The Miami Inclusion Alliance (23-08)

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Stalking affects millions of people in the U.S. each year. We hear a lot about it on the news and on campuses and places of employment. Stalking can include unwanted following or approaching, unwanted use of tracking or monitoring using technology, unwanted phone calls, texts, emails. It can be anything that is a pattern of harassing or threatening, that causes unwanted fear or safety concerns in a victim.

The problem is huge with about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men reporting experiencing stalking at some point in their lives. (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey)

The effects can be long lasting and life altering.

MIA liaison Kat Magnoli would like to share her experience with you this month. It is a hard story to tell, but she hopes sharing it will help others who are going through a similar experience.

Every Move You Make     By: Katherine Magnoli

His eyes burned a hole into the back of my head as he watched me, from across the room, interacting with customers and friends. I did my best to ignore him, but every so often I caught a glimpse of his withering stare. My heart raced with fear as I prayed, he wouldn’t walk over to me. Luckily my prayers were answered, well, sort of. Every so often he, or one of his family members, would walk by, creating a chill in the air that made it impossible to concentrate on the task at hand. This was not the first time I had been in this particular predicament. I have, unfortunately, been dealing with similar situations for over six years now.

Our first encounter came when a mutual acquaintance invited me to participate in an event for local entrepreneurs. I wheeled in with the same optimism and energy I had brought to thousands of events that came before, never realizing that not all who are drawn to it will have pure intentions.

The first time I saw him he was loudly using an exercise product. So loud that he was impossible to ignore. At first, this made me laugh because many had accused me of being loud and impossible to ignore. So, naturally, I felt an instant kinship with him. This made me very pleased when he approached me and asked about my products. I went on to tell him all about my books about a superhero in a wheelchair, doing my best to sound both confident and modest when I denied his claims of my being a superhero.

He went on to tell me about his line of work.

My mom, skeptical of the whole ordeal, drove me to the location which was about an hour and a half away. She would later state that it was too much for her, prompting him to appear chivalrous when he offered to drive me home.

A week went by and after much preparation, which totally seemed normal, my “new boss” picked me up for my first day of work. He arrived several hours earlier, telling me he wanted to take me to a celebratory lunch. I smiled and got in his car.

We chit chatted as he watched me text my then boyfriend who was rightfully protective of my naïveté and trusting behavior. Though we argued, I began to realize that he may have had a point. This first dawned on me as I felt his eyes fixed on me when they should have been on the road ahead. He was asking me about who I was vehemently texting with. I answered my boyfriend, and he delved in asking more questions about how we met and so forth. I repeated to myself, “This is weird but remember why you’re here. You’re an advocate and want to spread your message of inclusion.”

Unfortunately, as the months passed by, his behavior grew more odd making it increasingly difficult to remember why I had agreed to work with him.

He began to do things like comment on my physical appearance and make inappropriate suggestions.

This, along with many inappropriate sexual advances like wanting to spank me for missing a work event, made me say enough is enough. This infuriated him and he began to try his best to tear me down as an advocate. He did this by back-pedaling and telling me how awful I was as a cohost.

Shortly after the abuse took a turn for the worst, I began blocking him on all social media outlets and even went as far as to change my number.

Now, we have no direct contact. However, every now and then, I will receive a new friend request from him and have to block that additional page, as well.

Looking back at this experience, as scary as it was, made me stronger and wiser and made me realize that you can’t trust everyone. In the end, no matter what he put me through, I never let it stop me and if anything, my advocacy has grown since being a cohost on his dinky little show. In fact, I was just awarded for my efforts during Disability Pride Month. So, all of his put downs of not amounting to anything without him turned out to be extremely untrue.

There are resources that can help if you or someone you know needs help:

Florida Domestic Violence 24-Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-800-500-1119

Miami-Dade County Coordinated Victim’s Assistance Center: 305-285-5900 (call/text message 24/7)

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224