It was a month past my 18th birthday when my brother and I moved 3 hours away to a Christian college campus.
The plan was to work on campus until school started which was only a few weeks away and then we planned to attend school and work part time at jobs provided by the college.
This was during the high school period in my life when I had been very influenced by legalistic people at my church.
As a result I had decided I would no longer wear pants. Indeed, by this time I hadn’t worn pants in almost two years.
I was concerned that this might be an issue in the job I was getting on campus and had even contacted the school ahead of time to make sure that it would be okay.
They assured me that wearing skirts would not be a problem.
They significantly misrepresented what would be expected. My new boss at the college first insisted that I wear pants and even went out and bought me a pair since I didn’t own any.
Then she mocked me when I got upset, because I didn’t want to go against my beliefs.
Of all places I expected the Christian college to respect my beliefs.
I was so, so wrong.
I can still remember the boss lady’s voice taunting me mockingly, “Do you miss your mommy? Poor wittle baby.”
Maybe I naively expected people to adhere to their agreements — that those who claimed Christ would keep their word, but the people who had told me on the phone that I could wear skirts now told me that I couldn’t.
I would like to say that this was the worst thing that happened to me on campus.
But it was not.
It was just the prelude.
It was 1998, and this was only a few months after the Thurston High School shooting which happened only an hour away from where I grew up.
For me, I had entered a new world after graduation, an adult world, which I was trying to fit into –and doing a poor job of it sometimes.
I was still struggling to know when to stand up for myself and when to go along with whatever was happening, when to be assertive and when to comply.
And then there was Jock.
[The names have been changed in this story.]
Jock started work there on campus the same week that my brother and I did.
He paid me a lot of attention.
In hindsight, I’m guessing maybe he liked me, but his method of showing it left so much to be desired.
The first evening, a group of us were sitting in the staff room after dinner.
My new friend Mia and I were singing together practicing harmonies when Jock inserted himself into our conversation.
“You see that root beer bottle on the piano?” –this was an empty glass root beer bottle– “I could break that bottle and slit your throat with it and you’d bleed out.” He smirked when he said it –almost whispered it from behind me where he was sitting on the couch.
It kind of creeped me out how he kept grinning as he said it even though it was obvious that I didn’t like what he was saying.
I don’t even think that anyone else heard what he said.
“Umm. Okay.” I said confused. “That’s really gross –and morbid.”
I suggested to Mia that we go back to my dorm and practice there.
I felt him staring at me all the way out of the room.
It gave me the creeps.
But he wasn’t the first creepy guy I’d ever dealt with.
So I made up my mind then to try to avoid him.
That proved way more difficult than I had hoped it would be.
Every morning at meals, he was sitting next to me.
If I went for a walk, he’d want to come along.
He seemed to know my work schedule and would be hanging around waiting when I got out.
Now, if I had been interested in him, this might have been endearing.
But he consistently repeated the same scenario: he would consistently tell me new ways that he could kill me.
And I would ask him to stop.
And he wouldn’t.
I was the only person sleeping in our section of the dorm because the school year hadn’t started yet. I was getting concerned about my safety and started triple and quadruple checking the locks at night.
In 1998 I didn’t have a cell phone. The only way to contact my parents was a pay phone at the end of the hall in our dorm –a dorm which didn’t lock. Only the individual rooms locked.
The first time he joked about killing me, I told myself that I was overreacting and that there was no reason to bother my parents about it.
Now, as an adult, I see his behaviour as a huge warning sign. I have the advantage of age and maturity: I know now that this is not how a real man treats a lady –or how a mentally stable person acts for that matter.
Now, as an adult, I can put a word to this: I had a stalker. Weird that it wasn’t until today that I put the word with the situation.
He planted himself firmly in our little group: my brother, Mia, Jock, and myself. No matter how I tried to avoid him, I couldn’t.
He always found a way to insert himself into our conversations and excursions.
On the one hand, I found his attention flattering –I was not the kind of girl that had guys falling all over me. I usually scared them off, honestly.
But, I was also wise enough to know that this was the wrong kind of attention.
By the end of that first week, my concerns regarding my safety continued to escalate as I repeatedly communicated that I didn’t like having all the ways I could die described to me in detail and as he continued to ignore my request to stop.
We had been there exactly one week when I decided it was time to talk to my parents about it.
Actually, it was my brother –who also didn’t know the threats were happening because Jock usually whispered it to me when no one was close enough to hear– who told me I needed to talk to my parents about it.
I can remember the silence on the other side of the phone when I told my parents.
They were understandably very concerned. They agreed that this was not normal behavior.
My dad said he was going to call a family friend who was a police officer and ask for advice. I remember sitting by the payphone in a park near the college waiting for the call back.
Officer Lang had one thing to say to my father: “Get your daughter out of there now.”
In the wake of the recent high school massacres the local police had been taught warning signs for troubled and potentially dangerous youth.
Officer Lang was insistent that this fell within their parameters for troubling behavior.
So while my dad left work early and he and mom drove the three hours to get us, my brother and I packed our dorms and prepared to leave.
Upon arrival my parents contacted the dean of the school and the police.
The deen acted like we were completely overreacting and repeated expressed that this was a non issue.
The police, however, did not.
Understandably, my father was miffed when the dean tried to talk us out of calling the police –but by then we had already called.
I remember giving my statement to the police before we left for home.
My time at that college was just a blip in God’s plan for my life.
But the ripple effects of that week affected more people than just me.
We had friends who were planning to join us at the college a few weeks later.
They decided not to go.
I had quit my job, said goodbye to all my friends, and planned to not be home until Christmas.
I left excited about the future.
I returned home defeated.
And honestly pretty freaked out.
I got tired of trying to explain that some creepy guy had threatened to kill me, so I just started telling people that the college didn’t work out.
I told my old boss what happened and tried to get my old job back. She acted like I was completely out of my mind.
They didn’t believe that this would actually happen at a Christian college.
At least my family believed me.
The police never pressed charges.
My friend Mia later wrote and told me that Jock convinced the police officers that he was just trying to get my attention and that I misunderstood him.
My friends from college were upset that I was being so mean to Jock who seemed to them to be a sweet guy. Why was I being so mean to him? If I wanted to leave the college, I didn’t need to make up excuses. I could just leave.
What would you have done if it was your 18 year old daughter?
As a mom now, I know that there’s no way I would ignore my child if he or she said “This person won’t stop talking about killing me, and I need help.”
Less than a year later, I met my husband at a different college/camp campus.
So, I know this was part of God’s plan (everything is either ordained or permitted), but honestly, this little twist always baffles me when I think about it.
What did I accomplish that week that God needed me there? Or what did I learn that justified the difficulty and danger?
I don’t know. I honestly don’t.
I can only hope that the week I spent there educated Jock. Maybe he was able to see that how he was behaving was not acceptable.
I wrote this hoping it would be cathartic, and it sort of is.
But it’s also sad and concerning and embarrassing –even all these years later.
Here I was the victim –but I was viewed as a trouble maker, the problem.
Even my friends at church who I tried to explain it to acted like I was overreacting.
A few suggested that if I had truly been in “God’s perfect will” then none of this would have happened. (That’s ridiculous and is part of Prosperity Gospel.)
They said it couldn’t possibly have been as bad as I said it was.
The hardest part of this whole thing was having people not believe me.
But I stand by my position even now two decades later.
This creepy guy wouldn’t stop talking about all the ways he could kill me.
He was stalking me.
I did what any sane, reasonable, intelligent, prudent person would do: I got out of Dodge.
Being stuck on a campus with no car and no cell phone and being stalked by someone who has repeatedly expressed interest in killing you?
I have never been back to the town or the college.
I probably never will.
I haven’t even begun to explain the problems we had at the college and how much the college misrepresented themselves.
When it was all said and done, they refused to pay us for our work or refund any of the money we had paid toward our tuition (but hadn’t actually used because school hadn’t started).
My parents decided it was best to walk away and put the whole situation behind us even though the school was not following their own rules.
The whole experience was frustrating, but any college that doesn’t take the security and safety of its students —especially vulnerable young women— serious, that concerns me. I don’t want anything to do with that organization.
I applaud my parents for being proactive. I don’t care what anyone else said or thought.
They were right.
I think it’s quite possible that they saved my life by bringing me home.
Even if other people refused to accept that it was that serious.
Whatever way this fits into God’s plan, I trust Him that it will work out for good.
What God allows in our lives sometimes completely baffles me. I’m looking forward to hearing the explanation of why this happened some day in Heaven.
In the meantime, I’m very grateful to my parents for believing me, trusting my judgement, and bringing me home.
P.S. I wondered if it really fit the definition of a stalker, so I googled it. Yep. It surely does. You can read more about types of stalkers and their behavior here. “According to a 2002 report by the U.S. National Center for Victims of Crime, ‘virtually any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can be considered stalking’.” (from Wikipedia)