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My “no” is not a “yes,” a “go ahead” or up for discussion

I told my mom: “I’m going to get a restraining order.”

I was IM-ing this message to her so she couldn’t hear the crack in my voice or see my eyes redden and well up. It was extremely difficult to type out that sentence for me since I hadn’t had that conversation with my parents in so long.

About six weeks ago on Friday, Sept. 3 at around 1 p.m., I received a phone call from a number I recognized almost immediately – it was my ex-boyfriend’s.

I didn’t answer his call, waiting for him to eventually hang up. For the last two years since we’ve broken up, he has tried to contact me every now and then even though I specifically and constantly told him not to. I wasn’t surprised to see his call that afternoon. However, as I watched the phone continue to ring, something from within stirred – a sick-in-the-stomach creepy kind of feeling that something awful was going to happen to me that day.

Unfortunately, my instincts were right. About fifteen minutes after the call ended, he showed up right outside the door of my residence hall. Someone had let him into the building; he was able to find my unit and stood just few feet away from me.

Seeing him in physical form again after so long scared me. I immediately told my roommate to close the door on him and called Public Safety. I wasn’t able to explain to campus security what he was wearing as I had only seen a sliver of his face from behind the door frame and threw him out the moment I heard his voice.

The next few hours were a flurry of meetings. I met with my R.A., then a residential director. I asked my cousin, who was in Hong Kong at the time and about to go to bed , to look for a picture of my ex to give to Public Safety – because I didn’t have one anymore. Later in the week, I met with the Director of Wellness and Community Outreach and signed up for counseling at Cowell. The words ‘restraining order’ and ‘police report’ came up a lot.

Throughout the next month, I felt like I was riding an emotional roller coaster even though he immediately became banned from campus. I broke into sobs during random times of the day and cut class when I wasn’t mentally prepared – it felt like I was going through a really bad break up again. I didn’t want to believe what became official the moment I saw him again: I had a stalker. A freakin’ stalker.

I started to become incredibly distrustful of others. I was angry with Public Safety for giving him a parking pass, I was mad at whoever told him where I lived – I even messaged my first suspect, a former Mills student who was in the same high school program as my ex. She said she didn’t and I realized I was getting paranoid.

Discouraging thoughts flooded my mind, like “he didn’t hit you or anything” and “maybe you ARE overreacting.”

I was fairly sure I hadn’t written anything online about my address. But maybe in my excitement over getting my room I had blabbed about it. That thought scared me so much I made my Twitter, Facebook and other online accounts private and changed all of my passwords.

It was a relief to learn that many other women on campus had filed restraining orders too – it was a weird connection – but at times, I felt my situation didn’t warrant one because there was no physical violence. I couldn’t even express myself like I usually do by writing about it because I was so afraid he was going to read and message me to deny everything like he did in the past.

Despite everything, my ex didn’t stop contacting me – it’s because of his emails my parents didn’t want me to file a restraining order. He sent them a sob story about how remorseful he was for ‘scaring’ me and how he wouldn’t try to bother me again. My parents believed him. I was utterly heartbroken, but I understood they couldn’t be blamed when they didn’t really know the whole story. I tried to muster up the same hope they had for the situation.

However, my hope disappeared as he continued to contact people I knew to forward me messages. I realized he wouldn’t stop and no matter how many times I said “no.” I didn’t recognize this person I used to care for and the only way to stop him was to serve him a court order.

I received a forwarded message from my ex in my email, but I didn’t read it and instead archived it for evidence. I lied to my parents because I thought I couldn’t trust them – I decided to file the order by myself.

Eventually, I decided to tell them. They weren’t the enemy and after some reflection I realized they probably didn’t want me to because they were worried and just didn’t know how to handle what happened to their daughter. After I found out that restraining orders weren’t criminal and wouldn’t go on his record, I was even more energized to file one.

During the IM conversation with my mom after I admitted everything, she typed: “I understand … and we’ll support you.”

It seemed that the whole weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders; I shivered in relief.

Where to find help outside of Mills

You can visit the Alameda County Family Justice Center. It is a one-stop center made up of several non-profit and governmental agencies who there to help victims of domestic and sexual violence, including both child and elder abuse. They are located at 470 27th Street (between Broadway and Telegraph Avenues) in Oakland, CA, open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and can be reached at (510) 267-8800.

All the services at the Center are free. They can speak many languages and have video relay services and videophones available for the deaf or hearing impaired. Even if you or your family haven’t been physically harmed, there is still support for you there.

Along with a restraining order, they can help you get:

• an emergency protective order
• legal assistance with divorce and custody matters
• on-site child care and counseling for children
• individual and group counseling
• interfaith spiritual counseling
• shelter referrals
• emergency food, clothing and housing
• assistance in accessing public health benefits
• immigration assistance
• prosecution

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The title of this opinions article is derived from a post on the feminist blog, Jezebel.