Today I will be talking about something quite personal. This post may be quite long but I am really ready to share this story.
When I was 17, I started at a college a couple of towns away from where I lived. I had quite a hefty journey in each day and as a result I relied on the shop at the college quite a bit.
There was a man who worked there who was about ten years older than me who has very dark, close cut hair, pale skin and wore very strong glasses. He also used a wear a massive number of rings on his fingers. He seemed friendly enough and we would often pass the time while he was scanning my goods. His name was Chris.
Probably about six weeks after I started college he gave me a keyring with my name on it. Until very recently I kept that keyring as a reminder. Never judge a book by its cover. I didn't think an awful lot of this and in all honestly assummed it was probably damaged stock from the shop and it just so happened to have my name on it. I thought it he had bought it, it was sweet.
The next couple of weeks went by and he seemed to know a lot about my purchases, but again I did not think anything of it.
Then, one Friday night I went to a party. On the Monday a boy called Terry who had been at that party asked for my surname so that he could add me on Facebook. This was in the shop and Chris heard.
That night Chris added me as a friend. This was nearly seven years ago and at this point we weren't as concerned about Facebook security as we are now. It was almost a game to get as many friends as possible so I accepted the Friend Request.
I wish I hadn't.
That night he sent me a message telling me that he had feelings for me. I explained that I did not see him that way and that I was with somebody. He sent me a number of messsges telling me that although, it was frowned up on a relationship between the two of us was ok. I told him again that I did not see him that way. He send back something about us being friends and I was satisfied that the message was settled.
This was not the case.
For the next for weeks the messages kept coming. I would get atleast five Facebook messages from him a day. Again this was seven years ago, to go onto Facebook there wasn't an app you had to go onto the actual mobile website or be at a computer. He also commented on every single status I put up at least once.
My Auntie thought that if I invited him out with some of my friends he would realise just how young I was. I have always been quite mature and we thought he was mistaking 17 year old me with a 21 year old woman. The idea was if he saw me with my 17 year old friends, who couldn't drink, stay out late and were still learning to drive he would be severely put off.
This was the worst thing I could have done.
As we were going out he had to have my mobile number. That's when it got even worse. He added the friends that came out for lunch with us on Facebook. He would text me 40 plus times a day and leave at least ten missed calls. Resulting in a number of voicemails.
When I didn't respond he would message my friends or Facebook and ask if I was ok. This was not just limited to the couple of friends that he had met. This could just be someone random from my friends' list.
By this point I was also receiving around 15 Facebook messages a day and he started to appear on my walk to college from the train station. As the way he was walking made no sense it was obvious that he had changed his route to work and was going out of his way to see me.
He also appeared to know my timetable and quite often walked past the windowed doors of my classrooms looking in. This was on floors that he had absolutely no cause to be on.
This went on for a number of weeks. He started waiting for me outside the shop when I started late and calls and texts just kept coming.
Finally my friend Mel made me realise how serious it was. One night on Facebook I had out a status up he had commented on it six times within about half an hour. This was now standard behaviour, on the same day I had around 100 other forms of contact. She called him out. She told him that of he continue she would go to the Police.
His reaction told me everything I needed to. After being quite rude to her, he deleted every comment he had ever made on my Facebook. As there were hundreds by this time it must have taken him hours.
The next day my Auntie and I went to see my Tutor at college and made a formal complaint. He got demoted and was told he was only allowed to speak to me when serving at the shop and only to ask for the money owed.
Thank Goodness this worked. I often think what could have happened if my friend had not been so savvy, would it have ended so pleasantly? The answer is probably not.
I think if he had become much more obsessed with me that a demotion would have made no difference.
Now I am afraid of customer service reps. If I am at a supermarket I would rather struggle at self service than go to a checkout, I don't let myself become a regular somewhere and I am even scared of the hairdressers. I just can't trust these people who I have chance encounters with anymore. That is very sad and not likely to change.
Recently I found him on Facebook. He is now in his late thirties, has a dead end job and looks just how he did when I was 17. Seeing him again terrified me so much I blocked him.
I just hope I don't miss the warning signs again, and even though I haven't seen Mel in a number of years she will always hold a place in my heart.