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!
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.
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!
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?
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.
Was there interactions before you knew something was wrong? Did you think she was just a fan at first or something?
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.
Another question, when you came in contact with her (if you ever did) how did you feel?
I never did. I cannot visualize at all what it would be like to be in contact with her. It would not be good.
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?
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.