I watched his face change from a look of concern to amused dismissal.
May 3, 2014: The day the woman behind me crunched her huge van into the rear of my tiny Sentra. I’d never even so much as been in a car accident or experienced whiplash before. The only thing I knew when I realized what happened was that my neck hurt.
The other driver, Marcy* seemed familiar with accident protocol, so we pulled into a nearby gas station and called the police. I was disoriented, immediately had a headache, and my neck throbbed.
The next day, when searing pain and numbness started to spread into my fingers, I went to the hospital. After spending less than five minutes in the room with me and assuring me that my neck wasn’t broken, the ER doctor quickly dismissed my request for X-rays.
He patronizingly told me that I would, of course, hurt for a few days, but X-rays weren’t necessary since he was convinced it was only tissue damage. He prescribed some aspirin and sent me on my way.
What I didn’t realize was that this would lead to me being stalked by Marcy for the next six months.
After the pain continued for several days, I contacted a clinic that specialized in accidents, and after an MRI, learned I had a herniated disc in my neck.
Being a writer, I decided to channel some of my experiences and frustration at the time into my blog, and wrote a post about what was going on and how terrible insurance companies are. I mentioned Marcy — not by name — and soon after, she contacted me through my blog.
She accused me of being pathetic and lying, and that I had purposely slammed my brakes to cause the accident, even though at the scene, we both independently reported a black SUV that cut me off.
The only reason she didn’t receive a ticket, the officer told me, was because we had the same story.
These emails continued through my blog, increasing each time in their nastiness. I never responded to her and I would even get follow-up emails asking why I hadn’t posted her comments.
Marcy contacted me several times in this manner over the next few months, ramping up her accusations and basically making my life a huge nightmare.
I was afraid, since my address was on the police report, that she would come after me. I hid at home, scared each time I saw a car like hers drive down our street. I had panic attacks regularly.
The very thought of running into this woman practically had me in tears. I stayed at home as much as possible and stopped going out by myself.
Everyone in my family was worried that someone would show up at the house because we’d seen her Facebook posts where her friends suggested that she "should have hit me harder," or asked her if they needed to "do something."
She continued contacting me through my blog, an avenue I could not block her on. At some point, however, I realized she was revealing information that she had no business knowing.
I soon found out Marcy worked for the IT department at the very hospital I’d gone to. She’d suggested that she had spoken to the EMTs and the doctor who’d seen me, but her smug emails soon revealed something even more sinister: She'd broken into my medical files at the hospital.
I felt like I had been stripped naked in front of a stranger. Everything I had revealed to the doctor and nurses, everything they’d written about me, every number and stat that I had — she’d looked at it. I felt embarrassed. I felt dirty. I felt violated.
Marcy kept emailing, and when I finally told her to stop because she was harassing me, she replied with more venom. I’d had enough. I decided to get a restraining order.
Nervous, I laid out my case to the old Georgian judge, but once he realized that my stalker was a woman and had only threatened me "on the Facebook," he stopped caring.
I actually watched his face go from professional concern to amused dismissal.
Practically in tears, I listened to him explain that online threats on Facebook were "just not serious enough" to warrant the order. I could have argued until I was blue in the face, but "online female stalker" didn’t jive with his idea of dangerous.
I wasn’t going to wait, as he’d suggested, for her to do or say something "actually" threatening. I decided to take back my dignity and my life, so my husband and I drove straight to the hospital where she worked and reported her.
About three days later, I received a letter in the mail confirming that "someone" had broken into my medical file on two separate occasions: once right after the accident, and once right around the first time she contacted me.
There are no words to express how violated I felt, staring down at a paper that confirmed an angry stranger had literally gone around and spoken to medical professionals, broken into my private file, and tried to use the information against me to stalk and harass me online, after hitting my car and marring me for life.
Marcy was quietly let go from her position, and the emails stopped. It should have felt like victory but the only thing I felt was anger. Now, Marcy works at another hospital, which I'm sure has no idea of her past behavior.
I'm torn with guilt that perhaps I should contact the hospital and let them know what kind of person they hired. Some of my medical files are there, too, and I wonder if she’s ever looked me up or broken into those out of curiosity or revenge.
I’ve looked up plenty of stories of stalking in the past, comparing them to mine, because I always felt ridiculous for my feelings of violation. I grappled with the judge’s attitude about it for months afterward, as I waited for potential fallout for making her lose her job.
I often wondered how quickly I could have gotten a restraining order if Marcy was a man in the same situation, and I sometimes feel silly because my stalker was "just" a woman, and did all of her terrorizing online.
But I came to a realization that I hope will help other people in any situation where they are uncertain: No one has the right to make you feel scared to leave your house. NO ONE.
No one has the right to make you feel dirty or violated, and if you feel powerless because of someone else’s actions, you should do whatever you can to take back your life because you have the right to be happy, whole, and unmolested.
And no matter who did it to you, man or woman, don't let anyone convince you that the fear and pain you're feeling is silly.
*names have been changed