Many of you know that to ensure my safety a judge had issued a Permanent Protective Order, after he examined evidence in a day-long hearing, against this man, Matthew Chan of Columbus, GA. Mr. Chan appealed the judge's order and it went to the GA Supreme Court...who made the decision last week to reverse the judge's order.
Below are a FEW examples of (the thousands) of his posts that caused me to seek protection.
Many of his posts were titled: "An Open Letter to Linda Ellis" or began with "Hi Linda." Obviously directed to me.
He threatened that he knew of people who “want to put you in the ground."
"She won't understand anything but bruce force."
"If anyone knows how I operate, this is no bluff."
"It may be too late after a certain threshold is crossed."
"I won't elaborate on what I might be capable of and I don't ever want anyone to push me too far."
He claimed my family and friends would be “collateral” damage to what he would be doing to me.
He encouraged and participated in the posting on his site of "The Hearse Song" addressed to me, by name. The post was titled: "WE ARE COMING AFTER YOU!" and it contained the lyrics: "You will be the next to die."
He said he was a cult leader: “You should realize that creating and managing an online cult is actually more challenging than one when you physically meet and interact with my followers. My dazzling, hypnotic, persuasive, and entrancing words and prose are somewhat masterful I must confess. I can convince the most intelligent, self-determined, and self-motivated person to blindly follow any public suggestion I might make.”
“I am absolutely getting payback for the time and energy you have caused.”
“I could even find your house to see what it looks like and where you live…definitely would get some video footage of your house…I could be a one man paparazzi.”
“I could probably go digging through public records to see if you have any traffic infractions, see how many times you have been married and divorced.”
“Pull up your real estate deeds, mortgages, and any other interesting documents. I would want to see how big your house is, how much its worth, how much property taxes you pay, and any other properties you might own. I bet you live in the **** **** area. I love that area.”
“Believe me when I tell you I have a LOT on you.”
“Just so you know, my patience is fairly low. It wouldn’t take much to push me over the edge on this.”
Here is my stalker story: http://online.flipbuilder.com/qodf/ykku/
I was talking the other day with a good friend whose mother had left this earth. She was a woman I knew and admired greatly. As the conversation advanced and we shared memories of Mary, I could sense my whole attitude beginning to change. I was suddenly donning a smile. I was feeling a genuine warmth surrounding me. It was as though my entire soul had been somehow swaddled in a soft blanket. I was picturing myself walking toward Mary and I could clearly picture her smile emanating joy, the same way it did every single time we had met. It was a smile one could always depend on to lift their spirits and brighten their day.
Our conversation soon became filled with stories about how Mary helped the homeless, the hungry and those in need. Her daughter recalled the times she and her family members stepped in to help "mama" if, due to her health she was unable to fulfill her charitable tasks. A slight woman, Mary would drive to sections of town reserved for only those who have a specific purpose for traveling there, and she always had a specific purpose: to help.
I began to think of the legacy Mary left for her family and those who knew, respected and loved her. It is not a legacy that can be measured in dollars; it is far more valuable. In fact, to this day, you could offer her children or her husband a million dollars for the legacy of love that Mary left each of them and I assure you they would not trade what she left in their hearts and lives for what they could put in the bank. There's an old saying: "Measure wealth not by what you have, but by what you have and would not sell." Each of them is therefore, a millionaire.
I began to think of my own life's legacy and what I needed to change to bequeath upon my loved ones the same priceless gift of being More Than a Memory in their hearts and lives. I want them to feel the same aura, the same warmth when they speak of me; I want them to subconsciously wear a smile when my image appears in their mind. Mary's light will continue to shine as we endeavor to follow the path her footsteps left here on earth, and strive to live a life that will be More Than a Memory.
Insert the name, title of your own lost loved one and feel the words of this poem...
by Linda Ellis, Copyright 2014
Dear Dad, it's been some time now
since you left this earthly place,
yet I hear echoes of your voice
and can almost see your face.
Life and death are so surreal;
opponents joined at the seams
until the journey crosses over
from reality to dreams.
Though I know your soul has traveled
to a supreme and wondrous realm,
some days I feel aboard a ship
with no one at the helm.
Afloat with no land visible
upon an endless sea...
an ocean filled with memories
of what was you and me.
What separates us now is naught
but uncertain space and air
with only one way certain
to get from here to there.
When my voyage has ended;
feeling no longer bereft
we will be together once again
as if you'd never left.
Death, demise, passing, decease, bereavement… no matter how you choose to label it, it hurts like hell. In 1996, I penned an inspirational poem titled, “The Dash” about that little line on a headstone between the dates of birth and death – that little dash that ultimately represents every step, every breath, we take during our time here on earth. Millions have since found solace in the words of that poem because the simple, honest lyrics sink into the reader’s heart, often creating an emotional epiphany. A bereaving heart is like to a dried sponge – expended and hardened, waiting for something that can be absorbed like water to soften the aching, the longing, the agony. I am grateful the words of The Dash have offered such relief to so many.
When I wrote the poem almost 20 years ago, I didn’t “do” death. As an adult, I had purposely not attended any funeral services, even for my own grandparents. I attribute this evasion to an event from my childhood when I was unwillingly brought to the service of my best friend’s little sister, who died unexpectedly in her sleep after a fall in the playground earlier that day. Though I was just a young child, I remember intently watching the mother’s face and feeling her anguish throughout my own soul. Her eyes, that once held the essence of laughter and sunshine to me, were now sullen, red and angry. The beautiful woman I’d known all my life, who had welcomed me into her home as one of her own daughters, now represented a frightening image of fear and pain, an image I never wanted to see again.
However, in the years since creating The Dash poem, I have subconsciously become strangely familiar with loss and its subsequent inevitable pain. I’ve read that if you are preoccupied with your own fears, they can become part of your reality. I believe that writing The Dash, unbeknownst to me, slowly provided my own curative path that would calm my uncertainties allowing me to learn, accept and live with the reality of what comes “after the dash” -- when someone who has been a significant part of your life is no longer there. Albert Einstein wrote: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Since writing The Dash poem I’ve received thousands of stories of uncanny events where The Dash poem has reached people when they needed it the most. The stories and incidents shared with me through phone calls and email from people around the world must be considered more than “coincidence,” and happenstance is not an acceptable description either.
I began to feel an intense and unmistakable obligation to use my ability to find and fit together combinations of words to help those who were experiencing that precise emptiness, that ambiguous sense of functioning with a now incomplete soul, the feeling of a jigsaw puzzle missing a corner. I’ve read the cliché: “Good Mourning” often in bereavement support blogs, but to me, it is an oxymoron. I don’t believe there can be such a thing. Time is the only proven healer, but I’ve learned that the right words at the right time can alleviate, or at least make some remote sense of, this unique pain we are forced to endure through no fault of our own. To know others have suffered and survived grief offers an intangible salve that can soothe our sorrow.
It is truly remarkable how much death clarifies the preciousness of this gift of life. I’ve often said that without tears, why would we enjoy laughter? Without rain, the sunshine would become monotonous. Without sickness, it would mean naught to feel healthy every day. And…without death, infinite life would be unworthy of the reverence this ephemeral life deserves.
Death: To some it is feared; to some it is despised; to some it is disregarded; to some it offers a livelihood. But for all, it is an inevitable conclusion to our dash to be respected and expected. Whatever you believe -- whether you feel a soul ascends or descends when a heart ceases to beat, is re-embodied into something or someone, or eventually returns to being a part of everything having completed its contribution to the cycle, I hope you will find hope and healing in the words I’ve shared within these poems that follow...
Live Your Dash!
NOTE: This case is currently awaiting a decision by the GA Supreme Court. My stalker filed an appeal using a First Amendment Defense...
"Don't you ever laugh as the hearse goes by
For you may be the next to die.
They wrap you up in a big white sheet.
From your head down to your feet.
They put you in a big black box
And cover you up with dirt and rocks."
Those eerily haunting lyrics played over and over in my mind driving by myself to the courthouse in the Georgia town where my stalker lives, hours away from my home. Mile after mile, the words of that song which was posted under my name in a grotesque video on his web site, replayed in my mind. It unnerves me to this day that he and his followers would share The Hearse Song intended for me, coupled with the words: “WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU!” I can still picture the worms crawling out of the skeletal remains in the video and still feel the shock and fear that pulsed through my body the day that posting was discovered and I was forced to finally succumb to the realization of how twisted and dangerous my adversaries were. Looking back, that day was the turning point for me, the day I knew action had to be taken to protect myself and my loved ones.
However, in the beginning of this ordeal there was a graphic that surfaced that should have garnered more of my focus and fear. It was a computer-generated photo of my face superimposed with others standing together in a firing line above the printed words: “READY, AIM, FIRE!” To be honest, it was so absurd to me at the time, the incident got buried by the trivialities and events that continually flow into our lives. Little did I know...
Sharing this story, I try to remember specifics yet my mind is inundated with everything that happened as if it occurred all at once even though it was over the span of three years, thus far. All of the emotions from disbelief and denial, to drive and determination are brought to the forefront of my mind in some chaotic surreal kaleidoscope of reality. During this time, I’ve also considered the many possible situations and circumstances that might lead to obsession and subsequent stalking. Not in one of those scenarios did I visualize a stalker’s victim as a middle-aged inspirational poet. This makes me a prime example of the fact that it can happen to anyone for any reason…or no reason at all.
My stalking saga, as unusual as it sounds, started over a copyright infringement issue in the fall of 2011, a potentially easily solved business dispute with a woman who was ultimately the catalyst for my entire virtual terrorism experience. This woman, a professional auctioneer from Seattle, had stolen my most valued registered copyrighted work and began to use it unauthorized on her business .com website. We notified her and instead of admitting fault and negotiating a reasonable licensing fee, she contacted a group founded by my stalker to assist those who had been caught using copyrighted photos and creative works unauthorized. He began the organization when he (allegedly) used some stock photos unauthorized and was contacted by those who manage the rights to the images. Thus, he arrived at the conclusion that paying applicable fees to licensors of creative works was unfair. This began the twisted relationship between this Seattle auctioneer and my stalker -- an abnormal obsession founded upon their only common denominator -- intimidating, threatening and harassing me.
These were not amateurs. They had become skillful cyberspace hate-mongers. In fact, they had brought the skill of virtual terrorism to an art form. The biggest takeaway of this entire experience for me still remains my complete and utter astonishment at the unconscionable acts one can inflict upon another without ever having the slightest inkling of empathy. I myself cannot pass the homeless on the street without mentally putting myself in their position and wondering how to help. So, it’s bewildering to me how anyone can spew threats, hatred and abuse so unreservedly toward a fellow human being without having their conscience knock on the back door of their brain at least once. Perhaps it did and they just didn’t answer.
My stalkers’ harassment initially began with insults about my appearance, my age, my writing, etc. Insults I can handle, having learned early on in my career that not everyone is going to like me, or my work. That’s part of life and this you must learn to accept. There is not a truer statement than “we cannot please all of the people all of the time.” In addition, I firmly believe in the First Amendment and that even those with less than honorable thoughts to share have a complete unfettered right to share those thoughts. Everyone has a free speech right to express his or her opinions, thoughts, criticisms and condemnations. But I believe when that right, that gift for which so so many heroes made the ultimate sacrifice, is abused and morphs into threats of violence, it should be reconsidered. When that right is further used to solicit the support of likeminded to form a dangerous mob of Internet terrorists connected via Cyberspace by one commonality -- evil, there should be a rescinding of that right. We have the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, but we cannot go around shooting people at will! The same applies to the First Amendment in my opinion. If we abuse this right by threatening to harm, and intimidate others, it should be selectively rescinded.
The unscrupulous in this world have used the power of the Internet to justify attempting to alter the true meaning of free speech and that inevitably endangers everyone. The legal powers that be must increase their awareness and take the necessary actions to stop the spread of this destructive virtual contagion. Better late, than never. My situation should not be a First Amendment issue. It should be an "I have a right to live my life without threats, harassment and intimidation" issue.
In my mind, and following the “hindsight is 20/20” adage, I feel if maybe more attention had been paid to the initial clues and insinuations, perhaps if they had been considered by me to be authentic signs from this disturbed individual, some of his actions could have been stopped earlier or at least kept from escalating. There was a documentary that aired recently about a stalking case that tragically resulted in a homicide. The victim’s family said they would have reached out to the perpetrator, but they knew he was “untouchable emotionally” and they believed doing so would have worsened the already frightening situation. That confirmed my feelings. Even though we’d never met, I knew my stalker was “untouchable emotionally.” He had to be. How could someone with normal human compassion and sensibility perform these depraved acts upon someone else? I just knew in my heart that trying to communicate rationally with the irrational was not a feasible option.
In addition, I didn’t know then how inhabited this beehive of evil was that had been inadvertently poked. Further developments exposed that my stalker had self-appointed himself a “cult-leader” and was quoted proudly gushing these thoughts: “You should realize that creating and managing an online cult…is actually more challenging than one where you physically meet and interact with my followers. My dazzling, hypnotic, persuasive, and entrancing words and prose are somewhat masterful I must confess. I can convince the most intelligent, self-determined, and self-motivated person to blindly follow any public suggestion I might make.” He later referred to his “team” as “loyal and entirely voluntary soldiers.” A few of these loyal “soldiers,” had made their presence known, but how many or how dedicated they were in carrying out their leader’s threats remained to be seen. It soon became apparent that his reach extended beyond the few with whom I was aware when more threats through social media and email from perfect strangers furthering his cause began to arrive. These words he posted for me are still etched in my mind: “Life will become very unpleasant” for “a sustained period of time…” That, is honestly a true statement.
The questions began running through my mind: Who to call? Where to begin? My Internet research only made me more bewildered; under what categories do such infractions fall? Are they considered stalking? Are they bullying? Are they terroristic threats? Which 21st century cyberspace danger applies to my circumstances? Finding the answers and the correct authorities to contact was more complicated than I’d anticipated.
I started by making a call to my local law enforcement. A very compassionate woman explained that she felt the specific threats my new enemy had imposed upon me fell under the definition of terroristic threats. O.C.G.A. §16-11-37 defines a “Terroristic Threat” as, among other things, “Threatening to commit any crime of violence.” I watched the video my stalker had posted addressed to me in which he stated angrily: “She won’t understand anything but brute force!” I thought of the image of my face in front of the firing line and the “collateral damage” he spoke of in reference to the harm he intended to inflict upon my loved ones and associates. His statements: “You’re dead” and “There are those who want to put you in the ground” ran through my mind. Yes, these were “threats to commit any crime of violence.” I filled out paperwork to be contacted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and followed up with a phone call, only to be told later told that I needed to contact my local law enforcement (again.)
I called my local law enforcement once more and explained the situation. A kind and very young female officer came to my house and took a report. I got the keen sense she really wasn’t savvy about Internet harassment and threats. Nevertheless, she said someone would contact me. That week a homicide detective called, who bluntly told me there was nothing they could do for me. He left me with the distinct impression that he had been inconvenienced by my inquiry. I posed the question to him: “What would you do if such harm was directed at your family?” He wouldn’t answer. Feeling helpless and confused, I returned to my keyboard for more research.
While clicking, reading and learning, the thoughts of his statements about driving through my subdivision and around my town entered my mind. My thoughts focused on the images of the photos he’d posted of my home, his boasts that he’d planned to drive by my house with “high powered lenses,” his posting of my financial information, my mortgage, my personal records, my family and my employee’s personal information. His followers had threatened to appear and harass me at my speaking engagements and their profile photos would appear on my computer screen as they logged on to monitor and call-in to harass me during live radio interviews. This was STALKING. This had to constitute stalking. I decided to try to get protection from these threats of violence and harm by seeking a protection order. But, what exactly constitutes stalking in Georgia? Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 16-5-90, "A person commits the offense of stalking when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing, and intimidating the other person." He had contacted me by posting videos and letters directed to my attention. His organization had mailed threats through the US Mail to my home, he had called the fiance’ of my associate when he knew she was home alone with a young child. He had posted photos of my home. He had bragged about driving around my neighborhood. He talked about putting me under surveillance by taking photos “like paparazzi.” STALKING.
I was pleased to discover the special internet crimes division in my county, but disillusionment followed when they informed me their department only handled in crimes involving children and an order for protection could only be sought through the court system. After several calls to several other departments, I was finally informed a visit to the law enforcement in the town where my stalker lives was the advised course of action. They also told I may need an attorney. I soon arranged to meet with an attorney near my home. After extensive telephone conversations during which he was helpful, empathetic and seemed eager to take my case, I was very disappointed. After arriving at his office and showing him my printed evidence, his attitude reversed direction. He said he was embarrassed to admit it, but he was frightened to take my case. Though disheartened and unimpressed by his reneging and apparent cowardice, I truly did appreciate his honesty. Furthermore, I understood his situation first-hand. He was fearful of potential online repercussions that would damage the reputation of his law practice and possibly harm his young family. I then found another attorney in my stalker’s town who spoke to me on the phone and was very willing to help me. I felt instantly relieved.
Often our journey through life crosses paths with another due to no actions of our own, and only afterward do we learn the reasons. As I began to read more of the threats and verbal abuse toward me that my stalker and his “cult” followers had shared with the world, there was a name that appeared repeatedly. Among others, he was also a victim of their attacks. It seemed as though he had been a target for their virtual assaults for quite some time. His name is Tim McCormack and he is a highly respected attorney in Seattle. He had been fighting this war, battle by battle, before my unfortunate emergence onto the scene.
I Googled Timothy B. McCormack - Attorney at Law, as most of us do these days when we make a new acquaintance. I discovered that Tim had been previously victimized by the same group my stalker had founded because he is an attorney for the largest royalty stock company in the world. He defends the company’s rights when their stock images are misappropriated and distributed without authorization and applicable payment. As mentioned, my stalker had founded this group based on harassing and intimidating those who seek monetary remuneration for use of their protected creative works. Tim, by doing his job, had stepped directly into this path of evil-doers.
It was disheartening to read the malicious slander and foolish “memes” that were created about Tim and posted on-line by our mutual foes. The optimist in me searched in vain for reason in the nonsensical slurs they had hurled at this well-respected and educated gentleman. I reached out to him, a total stranger, because we had something in common – harassment by the same group of individuals -- and I needed guidance. Shock and elation were my reactions when he responded to my email and offered his help. Instantly, I felt less alone in my predicament. Looking back, if all that was received from Tim McCormack was that initial reply, I would have been grateful. However, he and his associates helped more than anyone could have anticipated, legally and emotionally. Tim would prove to be not only a fellow victim and legal ally, but also a shining example for me to follow having already endured this wickedness with dignity and maturity. He offered his help and we both knew then I would be turning to him again in the months to come. At the time however, he was my only knowledgeable ally and he was 2,000 miles away, thus able to provide only long-distance support.
Inherently an optimist, I had begun facing these events of my life utilizing a “turn the other cheek” strategy. However, it seems the more these threats were ignored, the more they escalated, as though he were testing me to see how far he had to push to get the satisfactory reaction from me he was obviously seeking. Like a festering wound, he wouldn’t go away without attention. It wasn’t long before the insults were not enough and he stepped up his game. It was then I was forced to face my new reality. My naiveté was finally replaced with an epiphany -- what was happening was very real and very serious.
I followed my local law enforcement’s instructions and drove for hours to the police station in my stalker’s town of residence where the officers were very understanding. However, they told me that I needed to go through the courts there in that town to seek my protection order. Before doing that, I decided to meet with the attorney I had last spoken with on the phone. Ten minutes after shaking his hand, my comfort in finding him was immediately diminished. He too, had made the decision after reconsidering the facts and seeing the evidence that he was afraid to take my case. Both lawyers were too fearful to take my case…all because of one small man (both in stature and integrity) who fashioned himself dangerous using the most intimidating weapon at his disposal, his keyboard. But at least this attorney was not entirely unhelpful. He did give me the name of a judge to speak with and made a call to the courthouse for me.
I walked across the street and timidly into the judge’s courtroom where I been directed. I sat on one of the benches, printed evidence in hand. I was the only one in the courtroom and the silence was deafening. I waited respectfully, questioning my decision to come. I wasn’t sure the judge was even aware he had company. I certainly didn’t want to surprise him by my presence. I was nervous, but the more I glanced down at the printed threats in my hand, the more my fear morphed into determination. It was my right as an American to seek protection, but more importantly, it was my duty as a mother.
After what seemed like an exorbitant amount of time, the judge glanced down at me. He asked my reasons for being there. I began to explain my plight as succinctly as possible, but as feared, my tears started to fall and I knew I’d lost credibility. He instantly responded with: “Where’s your lawyer?!” With a trace of defiance I replied: “He was afraid to come.”
The judge told me there was nothing he could do until paperwork from the 4th floor was completed by me and that I should have been informed of that already. By whom? My invisible attorney? Thanking the judge, I reluctantly took the elevator to the 4th floor. There, I was told that there was nothing they could do because the only option that was available was to file a domestic protective order and this was not a domestic situation. When I told them I’d never met the man face-to-face who was perpetrating these threats against me, they shook their heads and told me to go home.
But I wasn’t going home. I requested to speak with a supervisor, telling them that I needed protection and needed it today. With that, they agreed to let me fill out paperwork for review by the judge. It was the same paperwork as if this were a domestic protective order that was being sought, but that didn’t matter to me. Threats were threats and if this was the manner in which I would be allowed to see the judge to obtain protection, so be it. My hands were shaking because by now it was late in the afternoon with only a few minutes remaining to get the paperwork submitted. I wanted to sleep peacefully that night, knowing I’d at least taken some pro-active steps in resolving my situation. (Later, my stalker would accuse me of having someone else fill out the paperwork because of the variance my hand shaking created in the handwriting on the request form.)
Returning to the judge’s chambers, I met with his assistant. By then, I was visibly upset. I needed protection for my family and myself before something irreversible happened. She listened. She understood. She told me she would try to help. She may as well have had a halo glowing above her head that day. She walked me out to a bench in the hall where I sat holding the completed forms along with the printed evidence of threats tightly in my hands. Observing people leaving the courtroom, I noticed an older woman using a walker, and by her side a younger woman who was undoubtedly her daughter. Thoughts of my own elderly mother rushed in as I remembered the day she entered the room unannounced and saw the video playing of my stalker ranting vile, hateful threats against me. She cried aloud that day standing behind me with her hands upon my shoulders.
After about twenty minutes, the judge’s assistant came out and motioned for me to follow. Walking diligently behind her, I was unsure of our destination. She asked me to sit down and I was now facing a judge, the same judge I had met earlier in the courtroom. We were in a small dimly lit office and he seemed less intimidating at his desk than he had at the judge’s bench. Fumbling nervously through the paperwork in my hand, at least this time I knew I’d obtained the correct forms. I handed him my signed request. He carefully looked over the evidence and stated he believed there was enough to issue a protective order. I inadvertently expressed an audible sigh of relief as he signed the paperwork. He did admonish me to be better prepared when returning for the hearing and I assured him that would happen.
It was now three days before the hearing, and still no attorney to represent me. My fear had convinced me that finding legal support was necessary, however I did learn through this experience that an attorney is not required when seeking protection against a stalker. All you really need is a combination of proof and fortitude. It’s known as Pro se legal representation and it means advocating on your own behalf before a court, rather than being represented by a lawyer. Though the attorneys ultimately proved to be beneficial for me, had I read this book and/or been more informed, my representation at the hearing would have undoubtedly been Pro se.
I decided to throw a Hail Mary pass and called another local attorney. She happened to answer the phone in her office as her assistant had stepped away. At first she said her case load was overwhelming and there was no way she could take on a case this quickly. But the more she listened, the more she sensed my fear and the urgency of the situation. Maybe it was because she is a woman. Maybe it was because she is a mother. Maybe it was because she believes in right and wrong, but it was probably a combination of all three. Whatever the reasons, I was grateful Betsy McBride agreed to take on an additional case with her heavy workload. She spoke with me for another hour about what I needed to do to get prepared for the hearing.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I drove to the hearing. Just knowing there were threats to the safety of my family, alone, fueled my resolve. It felt like more of a mini-trial than a simple hearing, and the defendant was allowed to cross-examine me. Surprisingly, my anxiety had begun to diminish. Instead of my waiting in fear to find out what he was going to do, I was the one doing something…the one holding the cards. After all, truth was on my side. Right was on my side. Though there was a chance for an unwanted outcome, I would leave a winner regardless, knowing positive steps had been taken to stop a dangerous and escalating situation.
As most people can probably say, jargon such as: “Amicus Brief Curiae,” (the name for a brief filed with the court by someone who is not a party to the case) appellee/appellant and PPO (Permanent Protective Order) have never been a part of my professional or personal vernacular. This experience has been one of compulsory education, though even after researching and learning so much, the politically correct name for me today remains: “legally challenged.” I had to put my trust in others, others who knew how to fight battles such as this with more than just faith in “good conquers evil,” which is all there was for me to rely upon initially.
Previously, through email, my Seattle ally Tim McCormack was introduced to my local counsel, Betsy McBride. Together, these two professionals worked on submitting what seemed like endless pages of legal argument supporting me in my endeavor to seek protection. Tim submitted a lengthy, detailed and incredibly accurate amicus brief as did the attorney for my antagonist. The judge perused everything in detail before rendering his decision.
Sitting at the witness stand during the hearing, I was confident and completely prepared to answer my stalker’s questions honestly and straightforwardly. He had in his hand a prepared list of questions for me, but his hand began to shake so much, the paper he held made a noticeable sound. He was scared. He was anxious. The tables had turned, albeit temporarily. Honestly, I must say that I did derive some pleasure knowing he had been made uncomfortable. I remember thinking: Could he possibly be regretting his actions at this juncture?
As the procedures concluded, I still remember being in a state of bewilderment. I didn’t know what it meant when two of the guards slowly walked behind me in the courtroom before the judge announced his decision. I learned later they were there for my protection because the judge was preparing to rule in my favor. He had reviewed the evidence and the facts of the case after an unusually lengthy hearing and made an informed decision based on the law. It felt as though an anvil had been lifted from my shoulders. The defendant begged for leniency claiming he was an honest businessman in the town, but the judge issued a Permanent Protective Order believing that my safety was in question. The defendant began to ask the judge repeatedly: ‘What does this mean?’ as if he was in disbelief that someone had taken his passion – harassing me – away from him.
My literary agent has become a friend over the years. In a discussion with him about my disturbing experiences, and the “legal angel” I had in Tim, he suggested our considering co-authoring a book about our experiences in order to help future victims of these senseless attacks. I contacted Tim and we began this project in the hopes of creating something positive out of so much negative.
I am a different woman today, a different cyber citizen than before my experience with cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking, or as I refer to them, virtual terrorism. I was stalked and publicly degraded, defamed and psychologically violated. It was discovered during the fact-finding process and afterwards that there were other victims of this same stalker. I felt compassion for the anguish the others’ had gone through. It probably sounds selfish, but misery does indeed love company because their experiences made me feel somewhat less isolated and afraid. There were moments when I imagined him standing, his face forming a diabolic grin, in front of a pie chart dividing his heinous actions amongst his victims. There is strength in numbers and the optimist in me had envisioned all of us uniting in a fight against this entity who had brought so much negativity into our lives. But the fear he instilled in them was too great and could not be overcome, at least at that time. Though they expressed their appreciation and support to me in private, they did not want to stoke this sinister fire for fear of renewing his attacks against them. However, I know my victory in court that day has since brought them confidence. We hope that victims will find in our experiences, knowledge and the expert guidance in this book, the courage and information they need to fight back should they be forced to live this nightmare.
These days I am guarded, but still able to trust in others. My heart is a bit more hardened, but still loves deeply. Yes, there have been changes, and there is no escaping that. But I still believe in myself and in others. Though the bullies did not rob me of my fundamental values, they have conditioned me. Thinking back before the incidents that took place to prompt the creation of this book I visualize myself as a different person, one with more mental freedom.
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Today, I am stronger and wiser. Being the victim of this cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking has caused me to travel the bumpy road of self-discovery. During that journey, I reconfirmed that I am a person capable of unending empathy, love and kindness. I have been a bulls-eye for vile arrows released in my direction, yet I have prevailed and emerged with the certainty that there are strengths within me that lie dormant unless… and until I need them. This truth alone has brought me both comfort and courage to face an unknown future.
I was truly a naïve Internet user. I learned this following these unfortunate online events that changed forever my view of the world. Though I considered myself computer savvy, I was still ignorant of the dark routes the 21st Century Information Highway makes accessible to those who choose to transform the good the Internet has to offer, into evil. The terms cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying had been strewn about the news, but I hadn't taken enough time to learn about this growing epidemic, nor to fully empathize with its victims. It took becoming a victim to truly understand the fear this virtual terrorism has the potential to instill in one's psyche.
For those well-versed in Information Technology as well as those less informed, the Internet is a field where we are all potential prey in a virtual open season for the hunter, the cyber-bully. In other words, it can happen to anyone. Whether we want to believe it or not, we live in an age where a misconstrued Internet post, an innocent occurrence in traffic, or a severed relationship can trigger a trail of incidents so personal, so invasive, so violating that you truly cannot fathom they can happen, until they do.
Inspirational writers seek waves of good in every turbulent sea. Believing that everything has a purpose or a reason, we search for some positive takeaway from the fact that technology has become effective weaponry for the unstable, the paranoid and the vindictive. Perhaps one outcome will be that, founded in fear, we become a more civil society forced to live with the ever-present reality of possible repercussions from those who we may unintentionally in our hurried lives treat without the utmost respect and kindness. But then again, cyber-bullies can manufacture disrespect in even the most harmless interactions, or often in no interaction at all, as my story illustrates. Of course, my optimistic vision is that we will come to grips with this 21st Century phenomenon, this battle against virtual incivility. In this vision, I view these events as obstacles we must encounter and overcome to eventually use the Internet as a way to connect via constructive dialogue founded upon respect.
Many years ago I penned my most famous work to date, a poem titled “The Dash.” It’s a rhyming piece about that little line on a headstone and how it ultimately represents everything we have done and said during our lifetime. My experiences with cyber-bulling and cyber-stalking have compelled me to consider my own “dash” and my own mortality. In doing so, I affirmed my commitment to appreciate every day and I now pour more intensity into my written words believing more than ever, we must live each day as if it were a lifetime in itself.
by Linda Ellis
Who are you to take from me
my smile, my peace of mind?
Who are you to survey me
from what you hide behind?
I try to analyze emotions:
Am I angry? Am I sad?
Am I just in mourning for
the carefree life I had?
Will the wounds from what you’ve done
heal themselves someday?
Will I remember how my life was lived
before I became your prey?
Am I ever to be whole again
or has completeness been forsaken?
Can I return to my life's puzzle
the missing piece you've taken?
For all the questions that I ask,
there is no good reply.
I know the where,
I'll NEVER understand
I’ve pondered in my writings if there is less anguish in being a hater, or being hated. Both are unpleasant, but after these events in my life I can honestly say I’d rather be the latter. Hating takes too much energy. Hating steals too many of the finite number of minutes with which we are blessed. Hating eats at your soul. Hating encompasses your being. I refuse to hate my stalker any longer, for doing so was hurting me more than him. He had stolen enough of my minutes by filling them with nastiness. But, I also refuse to think of him in a kind way after all he’s done. I cannot say I wish him well, but I do not wish him harm. My intent is to use what was learned during this experience to help other victims and move on with my life as a stronger and wiser woman.
As this chapter is being completed, my stalker gathered a legal team who filed an appeal against the Permanent Protection Order that the judge issued to ensure my safety. His team used a First Amendment defense against the protection order. There’s a common theme that Tim McCormack has mentioned that puts everything into perspective: “Why can’t they just leave the woman alone?” Why must they continue to stalk and harass me? I suppose the answer to that question will remain a mystery. However, the case did go before the GA Supreme Court and a decision is expected to be rendered the coming months. I can only hope and pray that good does overcome evil and right will trump wrong. My stalker claims his rights were suppressed. What about my rights? What about my right to live my life free without constant threats of violence and death? What about the daily damage that is done to me personally and professionally? Most importantly, what about my right…to simply be left alone?
Each cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking case has its own unique set of circumstances. My co-author (and co-victim) and I have learned things we never thought we’d have to know and still wish we didn’t. Both of us feel strongly that our experiences, however unfortunate, can now serve to help others -- those who are enduring these all-too-common threats and those who wish to ready themselves for the indisputable possibility. Technology has certainly outpaced the law. While no one can prevent the unstable from adopting unreasonable obsessions, the advice in this book can help a victim be pro-active before a situation escalates. There are steps you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones and your reputation. A bad outcome is not inevitable when the signs of cyber-attacks begin to appear. The self-help aspects of this book have been designed to help you navigate the difficult waters of these attacks. The experiences, technical savvy, legal information and check lists contained within these pages can make the difference. I know they would have for me…
Here is one example of intimidation and harassment posted by my stalker: