• anonymous woman

Dear No Conflict They Said,

Thank you for your brilliant website and initiative to encourage us to send in our stories to you. Here's mine.

I'm a British woman who went to my local grammar school from aged 11-16, plus I stayed on in its 6th form college, so I was there from aged 16-18 too.

During those years, there was a boy in a different form from me, but in the same year group as me. By upper school (aged 14-16), he'd picked some of the same GCSE subjects as me, so we ended up in some of the same classes.

He and I were never friends or in the same social circles. But his being in some of the same GCSE subjects as me meant that our paths started crossing in the 4th and 5th year. From what I could tell about him, I didn't much like him and he wasn't someone I wanted to become friends with.

About halfway through upper school, when he and I were 15, he started stalking me. I used to walk home from school with some of my friends and how it would work would be that one by one, as each of my friends would reach their roads, they'd branch off to their road and house and the rest of us would carry on walking together until it was time for the next friend to branch off to their road etc, etc. This meant that all of us would eventually be left to walk alone for the final few minutes of our walk where we branched off to our roads, myself included. So, for the final 5 or so minutes of my walk home each day, I'd have to branch off alone down some side roads that led to a path, that led onto my road. It was during this final part of the journey that this boy's stalking of me took place.

The boy in question would walk behind me and my friends walking home while we were on the main road. Then when the time came for me to branch off alone down the side roads leading to my road, he'd quicken his pace to catch up with me. He was basically following me and waiting to catch me as soon as I was alone. I didn't like it. As soon as he'd catch up to me, he'd start trying to chat with me and engage me in conversation I had no interest in. He didn't live on my road or anywhere near it, so this following me home was purely to stalk me, no other reason. Plus it was obvious I was being targeted because if it was relaxed and natural, just being sociable, why did he never try walking alongside the rest of my friend's group at the start of or during the rest of the journey? Why keep walking a couple of steps behind us all the time, then pouncing and catching up to just me once he could see I was alone? When groups of friends walk home together, it's by mutual agreement and people usually only do it within their own friend's circles. Otherwise, it's an invasion of someone's personal space. Not to mention an invasion of their privacy, such as seeing their address where they live. But as mentioned, he wasn't one of my friends or from any of my social circles and nor did I indicate any interest in making friends with him. Yet he'd still catch up to me right from the start of the side roads and walk me home, including down the very narrow single-file mud path leading to my road which is secluded from public view by trees and walls, to my road, right to my front door without my permission, all the while, forcing me into an uncomfortable situation of having to go through this ordeal of this unwanted contact and conversation from start to finish.

Even if a boy wants to be 'chivalrous' and walk a girl home, they should still ask permission and check they have that girl's consent. When I was a few years younger in the 1st year, some older boys in school did ask my permission if they could walk me home and I was fine with it because they were well-known to my friends and me. (They were the older brothers and their friends of girls I was very close friends with, but who'd long left school by the year I needed their help when this stalking took place). Whereas this was nothing like that and was unwanted. This was someone I didn't want to share my time and space with.

It went on every day for weeks and I didn't know how to make it stop. I was 15 at the time and felt I had no choice but to be polite and converse with him because after all, he wasn't saying anything rude or mean or anything - quite the opposite - the things he was saying were perfectly nice and polite. It was the fact he was doing any of it in the first place that was the bad part - it was the forcing me into that contact and engagement without my consent which was the bad behaviour. Plus the fact he was following me in order to create that opportunity to catch me alone each day, which was also bad because it was building up a sense of anxiety within me every day, dreading that moment when it was my turn to say goodbye to my friends I was walking with to branch off down my roads alone, whilst sensing and knowing he was walking just a few paces behind me and that he'd catch up with me any moment as soon as I was alone. I felt totally stalked and trapped.

Even at the point where we'd reach my front door, he'd still carry on talking to me and I'd have to find polite ways of ending the conversation just so I could get inside and get away from him. It was bad enough that his stalking and walking me home without once asking me if that would be okay meant that he'd find out my address and see which house I lived in, but to make it worse, once we'd arrived, he'd keep me stood there at my doorstep and prolong the ordeal by carrying on talking and not letting me leave to go inside. Both my parents worked full-time and I'd get stressed that they'd come home soon and I'd have to explain why my time was being taken up by a boy I didn't even like at their front door. It was an awful experience I'd come to dread daily. Every day throughout the school day, I'd know that this horrible experience was lurking ahead of me yet again at the end of school.

So after weeks of this happening daily and it causing me much stress, I decided to do something about it. I didn't feel comfortable telling my form tutor or any of my teachers because I didn't want to appear silly like I was making a fuss over nothing. Or that I couldn't sort out my own problems that fell outside of school hours. Ours was quite an old-fashioned tough grammar school where we were expected to be tough. Besides, most of the teachers in my school didn't like me anyway and I was already in trouble with most of them myself for various things, so it seemed unlikely that any of them would ever believe that for once, I of all people, was the victim of someone else causing trouble. And of my school friends, most of them were girls my age, so I didn't think they'd know how to stop the stalking any more so than I did. So getting boys to help me seemed the better option than girls, but nor back then did I have many friends in school who were boys.

But outside of school, I did. Most evenings after school, I used to go out with some of my local friends from the other neighbouring schools, some of whom were from the local boys' school. So one evening after school when I'd just gone through this whole stalking ordeal yet again and was feeling increasingly fed up by it, some of those boys came to my house as usual and instead of me forgetting about the stalking and putting it out of my mind and focusing on spending a nice evening with them like I'd usually try, this time I decided to tell them about it.

Those boys were good friends of mine and probably felt quite protective of me. They got as annoyed as I was when they found out about the stalker. Although they weren't from the same school as me, they were local and the same age as me, so they knew quite a lot of the boys in my year group in my school. One of my male friends who got particularly angry that I was being stalked was best friends with a boy in my year group in my school. He insisted that he was going to tell his best friend to beat up the boy that was stalking me and if necessary, get his friends to help him, and that he was going to put a stop to this. I was aware of who his best friend was and by coincidence, he happened to be in the same form as my stalker. I also vaguely knew my friend's best friend and from what I knew of him, he was a quite strong character. I was also aware of who his friends group in my school was and that comprised strong boys too. So I had no doubt that between them, they would follow through on this task of beating up my stalker, but I had misgivings as to whether violence was the right approach to stopping the stalking. But by that point, matters had come out of my hands and my friend was determined that this beating was going to take place.

I was kind of dreading it, but by this point, I was also fed up of the stalking and at least I knew it would most likely be successful in ending it. This was also my third stalker by this point, the first being an older boy back in my 1st year of high school when I was only 12 which was very scary and lasted a few weeks; the second was in my 3rd year when I was 13 by another older boy in my school which lasted a few days. So this being my third stalking experience meant I'd really had enough.

So the beating up went ahead and wrong though that might have been, as promised, the stalking stopped. It was a huge relief. But because the stalker and I were only halfway through upper school, that meant we had the whole of the 5th year ahead of us, plus two more years of 6th form ahead of us. So that meant that I had to face 3 more years together with this boy, trying to avoid him. It felt really uncomfortable, but I managed to keep a distance, and presumably, he was doing the same too to keep out of my way, per the other boys' instructions back during the beating. So it all kind of worked out.

Fast forward to a few years ago, due to unfortunate family circumstances, I had to move back to my parent's house after living away for two decades. So I'm back in my home town where many of my old school friends still live. The boy who stalked me still lives in this town too, only now, he's come out as a transgender lesbian woman who's attracted to women.

Given how uncomfortable my experience of being stalked by him was during the weeks that it lasted, plus given how it remained uncomfortable for the remaining 3 years of school and how I spent those years avoiding him, my question now is this: How would a school girl cope now if this was taking place now? Because if stalking can take place three times with me during my high school years alone (by three different stalkers), it'll definitely still be taking place now to current school girls. So if my stalker is now trans, and back then, would have been able to be in my girls' PE classes and use the girls' changing room and shower room after PE, how would I have been able to carry on doing what I was doing and been able to avoid him and keep my distance from him the way I did for the remaining time if I'd have had no choice but to have direct contact with him by doing PE with him and undress in front of him and shower with him? I can't imagine how traumatising having to undress in front of my stalker would be in an open changing room with no partition walls and having to shower with him in an open shower room, again, with no partition walls. This isn't an example of a boy keeping himself to himself, eyes down, minding his own business. This is an example of a boy who did the opposite of that and went out of his way to follow and stalk me each day and who is now saying he's a lesbian who's still only attracted to women. So how could I shower in front of him knowing all that?

Our school's gym has two big changing rooms - one for boys and one for girls - both of which have an open layout with shared benches etc - no separate cubicles or partition walls for privacy. Our school's sports hall has the same format for its changing rooms. Same with its showers - one big shower room for boys and one for girls - again with open layouts with no cubicles or partition walls for privacy. That was fine back while my stalker was in the boys' shower room, changing rooms, PE classes and boys' toilets, but now he's trans, he'd be in mine now. He's already put in a discrimination complaint to one of this town's sports clubs about them not letting him use the women's toilets. So of course he'd have wanted to use the girls' toilets and changing rooms and showers too.

As mentioned, one of the reasons I didn't want to tell any of the teachers about the stalking was to avoid feeling silly like I was making a fuss over nothing, especially when he'd not said anything bad or abusive or offensive. I can only imagine how much harder it would be for girls now not to feel like they're making a fuss over nothing whilst trying to protect their privacy in the changing rooms and showers from boys saying they're girls and us being told we must accept it.

In no way do I accept that my male stalker is now a lesbian who's attracted to women. I find that an insult to women and a double insult to lesbians. As far as I'm concerned, he's the same heterosexual man with a proven stalking history who's now bagged himself a pass to stalk women even better than before by now being able to demand closer access to them in our private spaces, and this shouldn't be allowed. I hope my story helps your fight against the erosion of womens' rights to women-only spaces and the protection of our privacy and dignity by providing another person's perspective and hopefully some food for thought.

In solidarity.