If You Know, You Know

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This post links with Cyberstalking: A Protest, In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure, How To Date An ArseholeIt’s Not Me, It’s YouGet Lit (Not Gaslighted…)Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

When you first meet someone and you feel that ‘Wow’, the butterflies in the stomach, the magnetic pull towards them, the ‘I want to know everything about you’ impulse, it’s a special thing. Love makes us feel alive but it also makes us blind. When you have strong feelings for someone, your judgement becomes flawed. Realising that the person you have invested time, energy and love into, has repeatedly lied to you, manipulated you, betrayed your trust, is clearly not who they present themselves to be, is absolutely devastating. You blame yourself for not seeing the signs sooner, for accepting their lies, for being gullible, but it’s not your fault. You can’t beat yourself up for not knowing what you didn’t know.

In other blog posts I have written about my emotionally abusive, narcissistic, controlling ex not because I want to portray myself as a victim, but because I am motivated by a desire to educate and help others. I do not want anyone else to go through what I did. In October 2015 I blindly fell into a romantic situation that in the four years that followed caused utter havoc in my life, extreme emotional and mental distress, and nearly destroyed me. All because I fell in love with someone who is not as nice as the image he likes to portray. So many people have told me over the years that he is such a good man and implied that I must be responsible for the toxicity and abuse within our relationship. They are welcome to believe whatever they want. I have a collection of emails, WhatsApp messages and a voice recording that prove otherwise; the evidence speaks for itself. I know what I have been through and the impact the relationship has had on me and my life.

Gaslighters are highly effective convincing manipulators. They are adept at discrediting those who speak up about them. I am aware of the lies that have been told about me but here are the facts which I can prove:

  • My ex/boss initiated the relationship
  • He kissed me in his office during school hours
  • I refused to sleep with him as he was married
  • He sexually harassed me in the workplace
  • He refused to support me professionally if upset with me personally
  • There was retaliation in the workplace when our personal relationship was not good
  • He damaged my career and my relationships with co-workers when I worked for him
  • I tried to leave the relationship multiple times but he would always talk me round
  • He lied to and manipulated me throughout the relationship.
  • He has cyber stalked me since I left him last year and has been reported to UK police

When I left my job and Dubai, where we lived, to get away from him, I had thought that a difficult situation in my life was over. How wrong I was. How naive. I quite rightly reported my ex to the company we had worked for for his professional misconduct and expected him to be held accountable – after all, I had been told by them to ‘trust us to deal with him’. I didn’t trust them and I was right not to. After seeing a statement by the CEO proclaiming how proud she was of him, and his continued attempts to manipulate and control me did not stop, I began speaking out publicly about my experience. This is 2019 – NDAs can no longer be relied upon to stop women telling the truth. Had I been left alone to get on with my life, I probably would have shut up and gone away like so many trolls told me to but I’m afraid no man gets to damage my career and wellbeing, scapegoat and villainise me, and harass and cyberstalk me when I had to leave my job and my home in Dubai to get away from him. That’s not a situation that anyone should stay silent about and was certainly not one that I was willing to tolerate and accept. How a woman – who refused to sleep with her married boss – in this day and age can be punished for speaking the truth whilst the man concerned is protected and rewarded for his abuse of power is unbelievable. The refusal to be honest, to take responsibility, and lack of accountability, is on him and the company. Shame on all of them, those who continue to condone his behaviour, and those who tried to shame me and trolled me for speaking up when they do not know everything that happened in the relationship, or its aftermath, or how many times I tried to resolve the situation amicably. I didn’t deserve how I was treated by him personally and professionally when I worked for him and I do not deserve to continue to be abused when I am getting on with my life. It is not OK to villainise women who find the strength to walk away from, and speak up about, abusive situations just because you don’t like what they have to say. Pretending the truth does not exist does not make it go away. My ex/boss is the one who continued the situation and ignored requests to stop. Actions speak louder than words and his actions since I left him seem to indicate he feels he can still do whatever he wants and get away with it. However, no one is above accountability and what is done in the dark always comes to light.

I left Dubai over 18 months ago. Nearly two weeks ago I had to change my email address as yet another unwelcome email was received – containing porn and information only relevant to my ex and I – despite repeated requests to be left alone and warnings about legal action. Being cyberstalked is not simply annoying. It is not flattering. It’s not harmless. It is definitely not romantic. It is weird. It is frightening. It has been deeply upsetting and I cannot understand how someone I loved could put me through everything he has put me through over the last four years. I completely misjudged him and feel that I never really knew him. I fell in love with a facade. Had I known when I met him what he was really like and how fucked up our relationship would be, I obviously would never have gotten involved. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. To live my life in peace I have had to change my phone number, change my private email address, disable blog comments, restrict followers on my blog and Instagram and make everything as private as I can. You don’t know how easy you are making it for someone to track you, to monitor you, to invade your life, until it becomes an issue. I urge others to rethink how much information they share publicly – you have no idea how vulnerable you are to cyberstalking and identity theft until you find yourself the target of someone who wants to abuse the power they have.

As a result of my blog and Instagram many people know what I have been through, and the identity of my Dubai ex. I won’t mention his name here. If you know, you know. I hope by speaking publicly about our relationship, I have prevented him from doing this again to another colleague, or to another woman. I also hope that he seeks help, and if he can’t be honest with others about the things he has done, that he has at least been honest with himself to learn from this. Everything we experience in life is an opportunity to grow and become a better person. I am not the same person I was: I am stronger, wiser, more resilient, more humble. Because I know what I want in life and all that I have been through, I will never allow myself to be in a similar situation again. I have reclaimed my privacy and feel happier knowing my ex now has zero ways to contact me. I am sure karma will take care of him eventually. Even when you think you have gotten away with something, the Universe is always watching. What will be will be and he is thankfully not my problem any longer.

Only people who have been in toxic/emotionally abusive relationships themselves know and really understand how damaging such relationships are, and will be able to empathise with my experience. Just because someone appears charming, kind and loving in public, it does not mean that they are not capable of abusive behaviour in private – appearances can be deceptive as I have painfully learned. He and I both know what happened between us; only one of us has told the truth. There have honestly been times when I have seriously wondered if there was much point in going on with my life but each time I felt that low, I found a reason to be hopeful and kept going. Now living a life radically changed to my old Dubai life, I’m so glad I did. It has been a battle getting here but I have genuine peace at last.

Take care,

Lisa.

Cyberstalking: A Protest

Last edited: 18th November 2019

This post links with Dear Dubai Ex: Closure, In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner, How To Date An Arsehole, It’s Not Me, It’s You, Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Some supporters of mine recently created a Twitter account ImWatchingYou and held a 24-hour Twitter protest on November 1st to highlight my situation* (see note at the end of the post). Regular readers of my blog will already be aware of the circumstances that led to me leaving Dubai in April 2018 (About Me explains) and what I have been dealing with since I left. I did not expect to still be dealing with my ex and the aftermath of our relationship in November 2019, and nor do I want to be.

Numerous times I’ve been trolled, told to shut up, go away and get over it. I’ve been portrayed as the psycho ex who refuses to let go, who vindictively wants revenge. Anyone who actually knows me well knows that I’m not THAT person. I am someone unafraid to speak up, to fight for my principles and what I feel is right. I’m a Libra and to me, fairness and justice are everything. I was brought up to treat people as I expect to be treated. I don’t like confrontation or discord – but if you screw me over and don’t do right by me, I will stand up for myself. In October 2015 I became involved in a complicated personal situation that was to prove to have catastrophic consequences for me in the four years that followed. I met a guy at work and we clicked immediately. I couldn’t believe my luck – a handsome, smart, funny man liked me! When he made it clear he was attracted to me and began to pursue me, I was thrilled. I had no idea when we met that he was married, he was not wearing a wedding ring, and I was shocked when his circumstances were revealed. He had certainly not acted like a married man around me. The attraction between us and the feelings we had were strong and I allowed myself to get emotionally involved with him, though I refused to cross the line by sleeping with him. That was the beginning. To say that this particular relationship ended badly would be an understatement.

Multiple times during the relationship I ended things and asked to be left alone. My ex would always talk me round and I would be drawn back into it again. I loved him but felt caught in a fucked up web that I didn’t want to be in and couldn’t seem to get out of. He was my boss and there would often be repercussions for me in the workplace when our personal relationship was not good. He gaslighted me to control me and keep me, his ‘special friend’, attached to him, which I have written about in other blog posts to hopefully help others to recognise that they may be involved in a similar destructive situation. He is a clever, manipulative man who told me he always gets what he wants, and he always wants to win. Eventually he pushed me too far, I had enough, and exposed him in a controversial blog post, ‘How To Date An Arsehole’. I lost my job as a result of writing that post. After three years of putting up with his behaviour, I wasn’t going to go without a fight. I asked to make a formal complaint to the company we worked for. They were not interested and just wanted me to go away, despite them knowing I had a vast collection of work emails, WhatsApp transcripts and an incriminating voice recording that proved my allegations. They threatened me with defamation and I had to fight to get the money I was owed paid to me. They only paid me once I signed an NDA (a non-disclosure agreement).

That could have been the end of it and would have been had I received any kind of apology or assurance that my ex would be held accountable. The company had no interest; it did not suit their agenda. I was fobbed off and told to trust them to ‘deal with him’. They gave him a new job in one of their other schools. What a slap in the face. Why it was OK for a married Principal to initiate an affair with a colleague, to kiss and ask for sex on school property and to then gaslight and manipulate when he didn’t get his own way, but not OK for me to tell the truth and expose the behaviour, knowing I can prove what I’ve said, is not something I will ever understand. I blogged about it to ensure that he knows that what he did was wrong and to ensure he doesn’t do it again to someone else. The online abuse I’ve had over the past year has been horrific but I always knew that speaking up was the right thing to do.

At various times I have been prepared to let all of this go and make my peace with it but then something would happen – online abuse attacking me, fake accounts being used to contact me, the bombshell revelation in April 2019 that he was rewarded with a new job when I’d been forced to resign etc. So the cycle continued until I reached a point in July when I was ready to draw a line under it all. For whatever reason, my ex/boss had been allowed to keep his job despite his obvious professional misconduct and I’d been the scapegoat. That was bullshit but I just wanted positive change and peace in my life after a year of devastating losses and turmoil. I reached out to my ex privately via email, making clear my intention was closure. Even if the company was prepared to condone his behaviour, I wasn’t, but I wished him well anyway. I felt I had mentally and emotionally put the relationship to bed.

Unfortunately, my ex has not allowed me to move on – despite what he may have told other people. I am still writing about the situation because I am still dealing with it. I am still dealing with his attempts to contact and manipulate me. On police advice, I changed my phone number, removed my email address from my blog and Instagram, disabled blog comments, and made my Instagram private. I deleted many blog posts and deleted my old poetry page to prevent him from clicking on ‘our poems’ – he still found a way to access them. I’ve tried ignoring the situation. I’ve tried not posting anything on my blog or Instagram for weeks at a time to see if that helps. I’ve tried to be nice about it. I’ve written about wanting peace, asking to be left alone to get on with my life. A friend has even contacted my ex, and his CEO, on my behalf and asked him to stop. I reported him to the UK police. I wrote Dear Dubai Ex to publicly ask for the situation to stop. I don’t know what more I can do. The Twitter protest was not my idea but I appreciate the intention behind it, and the support of those who feel I do not deserve how I was treated by my ex/boss or our company.  The people in my life now know how committed I am to moving forward and how frustrated I feel that a part of my past seems determined to keep a connection going with me, or just wants to show me that he can find ways to contact me whenever he wants as he does not like not being in control. He appears charming, kind, an average good bloke, so it has been difficult for others to believe me. What he put me through when I worked for him was not acceptable and it’s not simply my word against his when evidence exists; evidence the company didn’t want to see when I reported him last year and still don’t want to see now he persists in finding ways to contact and manipulate me. Being believed no longer matters to me – I just want him out of my life. 

Cyberstalking can take many forms. Every time a new fake account is discovered, or contacts me, I feel sick to my stomach. I have been advised not to reveal on my blog the full details of the contact or how we know when it’s my ex rather than some other weirdo. He and I know all that he has done. What I can say is that trolling and cyberstalking make you feel vulnerable, anxious, frightened and paranoid. It’s stressful feeling watched all the time and unwelcome contact is both invasive and upsetting. It needs to stop. I have never threatened anyone with legal action in my life and I don’t want to proceed with a court case against someone I loved – but I will, if I have to. Hopefully, it will not come to that. We are weeks away from the end of the year. I would like to enter 2020 with the weight of this situation lifted; happily free from the past.

Peace, 

Lisa.          

*Please note that I am not the administrator of this Twitter account and DMs sent to the account will not be passed on to me. The Twitter account is still active but many tweets have been deleted. The purpose of the protest was to highlight cyberstalking and make public my own experience. The original intention was for the protest to last 24 hours – until we discovered that someone had tampered with our Analytics i.e. had found a way to remove impressions and engagements from certain tweets, probably with the intention of making us think that the protest had had less impact than it has had. The account will now stay active but only a few tweets remain.      

Dear Dubai Ex: Closure

Forgiveness

Last edited: 19th November 2019

NOTE: After all efforts to resolve the situation with my Dubai ex privately and amicably failed, I wrote ‘Dear Dubai Ex’ to publicly ask him to stop his manipulative and controlling behaviour. This post made clear that I was not interested and wished to be left alone. Further attempts to contact me in various ways were made. Police advised me to make my Instagram private, disable blog comments and restrict followers to deal with the situation. It has been a difficult journey but the police in the UK have been very supportive. Coercive control and cyberstalking are unacceptable so if you too find yourself the target, collect evidence of the incidents and reach out for help like I did. You can take back control, move on with your life and rise above. Originally posted on the 4th September, this post has been revised and now represents closure, my farewell to this chapter of my life. Peace.

18/11/19: This morning I woke up to an email containing porn and a subject line only relevant to my Dubai ex and I, from an account that was obviously fake to my private email address. I have changed my email address. My ex now has zero ways to contact me. Problem solved.

This post links with Cyberstalking: A Protest, In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling PartnerHow To Date An ArseholeIt’s Not Me, It’s YouGet Lit (Not Gaslighted…)Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Dear Dubai Ex,

In July I contacted you privately to make peace with you, to apologise for my part and wished you well. It was a sincere act of closure and I felt such a sense of relief, of lifted weight afterwards. I was optimistic that a painful chapter had finally closed. However, you did some things in August and September that worried and alarmed me and the situation needed to stop.

When we entered our relationship – an emotional affair – we did not foresee how badly it would end. We can’t change what’s been said and done. There have been faults on both sides post-break up and matters escalated in a way I’m sure neither of us wanted. I don’t regret standing up to you and telling the truth, but I know it has been hard on all of us. If I could go back in time to that moment, during a school Professional Development day, when you told me you had feelings for me and wanted to initiate an affair, I would in a heartbeat – to tell you to get stuffed and decline your proposal, like I should have done then (but said many times after).

You have every right to feel what you feel; whatever you feel is your entitlement but please respect my requests for no contact, to not be monitored or contacted via fake accounts on social media, and for my poetry – poems I’d made private for various reasons – to not be accessed from my blog without my consent. I could share details and screenshots to prove what I’m saying but I’m not going to do that. It doesn’t solve anything and what other people think or believe is not my business. I heard endless ‘sorries’ from you during our relationship and promises that things would get better; ‘sorry’ becomes meaningless when you hear it so often and the behaviour that called for an apology doesn’t change. Actions speak louder than words. You once told me that one day you would make me hate you. I don’t. I feel no anger or bitterness towards you now. I don’t think you realised that you were being emotionally abusive but ‘I didn’t mean to’ is not an adequate excuse and doesn’t make everything you did OK. You did know, as a married man and my boss, that it was wrong to ask a colleague to have sex with you in your office – especially in Dubai, where adultery is illegal. Even though I did the right thing and refused, you failed to take responsibility and let me be scapegoated when I exposed you. I loved you but did not cross the line by sleeping with you. There should have been no consequences but getting involved with you had a catastrophic impact on my life and career whilst you were protected and praised by the company – who had told me to trust them to deal with you! That was an injustice, hence why I blogged about it – to stand up for myself and prevent you from doing it again – and I’m proud I did so. 

Nobody is perfect; we all make mistakes. Learn and grow from this experience. My agenda with my blog is to help other people by sharing my experiences and feedback from readers has been very positive. Some good has been achieved. Moving forward, focus on your family and your own happiness. Don’t ‘keep tabs’ on what I’m doing in my life. Respectfully, that’s no longer any concern of yours. I haven’t contacted you since mid-August* (when I told you to stop, and that I didn’t want to see or speak to you again). I never look you up online. I don’t ‘keep tabs’ on you. I’ve moved on.

My closure email in July should have been the end of it. It was heartfelt and clear in intent but as you have done so many times in the past, you disregarded my wishes and boundaries. Enough was enough. I reported you and closed myself off on social media to resolve the situation. Legal advice regarding coercive control, sexual harassment in the workplace and cyberstalking has been illuminating. I am familiar with the UAE’s defamation laws – instead of investigating my complaint, the company threatened me with defamation to try to silence me. It was a risk I was prepared to take to be heard, as I will never return to Dubai. Libel laws are different in the UK. Knowing I can prove what I’ve said, I have blogged about the detrimental impact of our relationship on me, and its aftermath. I don’t need to explain here just how devastating gaslighting, controlling and manipulative behaviour, and cyberstalking can be. Though I’ve been told I have enough evidence to proceed with a civil case for damages, I have no desire to pursue the matter further. I just want to live my life in peace. Hopefully we now have closure, at last. After four difficult years, I am happily enjoying a new era in my life and, despite everything that happened, I genuinely wish you all the best.

Take care and goodbye B.

*I have contacted my ex twice since posting this. 16th October: I emailed both him and his CEO asking for the contact to stop and told them I would not proceed with legal action if I was left alone. That same day a fake account contacted me. 18th November: after receiving an email containing porn, I emailed my ex and told him to move on. I then changed my email address. There will be no further contact between us.

Poem I wrote during the relationship. Says it all…

LOVING YOU

Loving you is like

Trying to hug a cactus.

You score my body

With short sharp shocks

When I get too close.

Loving you is like

Sleeping in a honey bed.

You wrap around me

With slick suffocation

When I try to escape.

Loving you is like

Writing an oxymoron.

You have no words

With cohesive ideas

When I ask how you feel.

Loving you is like

Climbing a jelly mountain.

You unsettle me somewhat

With longed-for openness

When you tell me I am missed.

Loving you is like

Wearing a stone feather coat.

You weigh heavy on me

With your contradiction

When I am without you.

Loving you is like

A jigsaw with a piece missing

You are here somewhere

With resigned defeat

When you watch as I leave.

Loving you is like

Catching air in a jar

You persist in your absence

With memories unspoken

When the end comes.

Lisa Hawkins