It’s late afternoon, and I am all into the project at hand, headphones on, music playing, I’m 100% focused. I see my phone light up, and see a familiar phone number, “woooow, it’s Mr. C, and it has been a very long time since I’ve talked to him, should I answer or not? I don’t know, especially after that last time…” Pride be damned, the chismosa in me wants to know whassup, so I pick up the phone: “Hello”, “Hey Carmen how are you doing? I feel really bad about what happened and wanted to apologize for going crazy with the texts and I want to apologize to your friends for getting all up in their faces but you have to understand that I was receiving so many weird texts and calls and I was really tripping and was scared.”
Story of my life these past couple of years.
Let me explain the incident Mr. C is referring to: I had sent out a group text and, sin querer, his number was included on the group text. The message was a positive one, I was updating friends on my life. I was getting positive responses from all except for Mr. C. His responses were of the “eff-you” and “who the eff is this” nature. A text war ensued when, PJ, another friend included on the text, jumped to my defense and began to tell Mr. C off via text and then all hell broke loose. I finally texted both PJ and Mr. C separately to ask them to stop with this back and forth texting madness and promptly received an “ok” from PJ and Mr. C replied “eff off“. That was close to a year ago.
I didn’t even have to ask what types of calls or texts Mr. C had been receiving because I knew exactly whom he had been referring to. Regular readers of my blog know that I have been completely cyber-abused/harassed by Joe. You name it, I’ve seen it, you name it, it happened. The majority of this mess has taken place publicly and online: thousands of emails, text messages, social media postings. I just put my head down and tried to weather the storm and get through my life. It was painfully obvious that this man needed an outlet for his rage and I was the target.
It was one thing to come after me. But he took it to the next level: this person transferred his rage and major issues in his life to people totally unrelated to him. These innocent bystanders became collateral damage in a fight with someone unknown to them, having to deal with receiving posts, emails, text messages that talked about me in the worst and most vile way, and he would tell these people things that I “said” or “thought” about them – friends, colleagues, bosses, family, even people whom he thought I knew, were not immune.
How was I supposed to deal with that? I had people calling or emailing me, completely freaked out, offended, angry, afraid by these sick messages and calls. Many people, for different reasons, turned their backs on me. Some were afraid: “I have kids, I can’t be worrying that this guy is following you or something”, some were angry: “why the hell is he contacting my supervisor? Putting this kind of stuff on my work website?; others attributed it to him being straight-up crazy, ‘why is he putting your phone number out there? Why is he putting my phone number out there? Why is he asking me to fire you?’
I couldn’t aplogize for something that I had not done and it got to a point where I could tell in a person’s face, voice, text, or email that they had received one of his disturbing messages. I was forced to experience extreme vulnerability, I had nowhere to hide, everything was out there for the world to see. It was almost too much to bear.
The things I did to try to prevent any more collateral damage astound me:
I remember that I screamed out this question to Joe, “WHAT. WILL. IT. TAKE. for you to stop calling my job and letting me work?” after being completely overwhelmed by one call after another after another after another to my OFFICE for at least an hour or more day after day. My co-workers had nothing to do with this, nor did clients or listeners yet they were collateral damage, their day was disrupted by his pendejadas. I was stunned when he said that he wanted money, and the amount was in the thousands of dollars. It was not my proudest moment, but I did pay his price. Did it work? No. I was trying so hard to keep it together and trying to show the world that I was fine and dealing with it. But the thought of him going after others just to get his point across, was enough to keep me in line, to keep me afraid that he would go off on innocent bystanders in my life – my parents, my siblings, my boss, my friends, my colleagues.
I have since learned that there is no rhyme or reason to this type of person’s madness, that he would resort to anything in attempts to control me or my actions. The twisted goal was to intentionally damage my reputation, my friendships, spread derogatory messages, false rumors, embarrassing me, humiliating me, damaging my self-image, stealing my privacy and my security.
Joe succeeded, for a short while. I was worrying about others so much that I forgot to take care of myself, to rest, to destress, to relax. When I was completely exhausted and broken down, I had nothing left. You would think that I would have come to my senses. But there I went again, de pendeja, trying to change things on my own: I thought, “I’ll meet up with him and try to talk some sense into him, I’ll make him stop calling my parents’ house all night every night”, what did this accomplish? An argument that escalated into a fight with him taking the keys out of the ignition of my Jeep and leaving me stranded. Looking back, this was one of the turning points, I had to ask for help… OMG it was a mixture of feeling utterly mortified and relieved at the same time, there was no point in trying to act as if anymore. My primo didn’t judge me, thank God, as he helped me call the police, get keys made, all the while talking to me so that I would know that I was not alone and advising me to bring God into the mix so that He could help me get myself together.
Eventually, I LISTENED as my Inner Chingona stepped in to help lift me: I finally recognized that, for all of my personal drama, that I was always able to get a job, my reputation might have been a little tarnished but I could still work it. I saw, firsthand, that my family would never turn their back on me – they might be disappointed or angry with the situation, but always there for me. Friends and colleagues are, slowly but surely, making their way back. Many of the conversations are similar to the one I had with Mr. C – where they were afraid, angry, and concerned for their safety. While some have come back, sadly, others continue to stay away. I can’t blame them, especially as, to this day, they still receive random filth and sick messages. All under aliases of course and, what can I do? I cannot control him or his actions.
Aside from collateral damage suffered by friends, colleagues, and family, I continue to work on my personal collateral damage. It is extensive: loss of confidence, loss of privacy, loss of security, the almost PTSD effects of having all of my business put out there in the most negative, destructive way – flashbacks and nightmares can come back when I least expect it. It hurts to have to relive some of these things but the ONLY way change happens is if you are willing to peel OFF the layers of hurt, humiliation, anger, and embarrassment as you bring this darkness into the light.
E v e r y t h i n g is now documented, there’s no other way around it. Having these receipts helped me get justice when I needed it the first time around. The way I see it, things will catch up to Joe eventually. I can only deal with my collateral damage and continue to keep moving forward. Part of the healing is to show others that they are not alone, to tell my story, to help someone break the cycle, to not be afraid to reach out, to show others that, yes, I made some SonsaTontaPendeja choices, yet I have come out on the other side. Peace and, peace of mind, especially, is the greatest feeling ever.
I’ve learned, the hard way, that I must take care of myself, especially as much of my life and work is handled online and via smartphone. These tips work for me and will really help you be safe and secure. Also, I might add, you need to start thinking as an abuser does – abusers go thru great lengths to cover their tracks which makes it difficult for you or the justice system to find them … you can learn how to do this in order to take care of yourself, to have your own back, to stay safe, to have peace of mind.
- Change your usernames and passwords frequently.
- Block your caller ID on your phone if someone is harassing you.
- Turn off GPS location facilities on your computer, camera, and phone.
- Use a safe email address. Don’t be afraid to create a new one if you have to.
- Do not hesitate to block anyone from your social media sites.
- Watch who you add as “friends”, red flags are: sites with no profile picture, no mutual friends, sites that were created the day you receive the friend request, weird names, or names that sound contrived, made up.
- Use a safe and public computer (i.e. public library) and do not use any computers that belong to people whom your abuser knows. Don’t lend your computer out to anyone.
- Delete your internet history (although digital footprints can never be entirely deleted)
- Document any and everything that doesn’t feel safe to you
- The most important tip: If it feels unsafe, LISTEN to your Inner Chingona, do not discount that little voice inside of you, our bodies sense danger before our minds get their hands around it.
This was not an easy post to think about or write about mucho menos putting my business out there for the world to see. I actually started this post a couple of years ago but I never seemed to be able to read what I had written so most of these words have lived in the “drafts” section of this blog. As I read this completed post, I realized something very powerful: that I am standing in my truth, stronger, and protected, putting my business out there myself – it no longer feels like someone ripped off all of my clothes, pulled out the rug from under me, and left me thrown to the side of the road to die. My survival depended on me listening to my gut aka Inner Chingona –to learn how to channel my fear and start the long process of fixing the broken pieces of my life.
It didn’t happen overnight. But it IS happening.