Something really terrifying happened to me at my work (at a hairdressing salon) last week.
A few months ago, I was trying out my luck on dating apps.
I eventually stopped responding to messages, stopped looking at the apps, and in the end just deleted them altogether.
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Then today, while at my work, I saw a man walk in and out of the salon without calling ahead, a new rule we have in place due to COVID-19. I figured it was just a random new client that didn’t know better and went about my business.
A little while later, I went up to the front desk to check my books. As I was sitting behind the desk, the same man I had seen previously walked in the door without calling, again, and walked directly up to me.
Man: "Are you Tee?"
Me: "Yes, can I help you?"
Man: "I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for a while."
Me: "...who...are you?"
Man: "I’m Jake*, we met on Tinder."
And this is where I completely blank and have NO idea what the hell he’s talking about. I haven’t been on any dating apps in months.
I look at him confused, trying to still be polite.
Man: "Yeah, need me to take my mask down?"
He pulls his mask down so I can see his face, and I still don't recognise him.
Man: "Yeah you said this would be your worst nightmare but I’ve been trying to get a hold of you so I figured I’d just try to get an hour of your time."
And that’s when I realised who he was.
A man on Tinder back in May had asked where I worked. I told him I was uncomfortable disclosing that information to men on the internet. Once I realised what was happening... I immediately started sweating and my heart was racing. My arm hair was standing up.
Me: "Oh... I’m sorry I’m already with a client..."
Man: "Yeah they told me, I’ve just been trying to get a hold of you."
Man: "How come you never messaged back?"
Me: "...I met someone."
Man: "Did you, really? Or are you just saying that?"
Me: "....I have no reason to lie to you?"
Man: "Yeah well next time just let someone know."
I never told this man where I worked.
In fact, I explicitly told him that I would NOT tell him, and that it would be my worst nightmare for someone to just show up at my job. I have no idea how he tracked me down, as none of my social media even had any of the same names-first or last.
He chose to show up anyway.
I had never met this man.
But he felt comfortable and entitled enough to me – a woman he had never met – to show up at my JOB. Demanding my time? Demanding to know if I was lying about meeting someone?
I walked away hot and sweaty and scared. How did he find me? Why did he show up at my job, out of the blue months later? What was this supposed to accomplish? What if I had gone on a date with him?
Have I been stalked?
Yes... yes I have.
This man stalked me.
After asking me to let him know the next time I choose to delete Tinder, the man left.
I immediately walked to the back of the salon and shakily grabbed my phone to call my girlfriend and tell her what happened.
At the end of my shift, a coworker pulled my car around to the front so I wouldn’t have to walk out the back.
Another colleague walked out with me.
I drove around for a while before heading home in case he followed me and called my girlfriend the second I was home safe with locked doors.
I asked her if she thought I should call the police.
Does it even matter?
I wasn’t sure.
But what if this happened again? What if he did this to someone else?
I called the non-emergency number the next day.
The officer I spoke to said no crime was committed and ended the call with "good luck to ya."
He lacked any empathy for what I was telling him until I became emotional. Only then did I hear any kindness in his voice.
It was just as I had anticipated.
They didn’t care.
I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know who to turn to. So I turned to my friends, and I turned to the internet.
I shared my story on my Facebook page in hopes of warning other women in my area about this guy. I made the post public.
My post went viral. 75,000 shares and 23,000 comments.
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Thanks to the attention my shared post received, multiple individuals with connections to my local police department reached out to me about the situation.
I finally got to talk to someone that took me seriously. A former homicide/sex crimes detective that now works in stalking and harassment.
He explained that what happened definitely qualifies as stalking/harassment and I have every right to be frightened by this man and furious with the police for how it was handled.
He actually called my stalker and had to have a 50 minute conversation with him about why what he did was not okay.
He explained how he found me – he used the Tinder distance locater to narrow down the salons near him.
He looked at the websites for each salon in his vicinity.
This is where is gets really weird, and to best tell the story, I’m going to jump into the exact words the detective used:
"Since he mentioned finding your bio – I jumped on the website just to see exactly how he did it, to trace his steps. Did you know you can’t even see the bios and pictures until you actually attempt an appointment? You have to click on the website, click on make appointment, click on what type of appointment you want, click on the time, before you even see anyone’s picture or bio. It’s about seven clicks into the website before you see anything. That’s about six clicks too many. The effort he went to."
In response, the man explained he felt offended for being "left on read" or ghosted.
The officer explained to him that even if that's the case, he had no right to stalk me to the point of showing up at my place of work three months later. The officer said he believes in Jake’s head that it might be like a rom-com where the guy just shows up and gets the girl.
I have decided to pursue legal action.
I have to sit in a courtroom next week and tell this man and a judge the way this interaction has affected me.
Like how I still don’t drive straight home after work.
Or how for three nights last week I didn’t sleep until the sun came up because my roommate wasn’t home and I was scared to let my guard down.
But I am so glad I refused to back down. Women deserve to feel safe and be heard.
I refuse to go down easy.
Feature Image: Supplied.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.