fueling the behavior putting the victim in even greater danger.
Not every person who engages in stalking deals with a serious mental health issue. Stalkers are not a cognate sect. Studies have identified a number of sub groups with varying reasons behind their actions. These reasons vary from rejection to straight up delusion.
Stalking is not a joke nor is it something to long for. Actions derived from fixation and obsession by offenders only works to steal the perception of safety from victims. This intrusive and assiduous behavioral pattern perpetuates emotional, psychological, and eventually physical harm. The scariest part is the idea that the physical harm might not even reach me, but might come into contact with his innocent children.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month. If you feel you are being stalked or harassed, please do not hesitate to take action. For further information regarding laws in your state please contact your local law enforcement agency or visit, http://www.stopvaw.org/stalking