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IamA victim of more than six years of cyberstalking and online and offline stalking/harassment. My stalker has been arrested three times and is awaiting sentencing. AMA.

Oct 14th 2014 by melissaanelli • 18 Questions • 425 Points

My short bio: I'm Melissa Anelli, and I've done an AMA here before about my work in fan communities. The topic of harassment, stalking, and bullying that happen online and then expand to offline seems to be reaching a turning point: I have also hit a turning point in how I deal with my own case. I have been stalked, harassed, and abused by the same woman for almost 6.5 years. It began digitally, and then began mushrooming into offline contact - a trip to my town, packages and messages and postcards sent to me and my family and friends, etc. She has used emails, contact through every viable method of digital outreach, as well as physical mailings to intimidate and threaten, and make near daily threats of rape and murder.

After an FBI investigation and three arrests, my stalker is awaiting sentencing, and may be close to entering a plea deal that allows her to continue her campaign of abuse (for it has been proven that nothing but incarceration will stop her). I have resisted doing an AMA for a long time for fear she would join up and take part. But the issue and those that touch it are too important, and I'm hoping my case can help people understand why it is vital we work harder to stop this type of abuse.

Outside of this story, I run the popular fan convention GeekyCon (http://geekycon.com) and GeekyNews (http://geekynews.com) as well as Harry Potter site The Leaky Cauldron (http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org). I wrote a book about the Harry Potter phenomenon, served as a consultant on Pottermore, and am a board member of the HP Alliance (http://thehpalliance.org) as well as advisor on YouCoalition (http://youcoalition.tumblr.com).

My Proof: NPR story from last Feb: http://www.npr.org/2014/02/23/281167415/fed-up-with-harassment-author-reveals-her-cyberstalker

NYPost from when she was arrested the second time: http://nypost.com/2013/07/18/harry-potter-and-the-deathly-wacko/

My latest Tumblr update: http://penbitten.com/post/99597562281/so-it-seems-stalker-might-get-off-lightly-how-would

Here's the proof of my identity I used for my last AMA: https://twitter.com/melissaanelli/status/357601620852359168

Edit: FYI I'll be answering questions continually as I get them, even if tomorrow or later. I'm really amazed how positive and thoughtful everyone has been. Thank you!

Q:

Having been through the legal end of responding to a stalker, what changes in the system need to be made here? Legally rather than socially? What sort of initiatives do you think need to happen to make this issue be taken seriously?

EDIT: Also, is there anything we can do to support you? I want to help as much as I can.

A:

Oh god this is such a big, big, question. I think we need greater cooperation between our legal systems: some of the stickiest gum in the works here has been getting agencies to talk to each other clearly. Part of what kept this going for so long was that the lines were confused.

We need globally recognized legislation for the cessation of harassment - that a person using any digital platform to harass is subject to the laws where the victim lives. That's a huge ask and probably will never happen. But if my stalker was subject to US laws from the beginning this would have been over long ago. (This is pure fantasy on my part - will never happen. But a girl can dream. However governments NEED to clarify the lines on this sort of thing with each other so that communication is easier. And that is TOTALLY possible.)

We need a rape and death threat made online to count as the same type of abuse as if they had made those threats in person. The Internet is too much of a part of people's lives now to pretend it's any less important or has any less power to impact.

As for supporting me, THIS - keep upvoting this issue, keep spreading it on social media. Raise the issue to press, and continue to press on how people need to be kind and respectful to each other online and off. That's the best possible help!


Q:

Thanks for replying- didn't mean to ask an overwhelming question, sorry!

A:

don't be sorry! it's an important question, especially now.


Q:

At any point during the stalking, did you fear for your life? If so, did you take any precautions? Like installing an alarm system, getting a dog, getting a firearm, etc?

A:

I have experienced that fear, espeically when she sent very graphic threats of what she was going to do to me at my conference, and where. As in precisely where, as in, "I'm going to leave you bleeding like a stuck pig in the staff room" kind of threats. That's not exact wording, that's probably very kind compared to her exact wording. I'd have to dig it up and... I just don't want to at this hour.

I don't believe that gun ownership increases my safety, so I have never considered purchasing one. I don't have a dog and can't get one because I travel too much to be fair to it. I have a vicious bodyguard of a cat, though. :)

Mostly the thing that I can do to protect myself is take all the basic precautions, and keep on saving and forwarding evidence and keep on pressing for the case to reach some sort of action.


Q:

Was there interactions before you knew something was wrong? Did you think she was just a fan at first or something?

A:

No. She had been harassing a member of my staff to read a fanfic she had written, and was being asked to stop by staff, and said she would only stop if I told her to. I, not knowing the fic was about me, told her to, in an email with all my staff cc'd. The next day was the first death threat, and I have never said a word to her since.

I think that she knew of me through my podcast and book.


Q:

Melissa, you have been an inspiration to me as a fan, a writer, and just a damn good human being. Thank you for speaking out. Can you speak about how dealing with this person has affected your work? Were there opportunities you missed out on for fear of her presence?

A:

Thank you so much for your kind words. That's really amazing to hear. Well, certainly going to NZ is off the table. I think bigger than that is that I shy away from using the full force of the Internet in the work I do. There are ways to connect with people - making videos, being more kind of... out there in general... that I just kinda shy away from, and that's never been my way. Because any line of contact I open, she finds and gets into. And it means I have to set up barriers whenever I do anything. Open a gaming channel with my friend Anthony? Make sure any email goes to a filter so I can tell if she's starting up. Start a new geeky news site? Make sure all the editors are up on what happens so they can find and filter her comments (as has had to happen). And most of all she makes you feel radioactive. Any person I talk about as a close friend or confidante is touched. When Anthony (Rapp) got his first bunch of Tumblr messages was the last time that happened before her arrest, and it just makes you feel like you have to give all friends and potential associates a primer on how to be associated with you. Because they don't know why this weird confusing grammarless message has appeared in their inbox - but they publish it and then I can see instantly what it is and who it is from. So if they knew BEFORE then, they would have recognized it... etc. So you become a walking warning for your own abuse. It's a cycle.


Q:

How has her behavior affected your professional life?

A:

I've talked about this a bunch in other answers so I hope you don't mind a short one! It's really made harassment strike very close to home for me on every level.


Q:

I don't know if this would help as such, but would you happen to know the name of the stalker's local political representative? If so, would it be OK to contact said politician to ensure they take a closer look at the case?

A:

I do! And she is in my inbox and will be getting another email very soon. This happened the last time I spoke up - people connected us via social media. This is one of the reasons speaking up works sometimes.


Q:

Erm. /u/Rammikins was asking if they may contact said politician on your behalf. Your ideal response would contain info on that politician, such as their name, location, public email, etc.

A:

OH! On their behalf. LOL. It's been a long night of answering stuff.

Grant Robertson is her actual rep: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grant_Robertson

But the one I have been talking to is Clare Curran: http://www.clarecurran.org.nz/


Q:

Another question, when you came in contact with her (if you ever did) how did you feel?

A:

I never did. I cannot visualize at all what it would be like to be in contact with her. It would not be good.


Q:

Why did she specifically target you?

A:

I am not sure. She's ill, so every time i try to assign a reason, I fail.


Q:

Do you know why she does it? Does she have feelings for you or does she just get a kick out of making you uncomfortable?

A:

I wish I knew why she does it. Every time I try to answer that question I come back to the fact that she's very ill, and though that does not excuse her actions it does explain them. There have been admissions of love in equal measure to death threats? None of which is real, and all of which is a factor of her illness. So I can't say she has feelings, because what she has is a sickness. And while that is tragic, the stand-by, it's-just-internet-comments nature of the way our laws and society work right now is unacceptable. It has taken more than six years to get to this point where she MIGHT, PERHAPS, if we are VERY lucky, face consequences for her actions. This isn't okay.


Q:

Did the death threats begin after you had told her that the feeling was not mutual or was she always making those threats?

She does sound very mentally ill which is why I hope if she does get locked up its in a psych ward or she at least gets weekly appointments with a psychologist while she's behind bars. Anything of the sort because if she doesn't get help, I imagine she'll just repeat her offences and be locked up again in a very awful endless cycle.

A:

The threat began after my very polite/professional email to her. I didn't know at the time that she was already fixated - I would have never even made that contact. I just didn't want her to abuse my staff.

I also, if I could pick, would send her to a psych ward first and a jail second. But it sounds like jail is more likely, if it happens at all, from what I have been told.


Q:

It's probably out of your power. I'm sorry she chose you, it really could have been anyone. I hope she gets the help she needs and you get to stop worrying and relax.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Have a nice day.

A:

You're right and the fact that it could have been anyone is a big part of why I am here talking about it. I'm someone who could have been any other person that this happened to, and that helps make it so relevant to everyone. So that's why I'm gonna answer every last damn question.


Q:

How do you do? I wish you best of luck. I don't even know you but it's okay. Right? :-)

A:

Totally okay and even wonderful. Thank you!


Q:

At some point have you ever found it arousing?

A:

No.


Q:

Last question, if the stalker is released what course of action would you take? Lawyer up? Probably move? Do you think he would really track you down again?

A:

If the stalker is released her abuse will continue. If she is released nothing will change. So the course of action is to keep talking, keep shouting.


Q:

Because this is an issue that effects many people, and it's also an issue that is often misunderstood due to lack of frank discussion on the subject. I've always looked up to Melissa for speaking up about subjects that don't get the attention they deserve, and this seems to be another instance of that.

A:

Thank you Katie. <3


Q:

You misunderstood. I was asking why bring up the geek con thing.

A:

Because it asked for a bio, not just something relating to this issue.