“My Ex Stalked Me for 11 Years”

For more than a decade, women’s rights advocate Julie Lalonde was stalked by an ex-boyfriend—and kept silent about it. Now she’s finally able to share her story

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OTTAWA, Ont. (09/03/14) - Julie Lalonde,

The author (Photo: Taylor Hermiston)

I met Xavier (not his real name) when I was 15. We went from best friends to engaged in less than three years. At first, things were lovely. Xavier was funny, spontaneous and his presence guaranteed some sort of adventure. I loved how comfortable we were with each other and his ease at opening up. Unlike other guys my age, Xavier was quick to talk about his feelings and wasn’t afraid to cry.

Friends I met later in life have a hard time reconciling the Xavier they knew with the Xavier I had met in high school. Shortly after we started dating, I moved away to start university and Xavier traded in his sweet words for constant put-downs, paranoia and monitoring. Although I had planned on moving to university on my own, he insisted that he couldn’t live without me and soon moved in with me and my two roommates. Then he began chipping away at me and my successes, all the while becoming more and more controlling. He demanded to know where I was at all times. He needed my email password; read my diaries; put monitoring software on my computer; and made no secret of any of it: “If you don’t have anything to hide, then what’s the problem?”

Xavier’s behaviour was unsettling and I knew that most of it wasn’t okay, but I felt trapped. On the one hand, my stubbornness wanted to prove everyone wrong. People told us that we were too young to be in a serious relationship and I was determined to prove them wrong. On the other hand, I had this niggling feeling that Xavier wouldn’t allow me to leave. If he was this controlling and obsessive while we were together, I was scared to think of what he would do if I left him.

I had been raised in a loving, feminist home where I knew my worth from an early age. I knew that if my parents knew how bad things were, they would worry. Wanting to protect everyone around me, I stayed quiet and kept up appearances.

The three years we spent together are mostly a blur, peppered with memories too painful to bother putting in focus. And like so many women, I had to make multiple attempts to leave before I finally did.

On a sweltering July night, I called some friends and told them I had to pack up everything I owned and leave while Xavier was away for the weekend. He had no way of contacting me while he was gone, so it was the safest time for me to escape. My friends helped me pack everything we could fit in their cars and I left him a note, instructing him to give me space and to wait for me to call him when I was ready.

I landed on a friend’s couch at six a.m. the following morning and fell into a deep sleep until I was shaken out of bed: “He’s coming, Julie. Xavier knows you’re here. We need to go.” Xavier had apparently banged on the door of every person who knew me. By process of elimination, he was coming here next.

I then moved from one friend’s couch to another until I thought that maybe if I just talked to Xavier, he would calm down. Calling from a payphone, I begged him to stop terrorizing me and my friends.

A few days went by and I got the first of many chilling letters from Xavier detailing everywhere he had seen me, down to the exact payphone where I had made that last call. Terrified, I called 911. As much as Xavier had hurt me, I still loved him. Choosing to call the police on the person you love is a jarring experience that your mind never fully accepts.

I distinctly remember sitting on the floor of a friend’s filthy bachelor apartment in my underwear and housecoat, with the crushing Ottawa humidity making the place unbearable. I dialed 911, pleading for someone to stop him. The operator asked a series of questions, including whether I had broken up with him or vice versa. When I told her that I had left him, she responded that I needn’t worry. “He’s obviously heartbroken. He just needs time to heal.” I was given a case number and told to call and add things to my file should he do anything else. I hung up the phone, laid on the floor and wept.

Xavier would continue to send me letters. I moved in with a friend only to have him find out where I was living and leave notes on my doorstep. I kept adding things to my file.

A police officer finally called and asked for Xavier’s number, so he could call him and tell him to back off. “That should scare him off,” he insisted. The officer called me back 10 minutes later and recounted how Xavier had sobbed, saying he was reacting out of sadness because I had broken his heart. “He cried, Julie. He’s obviously really upset. So, I wouldn’t worry about him. He won’t be calling you ever again.”

I hung up the phone and it immediately rang again, with Xavier screaming into the receiver that I was ruining his life and getting him in trouble. It was in that moment that I realized that Xavier would never stop. He would never, ever leave me alone.

Xavier continued showing up and harassing me at my job, sending me dead flowers, following me home from class, e-mailing me precise details on where I had been at what date and time. He would hack into my email, try to access my banking information, show up unannounced at my apartment and make a scene. Xavier would leave notes at my apartment or on my car that varied from disturbing “love letters” to lengthy handwritten poetry outlining if he couldn’t have me, nobody could.

The police told me to get a cellphone and call a friend whenever I left the house, call them again when I got to my car, call again when I got to my destination and to maintain that level of vigilance until further notice. It got to be a running joke among my friends where I would call them from my apartment, telling them what I was making for dinner or watching on TV. “Just eating some grapes. Thought you should know!”

I struggled with creating normalcy amongst such chaos. Laughing at the absurdity of my life was a tiny lifeline. This is crazy, right?

…..

Every day, I would get more threatening messages and more unannounced visits. Xavier was always watching and he wanted me to know. But my life had to go on. I had papers to write, deadlines to meet, rent to pay. I lived a double life, with only those closest to me knowing about Xavier. To others, I was a typical undergraduate student, engaging in campus activism and working a part-time job. I maintained my naturally outgoing personality and people suspected nothing.

In an attempt to free myself, I would eventually move into a new apartment across town. It was a really dodgy neighbourhood but I felt the safest I had in years, living alone and away from Xavier’s watchful eye. My apartment was my private oasis and I loved sharing a tiny space with nobody but my beloved cat.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

Xavier followed me home from work without my knowledge and found out where I lived. He left me a note telling me he would always love me and that I had no choice. He would routinely leave presents at my doorstep, charming my elderly neighbours with the belief that he was an admirer. (“Such a sweet young man, trying to win your affections!”)

One night, I stumbled out of bed to get a drink of water and saw that Xavier’s car was parked in the alleyway behind my house. Inside was Xavier, staring at me.

I found rock bottom when I realized he had actually moved into the apartment behind my house so that he could always watch me.

Some days, I’d finish a 12-hour shift at work and crawl across my apartment to hide in my bathtub because it was the only part of my home he couldn’t see into. I’d lie there, fully clothed, in a catatonic state for hours, wondering what I had done to deserve this life.

He once left a will on my door, detailing how he was going to kill himself and make it look like an accident, but only I would know the truth.

When he heard through our hometown’s grapevine that I was going to visit family for a funeral, he stalked me from my house to the Greyhound station. Once there, he followed me into the washroom and threatened my life and his own, as another woman shook with fear in the stall beside me.

He only left when I frantically texted friends who came to drag him out of the bathroom and scare him away.

…..

The chaos and mayhem of Xavier was a normal part of my life for 11 years.

I got my degree, went on to graduate school, got my first real job working for the federal government. Feminist activism grounded me. Reading, studying and working with survivors of gender-based violence gave me a sense of purpose.

In the early years, I never made a connection between Xavier and my work with women. Surviving that level of tyranny required me to compartmentalize my life: Over here, my private pain of enduring constant threats and monitoring from a man I had loved dearly; over there, my public life of advocating for other survivors of gender-based violence. Creating a sexual assault centre at my campus, fighting for victims’ rights to access rape kits and volunteering on support lines gave me a sense of purpose. It helped me rebuild the core that Xavier had spent years chipping away.

Eventually, I heard through old friends that Xavier moved away, got married and had children. And yet, the harassment and stalking never ceased, though it did wax and wane. I would sometimes go months without hearing anything and think, This is it. I’m finally free, only to have him send me an email outlining that he was still keeping tabs on me.

My activism bloomed into a fully-fledged career as an advocate for women’s rights. I became a source for journalists writing about sexual violence against women. I did countless interviews about experiencing street harassment and discrimination on the job, all the while knowing that every media interview, clip and photo was another way Xavier could gain entry into my life.

During this time, I never uttered a word about being a survivor of domestic violence or stalking, while fervently wishing the media would tell stories like mine. Women make up 76% of stalking victims in Canada and 58% of them are stalked by a former partner. I knew I wasn’t alone, but I also knew it wasn’t safe enough for me to say so.

What if I said something publicly and he took it as a provocation? What if he thought I was going to say his name? Every speaking engagement was met with fear. My mind would race as I walked up to the podium, scanning the room. Is he here?

Although I had “done the right thing” and left the man who abused me, I would never be rid of him. Learning to accept Xavier as the albatross around my neck took years. I would think I’d made great progress and then I’d hear from him again and spiral.

“He won’t stop until you’re dead.” The police said it. My counsellors said it. My family said it.

I believed it.

Until a message from an old friend that simply stated “I’m sorry if this upsets you, but I feel like you have the right to know. Xavier died in an accident today.”

Xavier is dead.
Xavier is dead.
Xavier is dead.

I say the words but they do not compute. They will not compute for years, I’m told.

I go home and dig up the folder of evidence I have carried for the 11 years I was stalked. I soak page after page with my tears, going through every threatening note, scrap of paper and email; an astonishing 70 documents in total. Over a decade’s worth of tyranny, laid on my living room floor and I can’t stop crying. Everything about our story, and it is our story, is sad. I’m sad for the young woman who tried so hard to reason with an unreasonable man. I’m sad that he wasted his own life, chasing after a ghost. I’m sad for his wife and children, because they are now without him and because I know they never fully had him in the first place. But most of all, I’m sad for all the wasted years of my own life.

There is no guidebook on what to do when your abuser dies. No maps on where to go next. But if my years of advocacy have taught me anything, it’s that we must create spaces for people to speak their truth.

Let me start: I was a victim of stalking for 11 years. You are not alone.

Are you experiencing abuse? If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Visit ShelterSafe for 24-7 support, including information on shelters near you. For additional resources—and ways to help abuse survivors—visit the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters & Transition Homes or YWCA Canada.

Related:
Julie Lalonde on What Amy Schumer Gets Right About Domestic Violence

 

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37 comments on ““My Ex Stalked Me for 11 Years”

  1. Thank you so much, Julie. I’m so sorry, and thank you so much.

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  2. Julie, I’m so sorry you went through such hell.
    To the editors: am I the only one seeing the irony in you advising victims to call 911? As Julie’s case (and many other cases) attest, law enforcement is abysmal at taking stalking seriously. Our entire society romanticizes it. Pieces like Julie’s are so important, and will hopefully be read by the same law enforcement officers who let her down so badly. They should be ashamed.

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    • Krista, I imagine it’s the sort of thing that Flare’s legal team needed them to say. And, in a moment of immediate danger, 911 is intended to be the best option. It’s a shame that for so many, it often doesn’t pan out that way.

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  3. So brave Julie!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad that you finally have some peace from him.

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  5. So brave and courageous! Thanks for sharing your story. I am sure it will help lots of people going through something similar, knowing they are not alone. And a big thanks to your friends for taking of you when you needed it.

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  6. Thank you for finding the courage to share your story. I am sorry you had to endure this. You are beautiful and a much needed soul in this world.

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  7. Julie, thank you for all the work you have done to make the world a better place for survivors. I’ve felt the effects of your work long before I knew this personal story of yours. I’m so glad you are safe from him now. I hope you find healing. <3 <3 <3

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  8. I experience the same as you Julie, there is no clear winner.. thank you for sharing cause it gives strenght to others. Im sorry you had to go through that ordeal..take time in healing and dont forget that life does have beautiful things in it. You will be stronger.!!

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  9. Thank you Julie. Thank you for telling your story. My former partner of ten years has been stalking me for a year and a half and it’s been pure hell. And it’s not over. The system is not designed to protect us and there are days where that fact just becomes unbearable. I’m so sorry you went through this for 11 painful years. And for those years before you could successfully get out…. So many pieces of your story felt like I was reading my own journal. I have a strong network, but still I’ve felt so alone. So thank you for writing this. For reminding us that we’re not alone. And thank you for the work you do for women. I don’t know how my story will end, but I do know that I want the world to know that every day that the system fails us is an injustice. Our justice system prioritizes Liberty over truth, my lawyer has said to me. But it’s not my Liberty that they care about, not even a little bit. Take good, gentle care of yourself Julie as you continue to heal. xo

    * for obvious reasons, this is not my real name.

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  10. This sounds like the crazy story inspired by feminist activism looking for a cause. Not to belittle the severity of stalking, but this is Ontario. One call to the police from her would have landed Mr. X in jail. Period. A second call to police would have him put away in jail. This is not a true story.

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    • Michael you really have no idea do you? In a perfect world it would be as you say.

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    • Michael, not that it matters, but as someone who is a friend of Julie Lalonde and has had discussions on this subject and have felt so frustrated with the impotence of the legal system towards women who are terrified, you have no idea what they go through for any type of VAW (Violence Against Women) dealings with police. I believe every word of it. ‘This is not a true Story”?? You owe Julie an apology, sir.

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      • Agree!

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    • Hey Michael, here’s a bulletin: you don’t know jacks–t. Even if you end up getting a good cop who actually cares when you call, the system surrounding them isn’t equipped to deal with it. Xavier should have been arrested. He wasn’t. Only death stopped him, and thank god it wasn’t in a way that Julie could be blamed for, because he could have ruined her life even after his death.

      Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself whether you actually listen when you’re told things, that maybe there are women in your life, who you care about, who *don’t* tell you things because you react to stories like this with scorn and derision and have no compunction about sharing your thoughts carelessly and hurtfully. There could be similar stories surrounding you and you have no idea, because you’ve pre-emptively shut yourself off from them. Your reality is not others’, and you only have yourself to blame for not knowing about it.

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    • I do not believe that one call to 911 would stop this harassment. You are living in a different world as a man. Not to say there are no women who stalk, just not many of them.

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  11. In regards to Micheal’s comment… WOW!!!!! like i said before, i had the same experience as Julie.. i am a physically strong man who ran away from my ex for 15 years… and like Julie , the police and courts are not equiped to help. Or they blame you for creating the problem… i truly believe in Julie cause it happenned to me! I am happy there is a group to help her.. but it happens to men also..we are too proud to ask for help. Stupid us.. so Micheal if it happens to you please let me know how well the cops helped and then contact me and i will guide you..

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  12. Julie’s story is horrific, yet inspirational for her strength and determination. The day he died she shared her story on twitter (a real eye opener for me) and confirmed my already firm impression of her as a feminist hero and even more so, as a wonderful human being.

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  13. Sorry but I don’t believe a word of it

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    • You don’t have to believe it. But I hope to God it never happens to you or someone close to you. I do know Julie & her story. She was terrified. For years. Police. Would. Not. Help. You owe her an apology, Gerry.

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    • You’re like, the most basic of basic dudes, Gerry. Enjoy life as a cliche, knowing all the women in your life sigh and roll their eyes at you.

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  14. I’m so grateful that you’re safe. I’m so grateful that he’s dead. What horror.

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  15. My heart goes out to the women in this article having to live like that for so long ….but women are not the only ones who face this dilemma women are stalkers as well my ex wife is a case in point .And as the police and the law let this women down ..it can be twice as hard to get help if your a man.

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  16. Couldn’t have had a better ending. Well I gues it could have actually…as a man I acknowledge that this guy deserved execution, all of the men that do this deserve it, it should be law in Canada. The police were useless to her and failed her. He should have been rounded up thrown in a cage, and eventually deleted from humanity as he had earned. The moral of the story is… the guy died and her life was drastically improved because an evil man was no longer tormenting her. Death of evil is a good thing on planet earth.

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  17. when I read the summary, I figured your stalker must have died if you were able to share your story. Awful. Thank you for sharing and I hope you can find some peace.
    I just made a connection – I’ve loved your radio show since I stumbled upon it when I moved to Ottawa last year. Thank you for that, too.

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  18. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Julie. It’s brave and courageous and the fact that you were taking a stand while being abused, harassed, doxxed, and stalked is even more impressive and empowering. I truly hope that more women are able to step up and talk about this in the media and to their friends because of this article. And as much as it probably hurt you, I’m SO grateful that you are now safe from your abuser. I hope you have peace and continue to share your story – it needs to be heard.

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  19. Thank you, Julie, for your courage and bravery to share this story. Thank you for opening my eyes to a problem that so few know about but happens all too often. Wishing you peace and healing from what can only be described as a horrific experience. Keep making these spaces for people to share their stories.

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  20. Thank you for your story, Julia. In my early 20s, I had to move across Canada to get rid of my stalker (1000s of kilometers). Fortunately, there was no email and no social media at the time; it was easy for me to hang up the phone when he found me. You are right about being dismissed by the police: one needs to be hurt before they will do something.

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  21. Something is very fishy about this story. Crawling to your bathtub? Puhhhlease, get some curtains.

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    • You’re kind of jerk, eh?

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    • You’ve obviously never been scared while in your own home, where you should feel safe. If you’ve never experienced it you’ll never know how terrifying it is.

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  22. This is an important story to tell – it’s true that there is so little attention paid to the issue of stalking. I hesitate to talk about my experiences because I feel people won’t understand or think that I am making a big deal about nothing. There are some people who can sympathize (but don’t entirely get it) and others who just miss the point completely. I think unless you’ve even experienced a little of what it’s like to be stalked, it’s hard to understand the fear and paranoia you develop, the helplessness and lack of control you feel, the way you feel you have to change aspects of your life to protect yourself. The effect of stalking is more psychological and mental than anything else – you don’t really have physical injuries to show for it, and I wonder if that’s why it’s harder for people to understand its impact. My experience was not even nearly as bad as yours was, but reading this meant a lot to me because I could relate to it. Thank you.

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  23. I’m glad the author and her dear kitty survived. Very sadly, companion animals of victims can be victims too.

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  24. I believe her because the only guy that would want a feminist like her would have to be creepy and weird.

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  25. Something is missing

    Why was their no restraining orders filed?

    There’s no way that an individual in Ottawa could criminally harass somebody for 11 years without him going to jail

    Is there?

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  26. I picked up this issue of Flare at the hairdresser a few days ago, came across this article — and started trembling. I know it’s too late for comments, but this story is so much like mine, I have to tell mine. (I never tell my story because I think people would think I was making it up.) My stalker started making my life hell after I broke up with him in high school and followed me for 10 years, lurking in parking lots, showing up at my work — once even showing up at the house of a boyfriend who was cooking dinner for me — until I moved thousands of miles away. Even then, he would contact my friends and family, asking for my address and number. Once, he even managed to get my number and I didn’t sleep for a month, afraid he would be in my driveway when I got home. And when I did try to tell the story, people who knew him mostly thought he was a charming, lovesick guy. They got the sick part right anyway.

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  27. OH MY GOD you are so lucky. I have spent 22 years being stalked. I pray every day that he will die.

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