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At fifteen, a boy who I vaguely knew through a friend of a friend took something of a shining to me. This is no mean feat when you attend an all girls school, are entering your teenage years and desperately want a boyfriend. Not to mention the fact that I was a little frumpy and suffered from acne. Any attention from a boy two years my senior was, initially, well received.
He attended a school in my area so our only communication was through online messaging. As such, I had no way of ascertaining just how odd this boy was. And trust me, he was.
Having been raised as a fun, vivacious, and well mannered girl I entertained online conversations with this guy over a period of months. There was nothing untoward about him or about our exchanges that raised alarm bells - except perhaps, how intense his feelings towards me became and so quickly. We never spoke in a sexual way or suggested that we could or would ever have anything more than an online relationship based on flippant small talk. At most, he was sweet and complimentary towards me but that was it. It therefore came as a shock when, out of nowhere, he declared undying love for me.
Maybe I should've seen it coming but this boy was my first foray into romantic territory. I didn't know what the warning signs were. I'd only briefly met this guy for an awkward thirty seconds in the high street and really, we didn't know anything of any worth about one another. I was so naïve.
I didn't fancy this guy at all and had no intention of taking what we had any further so I let him down gently.
And then it was Jekyll and Hyde.
Overnight, this fairly friendly and seemingly nice guy changed. It was like a switch had been flicked. He told me how he had hoped that we would lose our virginities to one another but now, he wanted to rape me. He waited for me menacingly outside of my school gates, lingering metres away from me and would text me vile insults as he watched me walk past. One day I ran into him outside of the local supermarket where he showed me the knife that he carried on him at all times. He told me that his older brother would "get me." He sent me a supposed love poem describing how he'd hang himself because I had apparently hurt him.
I told my friends at school and it was only at this point that my friend asked her boyfriend what this boy was like and confirmed that he was weird and unpopular. My friends were my rock so I didn't feel the need to talk to my parents who, (as teenagers often do) I was increasingly falling out of favour with them over petty things. If I could turn back time, I'd have told my mum everything and taken it to the police then. But I didn't.
For the following nine years this guy has crashed in and out of my life. What seemed to be an online teenage crush has actually transpired into this lowlife's obsession to get revenge. He hacked into all of my online accounts and posted vile and obscene photographs to my family and friends. He posed as girls online and spoke with any guy that I publicly interacted with in an attempt to sabotage any future relationship I may have. He found where I worked online and spammed their website and left negative feedback for their services, citing false complaints against me. He rang me all hours of the day making silent phone calls to intimidate me.
I attended university. I got a degree and a Masters. I moved cities. I had three serious relationships and still this guy would waltz into my life causing as much catastrophe as he could. What did I do? Damage control. I'd block his number. I'd block the fake Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts that he made. I'd apologise to anyone affected and explain the whole situation. I'd screenshot my proof and add it to a folder of evidence that I've kept since I was sixteen.
I'm a bright, feisty, popular and articulate girl. I've achieved more in this last year than this lowlife ever has in his life. Yet still I rolled over and took it. I just undid as much damage as I could and moved on with my life. I vowed that the next time he did anything to me, no matter how trivial, that I'd escalate it. I have a file of evidence ready to handover to the police and a hugely supportive family that I know would be a sympathetic ear. I'm almost wanting him to strike again so that I can tear him down.
But, if you're reading this (and you probably are because I've no doubt that you'd go to any psychotic length possible) then I just want to say 'thank you'.
In many ways you made my teenage years miserable. I can think of two potential relationships that you destroyed. I can't count the number of times my stomach would churn upon realising that you were contacting me via an alias account or alternative number. I can't describe the shame that I felt when I'd apologise and have to tell friends about this embarrassing baggage that I carry because you'd messaged them saying I'm fat or that I'm evil or that I'd screwed up my job. I can't tell you how terrifying it was to be a naïve teenager told that an older guy would get me, to be threatened with rape or shown a knife. I can't tell you how vulnerable it makes you feel when your social media accounts are all hacked and then spammed with obscene posts. You can't possibly understand.
For years I questioned whether I had unwittingly lead you on. I wondered if I'd rejected you cruelly when I'd tried so hard to let you down gently. I wondered if somehow I deserved this. But actually it's not me, it's you. My biggest crime was being nice to you. You'd been bullied at school and ostracized for being odd and you mistook my mere friendship for love. Normal people don't fall in love so quickly with someone they've never met. Normal people don't threaten despicable crimes to intimidate young girls. Normal people don't spend years thereafter trying to destroy someone else's life.
It's been a year since you've last done anything and I'm certain that I'm waiting for the next blow. When it comes, you won't know what's hit you.
Thank you for truly making me a strong person. Thank you for keeping me guarded, wary and making me grow up - it served me well with my social media settings, when getting to know new people and when going on Tinder dates. Thank you for making me appreciate what a good guy is. Thank you for bringing me closer to my friends who stuck by me through thick and thin. Thank you for cementing my connections with boyfriends - there's nothing you could say or do that would jeopardise my current relationship. Thank you for showing me my worth because superficial compliments are meaningless and the insults you've thrown my way now genuinely mean nothing to me.