When you realize that an abusive ex-boyfriend is sending your naked photos to coworkers and pretending to be you, there are a few initial responses that go through your mind:
a. Drive to his house, bust out his windows and go crazy.
b. Pack up your stuff, quit your job, and never look back.
c. Do nothing, because he will get away with whatever he wants to do to you.
Now, I’ve already punched out one window in my life and I’d like to keep it at that. As far as quitting and running away, I’ve done that too, and the “do nothing” option goes against everything I’ve fought to regain since running away.
It was time to turn the tables and start stalking the stalker. All I could think was “You don’t get to do this to me.”
It was only a matter of time before everyone at work would see those photos—I had to get ahead of the situation because someone in my position can’t have an Anthony Weiner reputation and still keep her job. Once I’d gotten over the initial shock and sent a profane-laden text to my friend A, I left a message with Internal Affairs, telling them I had to file a report of workplace violence and sexual harassment.
Then I trudged over to my boss’ doorway and gave a series of slow, awkward knocks.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like sitting across the desk from the Executive Director—a man who took a chance on hiring you for a job you’re not qualified for– and telling him that your ex-boyfriend from six months ago—who is also one of his employees, and has worked there for three decades—is sending naked photos of you to all of his other staff.
It was humiliating.
When I finished talking, he was very quiet. I waited for him to declare me an embarrassment to our organization, but instead he pulled out some very vintage curse words and reassured me that I was not the only person in the room who’d gotten involved in a messy situation with a coworker.
A few days later, a rep from Internal Affairs launched an investigation into my ex and I got to tell my whole sordid and shameful story into a tape recorder. They spoke with several other employees and though these interviews were supposed to be confidential, the word got out. Within two days, the entire hospital knew about my naked photo scandal.
The investigator waited to speak to my ex until the last possible moment and advised me not to show up to work, just in case. I spent that day visiting my cop-brother who’d just had major spine surgery and was high as a kite on pain pills. He spent most of his time writing long essays on Facebook about how his wife was annoyed with him and could someone please bring him Pop-tarts and Fruit Roll Ups. I’d never told any of my four older brothers about my ex, but I figured the safety net of narcotics was like a free pass and he’d probably forget the conversation as soon as it happened.
I glossed over the details of my nudity and gave him a brief overview. Drugged or not, he was horrified and told me I had to immediately file a police report to establish a pattern of behavior.
“Pieces of shit like that don’t go away. He’ll stay on a cycle of coming back around and messing with you until you do something to stop him.”
The next day, I filed two police reports and the officer told me it was the “the worst case of stalking and intimidation” that she’d seen in her career. Her lieutenant later called and asked for an additional written statement because my ex had all the markers and warning signs of a mass killer.
Both officers repeatedly advised me to file for a restraining order. I went to the courthouse and was given a court date for a Monday two weeks in the future. The Internal Affairs investigation continued to drag on. The Friday before I was due to appear in court, the investigator showed up at my office and shut the door.
“Aussa. Do you have a plan in place to keep yourself safe?”
I just stared at him.
“I can’t compromise the confidentiality of my report, but I feel like I need to warn you… because it doesn’t look good. There’s no doubt in my mind that he did this, but we can’t prove it. It’s your word against his and he says you sent the photos in order to frame him. He’s going to get away with it. You need to make a plan to keep yourself safe for afterwards.”
I felt helpless. I’d be up against this same “my word against his” argument at the restraining order hearing and I had absolutely no proof. All I had was the cell phone number that had sent the photos and it went to voicemail when I called it. I knew from working at AT&T that the voicemail recording was not that of a major cell company and was mostly likely a pre-paid burner phone and totally untraceable.
This was a situation that could only be handled by my inner Liam Neeson.
It was 3PM on a Friday, which meant no one was doing anything at work. I went to my friend’s office and consulted Wikipedia for a list of pre-paid phone companies in the United States. I googled the ones I recognized from gas stations and grocery stores, dialed their 1-800 numbers and was greeted by an automated voice. I’d type in the unknown number that’d sent my nude photos and hear a robot say “Sorry, the number you listed cannot be found, please try again.”
I called Cricket.
I called Boost Mobile.
I call AT&T Go Phone.
I called TracPhone.
Over and over they said variations of the same thing. “Sorry, the number you listed cannot be found, please try again.”
He was going to get away with it.
I called Virgin Mobile, typed in the number, and waited for the familiar rejection.
“Thank you, we transferring you to an account representative.”
Oh. My. God.
My coworker and I stared at each other in shock. All we’d learned was that it was a Virgin Mobile phone number, but it was a start.
A customer service rep greeted me and asked for the name on the account. I guessed my ex’s name first.
“No, sorry I’m seeing a different name.”
I laughed as though I were embarrassed.
“Sorry,” I lied, “it was a gift, I don’t know what name he put it under.”
“Let’s see if you can answer the security question—what’s the name of your pet?”
“Timber,” I answered, naming my ex’s dog.
I laughed again.
“I have too many pets. Try Zola.”
The rep sounded relieved when he told me I’d answered correctly. I couldn’t believe my ex had actually set the security questions with my personal information. What a moron.
“What can I help you with?”
I stayed with my initial story of having received the phone as a gift and asked casual questions about the balance and expiration date.
“I don’t feel like I’ve used it that much,” I fake disputed, “Can I get a copy of my texting and call records?”
They couldn’t access the information and referred me to their website, where I could login using a 6 digit code from the back of the phone package.
“Oops,” I said, “I threw that away. I didn’t know I was supposed to keep it.”
“We can just send it to your phone as a text message.”
Oh God, please no— he’d see this and know that I was onto him.
“Actually, I’m calling from work and I’m not allowed to have my phone on me. Is there any other way?”
They agreed to e-mail it to the address they had on file—so long as I could confirm it. I started with my work e-mail.
“Is it alorens@XXXXXX.com?”
“Oh,” they said, “we have a typo. Somehow we got another letter after the A.”
Back in the day, work e-mail addresses included our middle initials. That had changed before I started working there, but my ex must not have realized that when he was setting the account up to look like it was mine.
“We’ve got that all fixed now,” the account rep said, “You should receive your pin here in the next few minutes.”
I hung up the phone, checked my e-mail, and there it was. I clicked the link and was routed to VirginMobile’s website. I typed in the cell phone number and the pin I’d just received and hit “login.” I waited as the screen buffered. A Welcome message popped up, introducing me to my new online account. There was a row of tabs at the top, full of account information and call records.
He wasn’t going to get away with it.
Have you ever turned the tables on someone who’s wronged you? Has lying ever gotten you the information you were looking for? What truths have you uncovered by digging into phone records?This month's book giveaway is "The Girl On The Train" which you guys have probably already read but I'm still listening to the audiobook and HOLY SHITE. You need this if you don't already have it. Sign up to get full posts in your inbox and a chance to win this darkly fascinating bundle of words.