Robin Brockelsby had an “amazing life” as a public speaker and wife when a single text message uprooted her sense of stability. “Life as you know it will never be the same again,” it read.
The 11 words, sent from a blocked phone number, were the beginning of a harrowing two years in which Brockelsby — a mother of three — experienced near-constant stalking. “I was getting text messages constantly from an untraceable cellphone number, making threatening statements,” Brockelsby tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Multiple Facebook pages were created pretending to be me… and one of them reached out to people in my children’s network and their school.”
Once Brockelsby recognized that her stalker was aware of her children, she got police involved. “That’s when I got very, very scared,” she says. “I changed everything in my life. I used to travel for work and I would be solo on those trips, I used to go running all the time, I was involved in all kinds of local community activities — all of that stopped. I stopped going anywhere.”
Unsure where the person was located, or whether they had intentions of hurting her, Brockelsby struggled to live a normal life. “I experienced absolute depression. I experienced major insomnia,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s very scary to be hunted by somebody and not know where they are.” So she signed up for self-defense classes, learning to shoot a gun and use a taser.
Eventually, after two years, the harassment finally stopped. But the experience left her changed — and determined to speak out about a fate that millions of women and men face in America each year. “Stalking is something that happens to seven and a half million people in the U.S. every single year — it doesn’t happen to a handful,” says Brockelsby. “One of the problems is that nobody wants to talk about it because we’re all scared, but I think the best way to fix something is to talk about it.”
Although each state in the U.S. has laws against stalking, the practice still persists. The Stalking Resource Center defines it as “a series of actions that make you feel afraid or in danger,” adding that it is “serious, often violent, and can escalate over time.” January is National Stalking Awareness Month in the U.S., a time when people like Brockelsby — who started an organization for survivors — speak out.
“When you’re in your darkest moments, you don’t feel like you’re ever going to climb out of that hole,” Brockelsby tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And I will tell you, there were times when I lay in bed thinking I don’t know if I can go through this another day.” But after sharing her story of survival, Brockelsby feels strongly that others can do the same.
“I would hope that if you’re hearing this and you’re going through this right now, that you will find the strength to talk about it,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Because the more people you tell, the safer you will be. And when you’re in your worst place, and you can’t imagine getting out of it, but you do, you can go back and think, ‘OK, I can do this. I can get through this today. I’m going to be my own advocate.'”
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