It’s been ten years since I left my abusive relationship. We were together for 8 years and married for 5. It took a lot to get free. It isn’t easy to “just leave” an abusive relationship. It’s scary and takes a lot of mental strength. (I wrote about that here in Why Doesn’t She Just Leave Him?)
And while I haven’t seen him in 10 years, I still feel scared of him. He shows up in my dreams sometimes so I never really shake those feelings. They still follow me around.
As far as I know, he still lives in Canada, where I used to live with him. I am now back in the United States. There are 2,000 miles between us but I never know if and when he will show up.
Not that I expect him to show up, face to face. I am hoping he has moved on from me finally. But, every so often, I realize that he is still following me — on the internet that is.
But, every so often, I realize that he is still following me — on the internet that is.
There are many dark corners of the internet.
It isn’t that hard to stalk someone online. It’s easy to hide behind a screen and “watch” someone without them even knowing.
Truthfully, it has been a while since I have “heard” from him. However, I am under no illusion that he isn’t still creeping around behind the darkness of the internet.
When we were together, he had the stalker tendencies with other people he knew. He spent much of his time looking people up that he knew from school and hacking into their accounts to read their messages. He knows how to do it.
His behavior always bordered on obsessive.
It was scary to watch and I always knew that if I left, he would do it to me. But that wasn’t enough to keep me around. I figured, let him.
Is he still doing it? I would assume so.
I must assume so. I can’t get complacent about it. Not that I have too much to hide. Not that I am doing anything that I shouldn’t be doing.
It just feels strange to go 10 years knowing that someone is always looking over my shoulder. Someone always has access to me and what I am doing. The internet makes that very easy to do. Anyone could be doing it for all I know.
Over the years, I have had many random people message me on social media. From the wording, I know it is him. I never respond. Maybe it isn’t him but I am not about to take a chance on that.
I trust no one.
Once, a new person showed up on a message board that I used to frequent. I knew it was him right away. I could tell by the way he typed. I could tell by the way he interacted with others.
I reported it but nothing was done about it. I realized even if he got banned, he could just make another account. I stopped posting on that message board. I didn’t need him getting extra ammunition on me.
We all know the internet is not a safe place. There are many evil people out there. I just happen to know one of those people on an intimate level. I was married to one of them. That makes it even scarier. I can’t feel safe ever again. He is thousands of miles away yet I still have to watch over my shoulder. No amount of time will make me feel any safer from him.
It doesn’t keep me from living my life necessarily. It just makes me more aware of who I interact with and who could be watching at any given time.
How I Keep Myself Safe(ish)
Make sure any personal information (address, phone number, etc.) is not accessible to the public. I never have any of this information on any of my social media profiles.
I also never talk to people I don’t know through private messages. If a random guy messages me, I don’t respond. I don’t mind having conversations on a platform that is public but private chat is a no go for me. Also, I don’t accept friend requests from people I don’t know.
Some people also like to use an alternate name while on the internet. I don’t feel the need to do this but it is definitely something you might want to consider if you are in the same situation.
You should keep your accounts as secure as possible as well. Change up your passwords often and don’t use ones that can be easily guessed.
Even if you don’t have someone following your online, it is always a good idea to do what you can to keep yourself safe. You never know who could be lurking out there.