Sunday, December 18, 2016

Stalkers and Stalking: Protect Yourself



In the summer of 2016, I worked as a campground host and my job was to greet campers, make them feel welcome, give them important information about the campground and the surrounding area, etc.  Be nice. Register the number of people in a site. That is how innocently this all began… being nice as part of my job.  In the process, I met a man who seemed nice on the surface and for whom I honestly felt some attraction.  We visited and chatted on a number of occasions as I  made my rounds and one day when I was somewhat under the weather, he invited me for lunch.  I never should have accepted.  Being nice to me I guess gave him some feeling of “entitlement” he was indeed NOT entitled to.

I sincerely thought a relationship might be developing until 1) I learned he lied to me about his marital status that first day when I registered him in camp, saying “I am alone, I lost my wife a year ago to Alzheimer's.”  and 2) he later forcefully restrained me in his camper after lunch telling me my job was cutting into “his time” (later when I told him that scared me, he made fun of me), and 3) he refused to go away and leave me alone when I told him I was not interested in seeing him anymore and did not want him to contact me again.  That was September 2016. After that, some days I would get as many as 20 or more text and phone messages from him.

In October I wrote this on a private Facebook group:  Stalker is still stalking. Today I reported him to the local police as I am still in transit. They advised that I immediately call 911 if he is ever physically in my vicinity. He would then be warned and I could get "an order of protection" and if he came near me again, he would be arrested. The local police called him, but he did not answer. They called back again and left a message for him that he needs to keep away from me and stop contacting me or he would be getting himself into a lot of trouble. I don't understand. IF someone told me, "I don't want to see your again, don't contact me again" I'd be gone so fast they would not know which way I went. What the heck makes a man act this way? Should I fight or flee?

Later in October, he wrote me again online saying he would be in the same area where I was on Nov. 14, but said he was not stalking me, he was just traveling to some of the same places.  I did not hear anything again until Nov. 13 when he contacted me again and I engaged in a conversation online so that I could try to find out where he was. He texted me on phone 11/14/16… and I replied in order to try and learn if he was in my area or not.  It ended with him typing: “You are all bent out of shape for nothing.  Gez don’t leave on my account.  I wouldn’t want to see you any where.  You let me know what I wanted.  Thanks.”  

That didn’t go well, so I left the area and began hiding from him in hopes he would tire and go away. Hopefully, that is the end of it.  I am saving that message for police, just in case.  Luckily, he has left me alone since.  But it was very unsettling to say the least.

So, what is Stalking?
(from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Stalking )
Criminal activity consisting of the repeated following and harassing of another person.Stalking is a distinctive form of criminal activity composed of a series of actions that taken individually might constitute legal behavior. For example, sending flowers, writing love notes, and waiting for someone outside her place of work are actions that, on their own, are not criminal. When these actions are coupled with an intent to instill fear or injury, however, they may constitute a pattern of behavior that is illegal.

Though anti-stalking laws are gender neutral, most stalkers are men and most victims are women.

Stalking first attracted widespread public concern when a young actress named Rebecca Shaeffer, who was living in California, was shot to death by an obsessed fan who had stalked her for two years. The case drew extensive media coverage and revealed how widespread a problem stalking was to both celebrity and noncelebrity victims. Until the enactment of anti-stalking laws, police had little power to arrest someone who behaved in a threatening but legal way. Even when the suspect had followed his victim, sent her hate mail, or behaved in a threatening manner, the police were without legal recourse. Law enforcement could not take action until the suspect acted on his threats and assaulted or injured the victim.

How to Stop a Stalker

Although antistalking laws give police and prosecutors the tools to arrest and charge stalkers with serious criminal offenses, victims of stalking have an important role to play in making these laws work. Law enforcement officials, Domestic Violence counselors, and mental health professionals offer the following advice to victims on how to stop a stalker:· now the law. Because antistalking laws are new, some police officers may not know how the laws work. A stalking victim should visit the public library or a county law library and obtain a copy of the state's antistalking law. Victims should show the police the law when filing the stalking complaint and ask whether they should first seek a protective order against the stalker.

In some states a violation of a protective order converts a stalking charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.


· Cooperate with prosecutors
. Many stalking victims refuse to prosecute the stalker, thereby leaving themselves vulnerable to continued threats and violence. Some victims fear that prosecution will provoke worse behavior from the perpetrator. Nevertheless, victims should use the legal system and break any bond that may exist between themselves and the stalker.

· Protect yourself.
Persons who are stalked should take steps to protect themselves and those around them. Neighbors and coworkers should be informed about the stalker, be given a photograph of the suspect, and be instructed on what to do if the stalker is sighted. Security officers at the victim's workplace should be provided with this information. Caller ID, which identifies telephone callers, should be installed on the victim's telephone. If the stalker makes repeated phone calls, the victim should ask the police to set up a phone tap.

· Collect evidence
. A stalking victim should collect and preserve evidence that can be used to prosecute and convict the stalker. Police suggest that the victim keep a diary of stalking and other crimes committed by the perpetrator. It is also a good idea to photograph property destroyed by the stalker and any injuries inflicted by the stalker. The victim should keep all letters or notes written by the stalker and all answering machine tapes that contain messages from the perpetrator.

Here is a summary of comments made to me on a private Facebook Group.

I had wanted to share the entire thread as I felt there was some valuable information.  I was only going to use people’s initials, but the Group asked me not to do that.  So I am compiling and highlighting the key points instead.

Stalking can be either in-person or cyber-stalking. Stalkers can be either men or women. Don’t think for a moment that cyber-stalking is innocent and not a crime.  It IS a crime.  It is also a crime to follow/stalk a person across state lines.  Having a STALKER follow you at all hours, and lurk near your home, work, or camp is far scarier and more dangerous, most everyone agrees with that.  But cyber-stalking via phone, texting, computer email, is also dangerous, but easier to end.  Remember, they get off on control, your anger,and all seem to have a feeling of entitlement to their stalkee.

Keep Aware.
  Stay aware of your surroundings.  Take photos of his license plates and vehicle so that if you need to report them to police, you have this information.  Also, if you are contemplating ending a relationship, try to get the Social Security number, Driver’s License # and expiration date, place of employment and address, before you part ways.  This information will be needed if you file an Order of Protection, or Injunction Against Harassment.  There is a difference, but same form is used.  There are other types of orders.  An Order of Protection is for those who have been married or living together.  An Injunction Against Harassment is what I would have filed…  the petition arises out of a dating relationship.  There are other types of orders as well.

Call Police
.  I reported my Stalker in one town as I travelled through… and after hearing me out at great length, over the phone, they asked if I wanted them to call the Stalker and warn him to leave me alone.  They called me back to say they didn’t get him in person but left a message that he could get himself in a lot of trouble unless he did leave me alone.  He called once to see if he could get around that.  I refused to talk on phone, but kept the text message from him.  He begged to see me, talk to me, etc.  When I refused, he said he had found out what he called to find out… and that’s the last I have heard.  I don’t believe it yet.  Once I got to a winter location, I went to local police and reported the situation to them.  They sent me to the Justice Court to pick up the Guide Sheet for Protective Orders, which I have filled out and keep on hand ready to file if he shows up here.  All states seem to be cooperating now with each other and these orders once filed locally, will be faxed to the Stalkers location and served there. Some FB commenters said the Order of Protection is a joke and that police can only do so much, but both police departments I spoke to seemed to have a lot of compassion for the situation.

Call family members if you know them. 
Unfortunately, my Stalker’s wife was in a nursing home and has dementia (he had led me to believe he was a widower), but I did notify his daughter to stop enabling him to contact me via computer/phone techniques.  He was not very computer literate and was using skills he did not himself possess.  Things slowed way down after that and I had blocked many of the tools he used but he could still send me Verizon Text message and according to Verizon, there is no way I can block that on a Samsung phone.  I also unfriended and blocked his children.

 
Adjust your schedule/trip/location
where STALKER expects you to be.  Pretend publically that you are somewhere else.  Only post where you have been, not were you are or where you are going.  Remember, your safety is more important than your plans.

Facebook. 
Many commenters told me to lock down my Facebook.  Learn about Privacy settings. Use them.
This should help: https://m.facebook.com/help/325807937506242


Basic Privacy Settings & Tools

If using Facebook, Blogs, or any other social media, consider unfriending and blocking anyone you don’t know well.  The Stalker could be using a fake account, masquerading as someone else.   If you have many photo albums like I do, each one will have to have privacy settings changed.  This is difficult for me, as I am basically such an open and honest person.  I have never been shy about sharing with strangers, not even as a toddler. (oh, I used to get in so much trouble for talking to strangers.)  Remember this, no matter how PRIVATE you make your settings, your Profile Photo and Cover Photo will remain Public.  You may want to change them.  Some commenters told me to set up a new Facebook page, and close the one down that the Stalker knows about.  I don’t care to do all that, so am just hoping blocking him and his family is enough.  If not, I will consider other options.  If you are blogging, put little information on your blog about your current location.

And the fact that I am also publishing a blog complicates matters, but I will not get rid of it or stop writing a blog. One commenter said: to publicize stalker on my page.” Name him and say what he's doing. Not sure of the legalities of that though.”  I’m not either, but it had crossed my mind.  I did do that with a dentist who refused to give me a refund on blotched dental work he did.  It got me a $900 refund.

There is a View As option so you can see how your Facebook looks to the general public.  Check that out.  Commenter said:  on a computer, when you're on your own Facebook page, there is a "view as" option. You can see how the public sees your page, and how friends see your page. Very useful. I'm not sure if there's a way from a phone.

Also in being a part of FB Groups, be careful of new people who ask too many questions about you, where you are, or ask for your phone number.

Facebook Places and Events. 
I avoid using these two aps on Facebook as I don’t care to pin down my location. I use a SPOT device for that purpose so key people will always know where I am.  I think you can go in Facebook Settings and turn off the “LOCATION” option.

Email / Phone. 
Commenters said to get a new email and new phone number.  They said only notify family and close friends of changes and why.  I have set up an email filter for my Stalker, so that if he contacts me that way, it will skip my inbox and go into a folder.  Once in a while I glace at the folder list to see if it is in bold, indicating there is new mail there.  Then I can decide if and when I want to look at it.  OK, changing my email address and phone number is just something I don’t want to do.  I will reconsider those options if this should ever escalate again.  All I can do with the Samsung Smart Phone is add his number to the Auto Reject List.

Last Resort.
If I did have an “in-person” stalker, I would consider these options as a last resort.  1) Get a Dog (I have COPD, so this is not a good option for me)  Some said Poodles would be safe for me. 2) Get a Taser.  It was suggested to check with local police about regulations. 3) Get Pepper Spray and also check with Police about their source, as theirs are stronger than others.  4) Get a Gun and know how to use it.  Learn what “Castle Domain” means and if it is legal in your situation.

Humor. 
A few Commenters used Humor to deal with the situation.  One suggested wearing ratty clothes and doing your make up awful, and having critter pee on your clothes.  Destroy their fantasy about you.  Go from being demure to Goth or Rocker Chick.  (Well, I have never been “demure” but I get the point.)

Here is another comment I really liked and may make such a sign for my vehicle: 
 “This house(camper) is protected by a shotgun 4 days a week. 
Do you feel lucky???”

In summary, go “NO CONTACT” as soon as possible.  Each text or call you accept will encourage your STALKER.  Be invisible.  A STALKER will be smiling at your attempts to evade them.  Don’t give them the satisfaction. 

Yes, folks, I had changed my winter plans because of this fool, but I have resumed some of them and decided to fight back.  I am now in a community of friends, many former military and many hunters.  They are aware of him and have his photos and license plate numbers and photos of his rig.  Local police are well aware of the situation as well and I have legal papers in hand to file should he show up here.  I am not the kind of person to run and hide or to be bullied. And I have never been described at petite, mild mannered, weak, demure, afraid, etc.  Ya need to find better words to describe me.

I apologize to the folks on the above FB group whose comments got edited, condensed and combined after your admin advised against any direct quotes, even though I removed names and any identifiers.  You all gave very good feedback.  Thank you for helping me find my courage and voice again.


For help with a stalking problem see these two sites:  http://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/stalking-resource-center
https://www.unh.edu/sharpp/stalking  From this site: 

Know what stalking is.

Stalking is defined as threats, along with repeated harassing behavior that cause a person to fear for his or her personal safety. It can include the use of regular mail, e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, posting on social websites and/or faxes. Stalking and cyber stalking are behaviors prohibited by University policy and New Hampshire law and are a crime.
Stalking is unpredictable and dangerous. No two stalking situations are alike. Although women are more likely to be stalked than men, anyone can be a victim of stalking, including college students from any economic, ethnic, or religious group.
The vast majority of stalking victims know their stalker, usually because they have had a relationship with him or her. The stalker can be an intimate partner or former partner, classmate, roommate, or other acquaintance. A victim can be stalked for several days or for many years. The stalker’s actions also can affect family, friends, and coworkers. Stalking can be difficult to distinguish, which contributes to a lack of public awareness about the crime of stalking.


===========================

Fight or Flight????   Standing my ground.  I will FIGHT!
  Carry pepper spray, etc.

Another important thing I learned during all this was the definition of a Narcissist. I think everyone should understand this disorder and be able to identify people who have it.   My stalker is also a Narcissist.  That will be my next post.



































Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Treasure Chest for Vandwellers (reposting)

Great Information written by a friend in Australia.

This little web site http://vandwellers.org written by a friend of mine, sees very little traffic.

ALL the information there for vehicle dwellers and homeless people, including the Vandwellers guide (http://www.vandwellers.org/vandwellersguide.pdf),

Homeless Guide (http://vandwellers.org/guide/ozhomelessguide.pdf) and (there is a password for this one, contact charlene.swankie@gmail.com for password),

and a 2-page "living in your vehicle flyer" (http://www.vandwellers.org/guide/quickguide.pdf) is free.

Please help get the word out by sharing the link -  http://vandwellers.org on your blog or Facebook page.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Valley Repair, Inc.–Meeker, Colorado

Worst of Times & Best of Times.

If you are ever in the Meeker, Colorado area and need help, I can not say enough good things about Valley Repair, Inc.  24 hr. towing and mechanic service.  431 East Market St., PO Box 292, Meeker, CO 81641.  Phone (970) 878-3316, email: vrepairmeeker@yahoo.com.

August 2016 found me working as a Camp Host at Nortfork Campground 35 miles east of Meeker CO.  I spent most of that month coughing uncontrollable, each day off I was back to doctor, E.R. or Urgent Care.  None of my normal cures for COPD were working.  Later I learned it was most likely an allergy to blooming sagebrush, but that is beside the subject of this post. I knew my job would be coming to an end early in September and I was concerned about the way my van was running. It seemed to have no power and I seldom was able drive over 40 mph.  I got to Meeker pulling a heavy cargo trailer and going mostly uphill (or I should say up-mountain), generally unable to go over 25 mph and having to stop often to let the engine cool down.  I knew I could not hit to road again, pulling that same load without fixing my van.  But what was wrong and what would it cost? (I was working to save money for my AZ Trail hike… but would it take my last penny just to fix the van???)

In the Spring 2016, before leaving my desert winter home, I took it to a Chevy dealer to have “Check Engine” light diagnosed.  They found Bank 2  O2 Sensor 1 had failed causing van to run very rich on right side. This was creating a rough running and engine and mis-firing.  Recommended replacing Bank 2, 02 sensor to correct.  They noted Truck Operates Normally.  This knowledge cost me $300.54.  And that was only for diagnostics and replacing the 02 sensor, not the catalytic converter.

At that time I decided to go ahead with a tune up in hopes that would help improve how the van was running.  Spark plugs, spark plug wires so they checked compression, replaced spark plugs, and adjusted ignition timing and idle speed. That cost another $650.00 (get this $118.72 for spark plugs, $121.48 for plug wires and $307 for labor, plus other shop supplies and hazardous materials fees.)  Geez, this van is getting expensive.

I left Quartzsite and headed out to begin inspecting sections of the Arizona trail, but the van was still running rough.  Visiting with friends in the Tucson area, I got a recommendation to go to Exhaust Works.  They confirmed that the front Catalytic Converter on Bank 2 was bad and so it was replaced with an after market converter.  Cost $290.80 (parts and labor).  He said ALL he does anymore is exhaust systems, no other mechanical work… he just specialized in exhaust systems.  I felt good about him and his work, until a little later.  That was April 2016.

I drove on to Meeker Colorado the next month…. as stated above, having a very rough time gaining that altitude, but I didn’t have the funds to get any more work done on the van.  During the summer, I used it only when I had to and saved my money.  Check engine light kept coming on, sometimes flashing, sometimes staying on solid, sometimes staying off all together.  Finally, Aug. 29, I took it in to Northwest Auto in Meeker, a GMC dealer for diagnosis… they found Bank 2 rear catalytic converter was plugged and charged me $46.77 for that knowledge.  Throwing codes of P0101, P0300, and P0171.  I asked for an estimate.  Lee told me it would be $628.44… to replace the Bank 2 rear catalytic converter.  He insisted that my van had 3 cat converters, when the man in Tucson had taken me under the van while it was on the rack and showed my the four converters on my van.  Lee insisted that ONLY federal vehicles had four converters, and he even sketched out the 3 he insisted I had on the back of the estimate.  See below sketch by Lee at GMC, Meeker, CO.

GMC_sketch_exh_sys

Wow… $628.44… is a big chunk of what I had been saving all summer to buy my AZ Trail hiking gear.  I felt crushed.  I even asked Lee how accurate his estimate was and he assured me of how careful he is in pricing things out and he would be surprised it is was more than $40 off.  Well, I had to think about that and crunch some numbers.

Two days later Lee called me back saying they sent him the wrong part (which he had said would take him five days to get as it had to come from Virginia, but he had it in two days????) and that the price was actually $1,080.00.  My boss actually took this message and turned out there was a misunderstanding in the way he said things and what he meant was it was an additional $1,080.00 on top of the $628.44.  I did not learn this until I stopped by GMC to pick up a copy of the estimate… and the grand Total was $1,780.64.  WHAT????  Well, Lee, that is a bit off on his $40 guess.  Things came to a screeching haul for me.  I had coughed the entire month of August and was exhausted.  Then I fell and cracked 3 ribs that week and was in a great deal of pain.  This was just too much. I was devastated and ready to give up.  I thought I might be stranded in a wintery cold snowy Meeker.  Now GMC was insisted that my van has four catalytic converters (like I told them in the beginning), but the estimate is for more than just the rear cat converter, it is the front and rear converters and the entire manifold pipe on the passenger side.  The front converter was only five months old????

I questioned them why I needed to replace the front catalytic converter when I had just done that in April… and they gave me some line about the van being registered in CA and CA emissions requires that factory parts be used.  I explained it was no longer registered in CA but in SD which had no such requirements.  They argued with me that it didn’t matter, I still had to met CA requirements and use factory parts, not after market parts.  I said it already had an after market converter on it… so what did it matter?  They held their ground.  They were also now arguing with me that they never said it had 3 converters (who made the sketch?).  I was really sickened by all the lies and the fact the were trying to take advantage of a woman.  I walked away and didn’t even cancel the work they had schedule.  I left them hanging and I didn’t feel bad about it either.

I was in too much pain to want to deal with it all, but my job would be ending the next week, and I would have to leave the campground soon after that… and snow was in the air.  Someone had given me the business card for Valley Repair, Inc. and at the insistence of a friend, I called them for a second estimate.  I gave them none of the history, other than that the front converter had been replaced in April.  I asked them to check the check engine lite.  They charged $20 for that, which my friend paid.  They understood that my funds were limited but that I urgently needed my HOME fixed so I could leave soon. 

They thought that a tune up could fix the problem… at that time I had forgotten that I got a tune-up in the spring … so they did that Sep. 15… ($206.31… compared to the $650 I paid for the same job in AZ six months earlier).  They charged me $32 for spark plugs, and $42 for wires, compared to  $118.72 for spark plugs, $121.48 for wires charged by Bradley Chevy in Parker AZ.  Wow.  I could have skipped this work had I remembered the spring tune-up. I just didn’t remember that tune-up until later… thinking I had never had a tune-up in the seven years I had the van,  and I thought it still had original spark plugs.  I think it was the pain meds affecting my brain!  LOL  But anyway, I had a comfort level with these guys at Valley Repair in Meeker… and trusted them.

But, the tune up did not help… and on the way back to camp, the check engine light came right back on.  Sept. 19, I took it back in… and they begin checking everything over and found exhaust leaks all round the front catalytic converter that Tucson put on in April.  The gasket was leaking too.  The previous converter was not welded without leaks and it did not look like Tucson had replaced the gasket.  I actually was allowed under the van and helped the mechanic by holding a flashlight.  I felt the leaks all around the old weld.  Felt like a very hot very strong hair dryer blowing on my hand.  They plugged up the tailpipe and ran the engine, and you would feel all the air coming out all around the Tucson welds. 

20160919_10181420160919_085657

So they welded all that (left photo), replaced a gasket ($6.50) went in the joint (right photo). One of the nuts got cross-threaded and had to be cut off and the bolt re-threaded.  I helped with all that. Total came to $176.92.   And off I went down the road…  15 whole miles.  I was loosing pressure and power mile after mile.  By mile 17, I was stopped on the shoulder with zero power and the van would not move.  I called them to tow me back to the shop ($150.00 for the tow, 100% refundable by my auto insurance).

By this time, my motley crew at Valley Repair had adopted me and were invested in getting me back on the road at the least additional cost possible.  I slept in the van all night in their lot – my ribs killing me.  Next morning they came out and got the van, with me still in bed, and drove it into the garage and up on the lift we went… me still in bed.  They were still puzzled, but thought they would have to cut the rear catalytic converter off and replace it.  They already had the new one ($129 for after market… when GMC wanted to charge me $1,450 for parts).  I was in a great deal of pain from the ribs… so even turning over hurt.  I could not think.  The guys were right under my bed talking about what might be wrong when I suddenly I hear the buzz of a saw cutting through the pipe.  I thought, “guess we are cutting the old one out.”   I hurt too bad to move.  A few minutes later they call me to driver window and hold up the old one… full of gung that that blow out of the front converter that Tucson replaced… and had slowly been clogging up the rear converter and once the welds were fixed, it blew the rest of the gunk in the pipe into the rear converter, TOTALLY clogging it.

20160920_093902IMGA0372

Within 1/2 hour, they had the new part in place and I was on my way back to camp.  Cost $222.39.  So all total, for all the work they did, I spent $605.62 at Valley Repair in Meeker, CO.  I drove from there to camp, got my trailer and hauled it back to Valley Repair dropped the trailer (where they stored it for free for 10 days), drove to Dakotas and back… picked up trailer, drove around Colorado some more, up and down mountains, and then on to Arizona.  Check engine light has not come back on once, not once… and van is running better than it has in a couple years.  I can’t be more pleased with Luke Pelloni, owner, and his mechanic Joe.  Great guys, great new family… I love these guys.  I trust them.  If you are ever in the Meeker, Colorado area and need help, I can not say enough good things about Valley Repair, Inc.  24 hr. towing and mechanic service.  431 East Market St., PO Box 292, Meeker, CO 81641.  Phone (970) 878-3316, email: vrepairmeeker@yahoo.com.

20160919_111621

Owner Luke Pelloni on right, Joe in middle, and young Justin on left.  My new family.

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Coming soon:  Have you ever been stalked?  Do you know what to do about it? 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Getting lost to find myself... No worries.


With all that has happened to me the past couple of months, a failed relationship, a real bad episode of COPD, 3 cracks ribs, and a whole lot of driving, I feel the need to drastically change my plans. I believe I will skip Quartzsite this year, and wander... maybe see grandkids, maybe just hide out in the boondocks. I don't know yet what changes will happen, just know I am safe, I will continue to use my SPOT tracking device so the key people in my life will know I am O.K. Just need some serious down time to take care of Swankie.

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on https://www.facebook.com/swankie.wheels. In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.

Followers: