I was naive, ambitious and searching for guidance when we first spoke. I wanted to make a documentary and link it to a sustainable brand: I didn't know how. After speaking to several producers, directors and media figures, I came across Sam's LinkedIn profile.
A quick introduction:
He is 55 and living in Singapore. He wrote books, produced several films and now ran a successful clothing business; in short, he was exactly the mentor I needed in order to make my plan a reality.
For the first time in my life I decided to ‘slide into the LinkedIn DM’.
“Hey, in my search for a fellow producer and business (wo) man, your profile really stood out to me. I have the greatest respect for the achievements on your timeline, hope we can briefly connect to discuss your specialties: producing and branding. ''
Now that I'm writing this down my stomach shrinks to the bottom of my stomach and I can't stop thinking how could I be so nice. Why the f*ck was I so nice.
“Hey Evi, thank you for your lovely message, it would be an honor to connect. I just really don't like talking on here, please send me your number so we can jump to WhatsApp. ''
Grateful for this opportunity, I sent my number and we talked for an hour about making movies, releasing them yourself and what I should and shouldn't do.
He suggested to have a 'real' conversation via Skype (FaceTime apparently doesn't work in china???) So, I gave him my email as well.
We discussed strategic first steps, after which he started asking more personal questions about the motives behind the documentary and about my life. Interests and hobbies.
Naive as I was, I assumed that he only wanted to know this to improve the storyline of my film: after all, the documentary was created off a personal situation.
Although he asked me questions, sometimes I didn't even get a chance to answer as he talked for hours about the success of his company and the exclusivity of his life.
At one point, he offered me a dream position within his company, with benefits that would even make the president jealous.
This was when I finally ‘woke up’ and felt something was not right.
I promised to think about it (his offer), but I already knew that I wouldn't take it, I'd just hang up and never call back.
He called back half an hour after our conversation ended (via Skype).
I didn't want to be rude so I decided that I could pick up and tell him that I declined the offer since I wanted to focus om my own life.
I didn't got the chance to do so since he kept trowing questions at me till the point where he decided to take off his pants and take off - full frame.
“WTF ARE YOU DOING”
I was in shock, angry and didn’t immediately click away so he said:
“oh, baby you have to keep things open between us”.
I was still in shock but found the strength of mind to hang up and immediately block him on skype, WhatsApp and LinkedIn. Thinking I had gotten rid of whatever that was.
He stalked and threatened
After that call I because so conscious about my body, my gestures and words.
I felt so bad and guilty for what happened to me.
I kept repeating to myself that it was my fault. Because I had been nice. Because I told him I was grateful for his help.
Therefore, I provoked this.
Therefore, it was just my fault.
Soon the messages started to arrive, each time with new phone numbers and though different channels: each time with a more threatening tone.
I tried not to read the messages before I blocked the numbers, but when I did, his words confirmed my fear: He told me that I wanted this, I had asked for it myself, it was my own fault.
I went through life as a zombie, my sports vests were exchanged for oversized cardigans and where I would usually laugh obnoxiously with my friends, I could only hold a faint smile.
“Honey, I have something to tell you”
The guilt was really getting to me, so I had to tell someone. So I decided to tell my partner.
He was angrier than I imagined.
But one thing I could never have imagined: he was angry with him, not with me.
I put forward all my arguments: that I had send the first message, that I had been quite nice in the beginning.
But there was no way to change his mind: it was his fault, only his.
I felt relieved and slowly started come at peace with it.
My 'mentor' on the other hand, did not accept his loss.
Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and even my website: he bombarded me with threats, declarations of love and everything in between; again with new phone numbers and through all possible channels.
To this day I have never typed one letter back.
Yet he still did not give up.
5 months after our Skype conversation, the threats became more serious and I decided to take all my socials and sites offline.
I didn't want to bother others, so I kept everything to myself.
All to no avail: he continues to find ways to reach me.
I don't know how he keeps getting my new contact details.
Another two months later I decide to stop hiding, my Instagram, Facebook and site are live again.
In total it has been 7 months since I had my first Skype conversation with him and I still get messages, but they don't touch me anymore.
I have the feeling that I have read every sort of possible message now, so I block the number/ sender without reading anything.
Crooked looks from the boss, questionable comments from teachers, round off insulting comments on the street; the most normal thing in the world.
Although the behavior mentioned above is of course inadmissible, it never really touched me: "That's just the way men are."
When it came down to it, the men in my life always showed respect for the limits I set.
But this experience has taught me that this is not always the case.
I am well aware that nothing has physically happened, and I have always been 'safe'.
Yet this has had a tremendous impact on my state of mind, trust in the others and more importantly; in myself.
My thoughts go out to anyone who has experienced something similar (or worse).
Right now, I realize it's not my fault; that he is full responsible for his actions.
I wish this state of mind to everyone.
In retrospect, I find it shocking to realize that for so long I have blamed myself for something completely beyond my control.
I am aware of the campaigns that are currently being conducted around sexual harassment, but I am also aware of the taboo, which, despite all this effort, still rests on this topic.
I would have made it clear to my friends, in all possible ways, that there was no one to blame, but that guy. Yet I immediately blamed myself.
I therefore hope that we will be able to look more objectively at such cases in the future and that better ways are being developed to prevent or punish them.
I also hope with all my heart that in the future we can break the taboos on this subject so that victims no longer lay the blame on themselves.
At home and at school, I have been told hundreds of times to never take my shirt off in front of the camera. That makes me wonder if this would have happened if he had been told only once that he should keep his pants on.
Written by: Evi Maalcke