EDIT: 8am: Whoa hello reddit front page. So many good questions overnight...cracking knuckles and diving in.

Edit Oct 20: I have been floored by the kind and frankly mature discussion that has been the majority of this reddit AMA, and I am very grateful! This will be the last edit I make to this top post, but I'll be continually going through and answering questions, and if there's any significant update in the case (like when she is sentenced) or next steps, I will post about it from my blog at http://penbitten.com. Thank you all again so much, I think raising these issues and helping people understand why they are not as simple as "turn off the computer and walk away" is a big, big step in the change that must occur.

My short bio: I'm Melissa Anelli, and I've done an AMA here before about my work in fan communities. The topic of harassment, stalking, and bullying that happen online and then expand to offline seems to be reaching a turning point: I have also hit a turning point in how I deal with my own case. I have been stalked, harassed, and abused by the same woman for almost 6.5 years. It began digitally, and then began mushrooming into offline contact - a trip to my town, packages and messages and postcards sent to me and my family and friends, etc. She has used emails, contact through every viable method of digital outreach, as well as physical mailings to intimidate and threaten, and make near daily threats of rape and murder.

After an FBI investigation and three arrests, my stalker is awaiting sentencing, and may be close to entering a plea deal that allows her to continue her campaign of abuse (for it has been proven that nothing but incarceration will stop her). I have resisted doing an AMA for a long time for fear she would join up and take part. But the issue and those that touch it are too important, and I'm hoping my case can help people understand why it is vital we work harder to stop this type of abuse.

Outside of this story, I run the popular fan convention GeekyCon (http://geekycon.com) and GeekyNews (http://geekynews.com) as well as Harry Potter site The Leaky Cauldron (http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org). I wrote a book about the Harry Potter phenomenon, served as a consultant on Pottermore, and am a board member of the HP Alliance (http://thehpalliance.org) as well as advisor on YouCoalition (http://youcoalition.tumblr.com).

My Proof: NPR story from last Feb: http://www.npr.org/2014/02/23/281167415/fed-up-with-harassment-author-reveals-her-cyberstalker

NYPost from when she was arrested the second time: http://nypost.com/2013/07/18/harry-potter-and-the-deathly-wacko/

My latest Tumblr update: http://penbitten.com/post/99597562281/so-it-seems-stalker-might-get-off-lightly-how-would

Here's the proof of my identity I used for my last AMA: https://twitter.com/melissaanelli/status/357601620852359168

Comments: 1720 • Responses: 95  • Date: 

emerald_green880 karma

You are probably aware your stalker has this whole blog dedicated to her stalkings of you? It's so creepy. http://churchhistorylover.tumblr.com/

melissaanelli622 karma

I have seen this and reported it to tumblr and they have yet to take it down.

18544920496 karma

[deleted]

melissaanelli273 karma

Thank you - the more reports the better.

NDaveT108 karma

It seems to be gone now:

There's nothing here.

Whatever you were looking for doesn't currently exist at this address.

melissaanelli214 karma

HUZZAH

nolo_me73 karma

Is it a good idea to have it taken down? Surely it's a goldmine of intent.

melissaanelli165 karma

It's saved and is evidence.

was_shadowbanned19 karma

Internet tips:

  1. Never expect anything good out of Tumblr.

melissaanelli58 karma

Lies. I expect lots of good things out of Tumblr, like Benedict Cumberbatch gifs and raccoons rolling down hallways.

itsmyotherface15 karma

I hate to tell you, they probably found that stuff on reddit.

melissaanelli12 karma

Fair.

dancing_raptor_jesus4 karma

How about Benedict Cumberbatch rolling down a hallway?

melissaanelli4 karma

If someone has this gif I will give you reddit gold.

Badoit1778132 karma

A quote from the tumbler

I am the stalker.

As most of you will have seen by now, my name is Jessica Parker and I’m Melissa Anelli’s stalker.

I have no excuse for my actions for the past five years and ongoing. There is no legal precedent for international cyberstalking and I’m thankful for that as I enjoy what may be my last few weeks of freedom while NZ and the USA wrangle over what to do with me .

But I’m not proud of myself either. The articles posted online do little justice to the struggle the both of us face. I struggle with autisim and OCD, which makes letting go of Melissa that much harder.. I just hope one day Melissa and I will come face to face and see each other for who we truly are. I’m not the big bad she thinks I am and that she is better and kinder than I think she is. I can only pray this will end in a manner that suits the both of us and doesn’t lead to extradition.

melissaanelli327 karma

You know, it really, truly, bothers me, high up in all the places that this whole thing bothers me, that she's using autism as an excuse. There are so, so, so many autistic people who are peaceful and loving. It's disgusting to even call this that. Autism is the very least of the problem here.

djdanlib15 karma

[deleted]

melissaanelli7 karma

It sucks. Some of us just lose at life. And all we can do is go about our daily lives the best we can and try to make something of ourselves just to spite that one factor trying to hold us down and force us to do whatever.

Indeed.

_NutsackThunder106 karma

I hope this Tumblr is used against her. Better take screenies now.

edit: its already been deleted, wow. luckily the cached version IS available still.

melissaanelli108 karma

I have screenshots of all the things. But I'm going to do another of the tumblr, just in case.

ThisiswhyImThor4 karma

[deleted]

mikeappell31 karma

It's called having a serious, untreated mental illness. It most likely isn't something she has any control of, and the fact that she isn't being treated for this medical condition is as much a crime as anything else here.

Edit: in a case like this, when she's clearly a risk to others, the treatment should be required whether she consents or not. And if there is no treatment that can do the trick, I don't see any solution except involuntary commitment.

melissaanelli29 karma

I actually agree with you, very much. Given any choice I'd take involuntary commitment for her, over jail. It seems jail is more likely. No matter what, she needs to be taken away from the Internet.

esentr395 karma

Having been through the legal end of responding to a stalker, what changes in the system need to be made here? Legally rather than socially? What sort of initiatives do you think need to happen to make this issue be taken seriously?

EDIT: Also, is there anything we can do to support you? I want to help as much as I can.

melissaanelli511 karma

Oh god this is such a big, big, question. I think we need greater cooperation between our legal systems: some of the stickiest gum in the works here has been getting agencies to talk to each other clearly. Part of what kept this going for so long was that the lines were confused.

PURE fantasy on my part and will never happen (and in some cases/countries shouldn't): globally recognized legislation for the cessation of harassment - that a person using any digital platform to harass is subject to the laws where the victim lives. Problematic for some areas, totally irrational on my part, but man, would that have made this all easier.

However governments NEED to clarify the lines on this sort of thing with each other so that communication is easier. And that is TOTALLY possible.

We need a rape and death threat made online to count as the same type of abuse as if they had made those threats in person. The Internet is too much of a part of people's lives now to pretend it's any less important or has any less power to impact.

As for supporting me, THIS - keep upvoting this issue, keep spreading it on social media. Raise the issue to press, and continue to press on how people need to be kind and respectful to each other online and off. That's the best possible help!

*edit for clarity

esentr51 karma

Thanks for replying- didn't mean to ask an overwhelming question, sorry!

melissaanelli74 karma

don't be sorry! it's an important question, especially now.

awesomeisi0010 karma

What is your opinion on the online community overall, I.e. Gaming communities and how they talk to each other? Do you think that threats there should be dealt with the same way?

melissaanelli13 karma

It really does depend on context. A lot of gaming is predicated on death. You're trying to kill another person's character or avatar. I'm a gamer myself - when talking about the pixels, of course I'll talk about killing the avatar. "I'm gonna kill you!" is different in that context.

I think there's a common sense check that happens when we know it has gone from threatening a character to threatening a person. And those who hear such things and see such things MUST get better about calling them out. Must.

I_MAKE_USERNAMES38 karma

I feel like they aren't on the same level and treating them like they are could be troublesome. Someone getting charged because they posted the Navy Seal copypasta on Reddit and it counts as a death threat would be crazy. The ratio of serious to non-serious death or rape threats made online is probably a billion times lower than for ones made face to face.

melissaanelli66 karma

See, this is the problem. There's a billion-to-one ratio, as you mention (though it's probably lower) because we have done nothing to disabuse the notion that if you say it online it doesn't have all the weight and force as if you said it face to face. Why does saying it in text make it less real, less serious, less of a crime? It doesn't. It. Does. Not. And that's the core issue here. Whether it's here on Reddit, on a YouTube video, in an email.

A threat is a threat. Pretending it's more OK online has zero basis in reality. We've just made it OK online, we've made it so that you can get away with these things, we've allowed the worst elements of humanity to be indulged and coddled. A threat is a threat. And I'm someone who is fiercely against censorship, who is fiercely in favor of free speech. Free speech ends when you commit a crime. Threatening someone's life is a crime. Period.

A threat is a threat.

singingtowers343 karma

What was the tipping point between "this is creepy" and "I have a stalker"?

melissaanelli449 karma

The first death threat. Actually, I didn't think it was stalking at that point. I thought it was a one-off death threat, and I took it seriously, and warned staff, but I didn't think it would continue. When almost every day thereafter contained some message, threat, or vile insinuation, stalker started to apply. And as it worked itself offline, harassment and abuse applied. Not that you can only be harassed and abused offline, but that was the first time I started assigning those words to myself.

BenjaminWebb161161 karma

At any point during the stalking, did you fear for your life? If so, did you take any precautions? Like installing an alarm system, getting a dog, getting a firearm, etc?

melissaanelli298 karma

I have experienced that fear, espeically when she sent very graphic threats of what she was going to do to me at my conference, and where. As in precisely where, as in, "I'm going to leave you bleeding like a stuck pig in the staff room" kind of threats. That's not exact wording, that's probably very kind compared to her exact wording. I'd have to dig it up and... I just don't want to at this hour.

I don't believe that gun ownership increases my safety, so I have never considered purchasing one. I don't have a dog and can't get one because I travel too much to be fair to it. I have a vicious bodyguard of a cat, though. :)

Mostly the thing that I can do to protect myself is take all the basic precautions, and keep on saving and forwarding evidence and keep on pressing for the case to reach some sort of action.

LuciaCassandra311 karma

What triggered her stalking? Has she had a psychiatric evaluation?

melissaanelli368 karma

She's had many. I couldn't say what has triggered it - it's clear she is very ill.

happenstanced243 karma

Thank you so much for this AMA.

I have been stalked for the last 10+ years, online - the stalker uses different names and accounts but, like you said in an above answer, I can spot them in their attempts at obfuscation from a mile away.

Unfortunately, due to their constant switching up of names, etc., I can't PROVE it's them. But I know.

They've recently escalated into veiled threats and I'm constantly living with fear.

I feel stuck - because while I know who they are, I have no tangible proof.

Do you have any suggestions as to what I should do?

melissaanelli219 karma

It's crazy how you know instantly, isn't it? I know immediately. By fake username, even, I know.

Make very, very detailed records. Screenshot everything with times attached. Keep a log of every instance of abuse. You never know what will eventually create proof, or what connections can be made by the things said, the times posted, etc. Just record EVERYTHING.

And then go to the local police to the person you believe to be the stalker. The local police have been our best friends on this.

happenstanced43 karma

Thank you for your advice. I have kept detailed records and will do as you've suggested.

It's because of people like you that law enforcement have begun to take these types of stalking cases seriously.

Back when my harassment began, there was no real precedent for how to handle these types of cases, so law enforcement basically told me I was out of luck.

It's reassuring to know there's hope for handling this, now.

melissaanelli32 karma

I seriously hope it makes a difference! There's been a real sea change since we even first went to the FBI in 2009. And they told us to beware, because it could take as much as three to four years to see action.

Here we are almost 5.5 years later.

pp343434184 karma

My ex gf had a stalker when she was in high school and it led to trust issues and trouble for her dating later on. Any residual things like that? Is it hard to be normal again?

melissaanelli327 karma

I can't believe I'm about to say this on reddit but we can't talk about these things if we aren't open and honest about them right?

Yes. Trust issues without any doubt. Dating issues...yes. Any experience of intensity initially freaks me out, unless I already know and trust a person or there's already something that binds us. Even someone complimenting me in a non-platonic way can be a trigger. I work through that. With therapy. If that's me, imagine a rape victim, or an in-person sexual harassment/abuse victim. This one of the reasons why it's so important to me that these issues start getting more attention and we start getting even more serious about them.

I think of myself as normal, however, throughout. And that is only because I have incredible family and friends who help me through these things.

pp34343485 karma

she was the same way and felt guilty about it, which made things worse for her...appreciate your honesty and just know it will get better

melissaanelli109 karma

Thank you, and I forgot to say it but please give your ex gf (who I am assuming from your words is a friend) my best wishes and hope she recovers.

Theory520 karma

This upsets me. You have had to basically ruin your own life to keep yourself safe, even if she never intends to follow through with any threats. Your stalker is obviously ill, a tragedy in and of itself that she isn't getting the help she needs, but that doesn't make it any less right that you have to live in constant fear, and NOBODY deserves to live like that.

It sounds like you have already locked down Facebook, and gotten a lawyer, so now the only thing left to do is hit the gym.

Seriously, invest in some self defense courses and karate courses. You'll learn how to defend yourself against attackers (even ones with knives and other weapons) and protect yourself until you can get to a place and call for help.

melissaanelli34 karma

I've taken a crappy self defense class but after all this redditing and how right people are to say I should take a real one, I'm investigating a real one.

I do hit the gym, though, because it legitimately does help with all of this frustration.

choklit_froggie153 karma

First off, I want to thank you for everything you do in the Harry Potter community. I'm so sorry that this has been happening to you. I can't even begin to imagine how terrifying this whole ordeal must be.
My question: Has the situation ever interfered with your ability to plan and run Leaky/Geekycon? Were there moments where you thought about not coming or running the convention at all out of fear that she might track you down there?

melissaanelli157 karma

Thank you so much. The only way that it has interfered with the running of Leaky/GeekyCon has been that before there was a warrant for her arrest, and when we were in the UK (edit to change from US - after the warrant we didn't need one in the US), I had a bodyguard. Which seems, and is, and was, ridiculous. But she was making serious threats on my life, on her own, and on how she was going to do it at the conference, and there was just no feasible way to not treat those seriously, for my safety/hers/the conferencegoers'. So, I had these two awesome people - Scot Glock, an ex-marine, and Rob, ex-RAF, help out. We made Harry and the Potters fans of them both in return for them having to wait outside a bathroom while I peed. I mean seriously, it was that intense. I can't run a conference well and have a bodyguard, and it's especially bad when volunteers with the misfortune of looking like the stalker are interrogated for being too near the stage! But we have to protect our attendees as much as we do our staff, so that was why they were necessary.

It has also, DEFINITELY, made us take all possible issues of harassment more seriously.

(edited for typos)

turtleplayer139 karma

Scot glock is such a cool name for a bodyguard.

melissaanelli57 karma

It actually is. :)

choklit_froggie23 karma

Thank you for your response! I really appreciate you being so candid about your experiences. Hopefully this will continue to shed light on the issue of stalking in its many forms.
(also edited for a typo)

melissaanelli16 karma

That's really my hope! thank you!

Rammikins139 karma

I don't know if this would help as such, but would you happen to know the name of the stalker's local political representative? If so, would it be OK to contact said politician to ensure they take a closer look at the case?

melissaanelli151 karma

I do! And she is in my inbox and will be getting another email very soon. This happened the last time I spoke up - people connected us via social media. This is one of the reasons speaking up works sometimes.

durtysox85 karma

Erm. /u/Rammikins was asking if they may contact said politician on your behalf. Your ideal response would contain info on that politician, such as their name, location, public email, etc.

melissaanelli145 karma

OH! On their behalf. LOL. It's been a long night of answering stuff.

Grant Robertson is her actual rep: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grant_Robertson

But the one I have been talking to is Clare Curran: http://www.clarecurran.org.nz/

Nihil_am_I136 karma

I have done work for and know Grant Robertson quite well, if there's anything I could talk to him about on your behalf, I'd be happy to :)

melissaanelli69 karma

That would be great. I reconnected with Clare Curran yesterday and will be talking to her when the hours are right in NZ today; if you can let Mr. Robertson know I'm up for helping whatever legislation about this they've got cooking in NZ (there was some awhile back), that'd be great.

realityfree119 karma

The internet is a great place to meet new friends and form lasting bonds. How has this affected your everyday use of the internet? Do you find yourself putting up walls with strangers online just to be safe?

melissaanelli143 karma

Yes. And what's so hard and ironic about that is that a lot of the work I do and have done highlights how great of a place the Internet can be. What this has done has highlight how essential it is to not forget safety as we are bombarded with convenience. Look what just happened with Snapchat!

I've had to lock down any method of contacting me, even on LinkedIn or anything like that - to get to me usually goes through someone else. Only if I know you already (friends on FB, which only happens when I can assure your identity etc) do those avenues continue to be open.

It also has affected things in subtler ways. There are a lot of Internet activities I've shied away from because it means she would have a new way to get at me.

chin-do32 karma

A different post mentioned that your stalker has a tumblr dedicated to you. How did she manage to get something as personal as your yearbook?

melissaanelli62 karma

Good old classmates.com, apparently.

[deleted]-13 karma

[deleted]

melissaanelli9 karma

cute.

TanCarpet117 karma

Hi Melissa. Have you read Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker? What are your thoughts ? I frequently recommend it to my friends - it really changed the way I think about personal safety.

melissaanelli66 karma

I haven't! I'm going to read it immediately.

67thou72 karma

Was there interactions before you knew something was wrong? Did you think she was just a fan at first or something?

melissaanelli143 karma

No. She had been harassing a member of my staff to read a fanfic she had written, and was being asked to stop by staff, and said she would only stop if I told her to. I, not knowing the fic was about me, told her to, in an email with all my staff cc'd. The next day was the first death threat, and I have never said a word to her since.

I think that she knew of me through my podcast and book.

-1px20 karma

Any chance you're comfortable posting one of these death threats?

melissaanelli59 karma

Here is a portion of the very first one: July 2008:

I am singleminded enough to find you in whatever little rathole you may be hiding and slit your throat from ear to ear like the dirty fat sow you are, Melissa Danielle Anelli!!!

hellofrond68 karma

Firstly, thank you for drawing attention to such an important issue and speaking out, and so sorry that you had to go through this. Also super thank you for being such an amazing part of the HP fandom and doing so much for so many positive causes.

My question is regarding the NYPost article that was written about this that you linked (Harry Potter and the Deathly Wacko). In the article, she's called a "wack job", and although clearly your stalker is unbalanced and needs psychological help, I can't help but side-eye this. I feel as though the language is dismissive ("she's just a crazy person of course this is how crazy people act") as well as being kind of demonizing to people who have mental illnesses and are called "wacko" derogatorily.

Since you've actually been the victim of her, I think you have a unique position to speak on this. Do you think cases such as yours might be handled better if people stopped using words like "wacko" when discussing these cases? Do you think this language even really matters when it comes down to it? I feel like dismissing her as a "wacko" does some harm, but I could be completely wrong here.

I'm worried I might be too sensitive in my interpretation of words like "wacko", "psycho", etc., because my best friend in elementary school was bullied a lot by being called words like "wacko" since she was autistic and really she wouldn't hurt a fly. I'm sorry if this question is maybe off topic or derailing, I just feel like your opinion on this would be valuable and this seems like a unique opportunity to ask for it, and would really appreciate it if you would let me know your thoughts.

melissaanelli63 karma

Thank you for being so positive on this issue.

While the Post has an excellent eye for catchy headlines that sell papers, I agree that being dismissed as a "wack job" is wrong and unfortunate. It also dismisses the issue. "Oh she's just some crazy person ha ha." It's not that.

I absolutely think that it would only help the issue if people started treating mental illness with the seriousness and soberness it deserves. Don't feel you're derailing: this is absolutely a serious part of this issue. "Oh she's just crazy" is something I hear a lot. Well, yes, she has serious mental health issues: what is ANYONE in her life doing about it, really? What are they doing? This is important.

grrarghing53 karma

Again, so sorry that you've been put in this position. No one should have to live with the harassment you and your loved ones have experienced.

Since deciding to be more public about your case, do you see any part of your future becoming more about harassment/ stalking activisim? You've been apart of/ created amazing campaigns in the past, any possibility that you might do the same here?

melissaanelli67 karma

Thank you, I appreciate that. You know, I resisted this for so long. Becoming an avatar for online abuse, becoming a warrior on a specific issue, because this path could be hard and lonely and long. And then something changed. I think if you're put in this position for long enough you either learn to live with it - which HONESTLY was suggested to me from certain authorities - or you don't. And I don't. And can't. And know others shouldn't have to. So yeah. There's been a bit of a sea change in my life now. I think you can expect me to get very vocal about this often.

grrarghing16 karma

I hate to say fantastic...because of the circumstances, but....though I only know you through you work, I have to say I can think of few people better suited to lead the charge on this offence. The problem I have is being utterly at a loss at as to help beyond retweeting/trying to spread the word. I feel though, that the time is coming where we can finally start to put together a collatition between various factions (gamers, youtubers, writers, ect) that will be strong enough to start to change minds and influence laws. I hope to be apart of that action, and I hope the other fans you've inspired will be apart of that as well.

melissaanelli21 karma

Every retweet, every attempt to spread the word, is so helpful and so wonderful, so thank you! I completely agree that there is coming a tipping point, and people are standing for this less and less. Please be sure to check out YouCoalition - http://youcoalition.tumblr.com - as we are working hard there to create a resource that starts with the YouTube community and hopefully works outward.

And thank you for your kind words. I know there are a lot of people who would be suited to this, but if I am one of them, then it finally feels like I can't stand to be silent about it anymore.

perfectionisntforme50 karma

I have seen some celebrities laugh about stalkers and treat the whole thing like it is just something silly that only happens to celebrities. Do you think that the way these celebrities treat stalking allows it to be seen as trivial or normal?

Also! You run a fabulous convention witch is attended by several people who have been victims of minor or temporary stalking (ie fangirls getting John's address and showing up at his front door years ago or fans waiting out side bathrooms and bribing hotel staff for room numbers) How does Leaky\Geeky fight to combat this?

melissaanelli88 karma

I've never seen that but it's so distressing to see that it can happen. I think sadly that stalking IS normal to a celebrity (it happens to JKR with regularity) but to TREAT it as normal in general is sad and wrong. JKR and I had a conversation about this once, and she actually got the issue so intensely and so rightly: that it's not about whether the person has the likelihood to actually harm you, it's about that they get in. They get into your life, your head, your workstream, your feelings of safety, your everything. And when that happens they win, their crime has effects, and it has to continue to be treated like just that: a crime.

BRIBING STAFF FOR HOTEL ROOM NUMBERS? I've never heard about that but you can bet we're going to be talking to the hotels this year.

As to how we fight to combat this, the above is a perfect example. We hear stuff like that and we are alarmed, and we act. We had zero reported incidents this year through the abuse hotline we set up; we have a code of conduct that is linked from our front page; we have harassment policies listed in our program book and made part of the terms of every ticket. I have a personal no-tolerance policy that any of my close friends can tell you has borne out. I will and have kicked people right out for even threatening to get physical. Luckily this is very rare / few-and-far between. But I think it starts top-down - Stephanie and I don't brook that kind of activity and it is always met with action when merited, though of course we are humans and subject to fallible judgment like everyone.

On a more macro level, we work very hard in all sorts of ways to encourage the type of atmosphere in which these types of abuses are rarer than at other large gatherings. We hope that will always be the case.

lisa353545 karma

Are you ok? From one victim of abuse to another. When I first started talking about my personal situation of sexual abuse and stalking a really great man told me one thing that changed my life. "It's not your fault!" Those four words I clung to for years, through court. through recovery, and through the anxiety that I still have many years later. I just hope that they can offer some kind of refuge to someone. Because, really, It's not your fault. Also.. Speak loud, and proud. I am Canadian, and we are seeing a serious emergence of suicides because of online bullying and abuse.

melissaanelli52 karma

Thank you, first of all, for treating it for what it is: abuse. So many people (right here on reddit, and elsewhere) don't, or treat it as less real than in person. Granted, I am very glad this has not happened in person, I will always be grateful for that - but abuse affects us no matter when/where/how it happens, and the type of abuse that happens to you is the worst type of abuse no matter what it is. The anxiety is real.

It's not your fault either, and the effects you mention are exactly why I am being so very loud about this. I'm lucky to have the support network I do and I realize not everyone does.

Just_a_robot31 karma

Melissa, you have been an inspiration to me as a fan, a writer, and just a damn good human being. Thank you for speaking out. Can you speak about how dealing with this person has affected your work? Were there opportunities you missed out on for fear of her presence?

melissaanelli42 karma

Thank you so much for your kind words. That's really amazing to hear. Well, certainly going to NZ is off the table. I think bigger than that is that I shy away from using the full force of the Internet in the work I do. There are ways to connect with people - making videos, being more kind of... out there in general... that I just kinda shy away from, and that's never been my way. Because any line of contact I open, she finds and gets into. And it means I have to set up barriers whenever I do anything. Open a gaming channel with my friend Anthony? Make sure any email goes to a filter so I can tell if she's starting up. Start a new geeky news site? Make sure all the editors are up on what happens so they can find and filter her comments (as has had to happen). And most of all she makes you feel radioactive. Any person I talk about as a close friend or confidante is touched. When Anthony (Rapp) got his first bunch of Tumblr messages was the last time that happened before her arrest, and it just makes you feel like you have to give all friends and potential associates a primer on how to be associated with you. Because they don't know why this weird confusing grammarless message has appeared in their inbox - but they publish it and then I can see instantly what it is and who it is from. So if they knew BEFORE then, they would have recognized it... etc. So you become a walking warning for your own abuse. It's a cycle.

shadyjim11 karma

Have you considered getting a security audit done on your computer/network just to rule out backdoor access?

melissaanelli9 karma

I haven't, but now I am.

lnh9228 karma

Hey Melissa! I've been a follower of yours for a while now, pre-book 7. I've always respected how well you carry yourself and articulate your feelings and opinions. My question to you relates to my own story of harassment. My story is no where near as long and involved as yours. I was best friends with a guy who turned out to sociopathic. There was some mental and emotional abuse in the "friendship." After 8 months, I finally saw the light and broke it off. It got 100000000 times worse before it got better. It has been a little over two years since our "friendship" ended. He still texts me and messages me via various social media outlets. Do you have any advice on beating the sinking feeling I get everytime my phone goes off?

You are a true inspiration and I hope your stalker goes to jail where she belongs! No one deserves to go through what you have been put through.

melissaanelli34 karma

Thank you so much for the kind words.

I am so, so sorry for what you are going through and thank GOD you broke it off. It takes a lot of strength to realize that a relationship is toxic and to move from there to more strength, so I give you a lot of credit for that.

That sinking feeling... god,I wish I did. I still have it at times and most recently Tumblr has actually been the worst threat. I know this sounds extreme but it's really not: change your phone number. Block him through all social media outlets. I had to change my phone number too, after she got it and started leaving me daily messages. No one should HAVE to do these things, but in the absence of the magic pill to end all abuse, there are steps we can take.

And I really, really, REALLY recommend therapy. To everyone, regardless of whether they are being victimized, but especially if you are being victimized.

Also, tell the people you share in common with this person about his actions. And if you are feeling abused, harassed, or threatened, go right to the police. It sounds like he may be local, and if he is, the local police are the right answer. Hair triggers turn harassers into aggressors, and you don't want to take a chance.

lnh9213 karma

Thanks so much for the advice. I've been doing therapy. I've talked with the local police and unfortunately nothing he does is considered a crime. I have a great detective who I pass along all the messages to in cas it ever escalates. I have him blocked on all social media, but he uses other accounts to contact me. I haven't wanted to change numbers but it might come to that. It took a lot for me to realise it was an abusive situation and I certainly never want to go back.

Thanks again for the advice.

melissaanelli27 karma

The using of other accounts to get at you - that's an important key. Keep saving everything, keep sending everything to the detective. The thing that unfortunately happens is that when you are stalked/harassed, you develop an unwitting rapport with your stalker/harasser. I can spot something she has written from a mile away. I didn't want to know her so well. But I do. So, only you can really tell if he is escalating. And it sucks and it's harmful and I hope that you know when you need to retreat from it and when it's time to just coddle yourself and give yourself a break. But I also hope that when you notice a change, your authorities act.

Please keep me updated.

silver_fire_lizard25 karma

Melissa, I'm a fan. I've loved all your work with the Harry Potter fandom, and it's meant a lot to me over the years. I said hi to you this summer at LeakyCon, but I'm sure you talk to loads fans so I'm probably not very memorable (it's the thought that counts!). I'm sorry that you've had to go through this mess, but I'm inspired by your commitment to advocate.

I'm currently a grad student in school psychology, and one of my big interests is in cyber bullying and online etiquette. There are practically no intervention methods in schools right now teaching kids online skills, which I think is shocking because online communication is such a huge part of the typical American child's social life. The internet can be a great place; as a 15-year-old, I worked on a Harry Potter forum board and made tons of friends. However, it can be absolutely horrible, and I think children need to be given protective skills so they can cope when something like this happens...and of course, we need to teach children at a young age how not to be a jerk on the internet. Your case is a little different because there is obviously some mental issues that need to be addressed, but what would you (as someone with personal experience) suggest as ways to implement interventions for today's youth?

melissaanelli35 karma

OK well:

First of all and always, the adults come into play. When it's children, whomever the adults are - parents, teachers, etc - need to start by instilling the right ways. Talking about compassion and complexity and the necessity of kindness, and how that does not disappear just because you represent yourself in pixels. The Internet is an enormous part of everyone's life now, so lessons in how to behave online have to happen just as importantly as they have to happen for that of offline. We conduct so much of our lives online, and that's not going away any time soon. It has to be seen as just as serious that your behavior there is a reflection upon you, as it is your behavior away from the computer.

So it starts there.

And it's also the responsibility of those who moderate communities to speak up when they see things that are violations, and take action. As has been too often proven right here on reddit, some of the worst violations happen because no one has taken a stand. The recent YouTube stuff, with Sam Pepper and all those other jerks who make videos harassing women and make money off them? Wouldn't happen if YouTube itself had developed a sensical way to stop that stuff from existing. Youth will one day not be youth - they will be the people running these things. And so if they can understand, inherently, the issues that abuse touches - its insidious nature, the reasons it happens, the reasons to try and squash it - then we will one day have a safer Internet space.

But most importantly people need to see the real, honest, negative effects of these harmful activities. Too often the wall of text denies us that opportunity. If you can see how your words can hurt a person, or hurt your own life, I think you're much less likely to commit those offenses. So we have to keep sharing, and keep talking, and keep speaking up when this stuff happens.

melissaanelli27 karma

SUCH A GOOD QUESTION THAT I AM GOING TO THINK ABOUT IT AND COME BACK so I don't just haphazardly answer with crap.

Sorry about the caps, I got excited.

67thou22 karma

Why do you think your stalker chose you? Do you believe they stalked other people before they found you? Was there ever a risk of physical violence and how did you deal with that in your day to day life?

melissaanelli43 karma

I get asked this a lot. And every time I try to answer this question logically, I remember that this woman is very psychologically ill and that logic doesn't work here. I know it comes from the Harry Potter community and her involvement in it. I know that she was highly inappropriate about some celebrities including Emma Watson, but I don't know that it ever went to the extent of stalking.

There was definitely a risk of physical violence, as there was a trip she made to NY while I was blessedly out of the country (by coincidence). She actually blogged on MySpace about taking a bus near my house.

In my day to day life I do whatever I can do - I wake up sometimes in the middle of the night just to be sure I've locked the door, etc. I have to alert the FBI when I travel out of the country so they can alert local authorities, not that it would make much difference. The FBI did get a warrant for her arrest, so she can't travel to the US, but that hasn't been helpful when, for instance, I hosted a fan convention in Europe. At those times, for my safety as well as that of our attendees, I had a bodyguard. Both times (once in Florida before the warrant was in place) it was incredibly inconvenient and felt silly, but we could not take the chance.

katie_isis20 karma

How the hell did this person find you offline?

melissaanelli33 karma

I and other members of my family own our domiciles, so she started with public records. But I don't know how she found my old cell phone number (since changed) or my mother's home number (private since its inception in the early 1980s). She used to work for a telecom company and I am fairly certain that's part of it.

katie_isis12 karma

Another question, when you came in contact with her (if you ever did) how did you feel?

melissaanelli28 karma

I never did. I cannot visualize at all what it would be like to be in contact with her. It would not be good.

saturdayswim14 karma

Have any of her family members made a statement or reached out to you with an apology? Clearly she is very ill and lacking in support, from the state or her family or otherwise.

melissaanelli15 karma

No, I have not spoken to her family and they have not spoken to me.

Steves_Jobs14 karma

What works and what doesn't? How does one actually get a restraining order (not just fill out form, but make sure it's processed.) The system is complex and a lot of people don't have much faith in it--which avenues are actually open and which are purely nominal?

melissaanelli33 karma

I've never gone the restraining order route because I knew it would be useless from the start (and even the police warned me).

The FBI is an investigative unit: we literally cold-called them and got a call back, and that's how this started moving toward justice. They are the people who will continue to press at the issue and gather facts. They were great to me. But ultimately the international factor created problems of communication, and now I speak directly to the police in the area of the stalker herself.

I'll give the advice I ALWAYS and REPEATEDLY got from the FBI: If you feel your life is in actual danger at any specific moment, the only answer is 911, or whatever your local response number is.

After that, go to your local police if the stalker is local, or the police wherever the stalker is. And if it's a case like mine, call the FBI.

brandstone13 karma

Considering the volume of messages you've received, have you thought about creating a database of threats to make reporting/banning this stalker and others like her easier?

melissaanelli7 karma

I've thought about that type of thing, but not recently. It's a good idea in theory, though would be difficult to maintain. I do know some good web people...

MikeAllenWriting12 karma

What is your best way of dealing with the anxiety?

melissaanelli23 karma

As much as it's cliche and stuff? Exercise, when I can convince myself to do it. I'm always happy I've done it, I always have to groan and moan to get myself there, LOL. But recognizing how much better I will feel afterwards is usually a good motivator. I've exercised a lot this week as a result of this.

Exercise, writing, communicating with people about it, and therapy.

pungeonmaster10 karma

Oh no! I hope I'm not too late!

I just wanted to thank you for all your incredible hard work on Leakycon the past couple of years - I volunteered at the London Leaky and your staff were great when I reported an incident I had while on duty. Because I have to ask a question, is it returning? If not I'm definitely saving up for Geekycon!

I pretty much just wanted to thank you as well for speaking out on social media and giving this the attention it deserves. I don't really have a question, so, er, sorry.

melissaanelli11 karma

You're not too late! Thank you for your nice words. GeekyCon is our only event in 2015, and LeakyCon comes back in LA in 2016 (along with GC, which is annual).

But thank you for your comment regarding this issue - it touches and has the potential to touch so many people's lives, so it's important that we're all aware of the inherent risks involved in online contact.

adavis95139 karma

How has her behavior affected your professional life?

melissaanelli12 karma

I've talked about this a bunch in other answers so I hope you don't mind a short one! It's really made harassment strike very close to home for me on every level.

lyingtattooist8 karma

I first heard your story through your interview on NPR. I remember thinking at the time just "Wow" and my heart went out to you for everything that's happened to you. Something then came up in conversation very recently with my girlfriend about stalking and I relayed your story to her. Point being that it is helping by getting it out there. We are remembering and making it known.

I believe you said in the interview that, at one point, you contemplated shutting down The Leaky Cauldron. Could you talk a little bit about the tipping point where it was either "shut it all down" or "stand up and fight", so to speak?

You are incredibly brave and strong, and I really hope this is all behind you some day soon. My very sincere best to you.

melissaanelli8 karma

It really helps that the it seems that the effort to get it out there is working. Thank you so much for your attention to it.

I only contemplated it for a small moment - in a navel-gazing, what-if, or, wouldn't-it-be-easier-if moment. I would never do it. It was never a real tipping point: I'm Sicilian, I'm stubborn, I'm not going to kowtow to this or allow such good work to go so bad because of her.

Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope too that this is just the beginning of a move from strength to strength on this issue.

lolcatz12197 karma

Melissa, I'm so sorry you've had to go through all of this. I know that mental health facilities have practically disappeared in the United States to handle situations like this, but do you know if there are any mental health alternatives in NZ to handle her (because the justice system clearly has not and is never going to be enough in this situation - unless the justice system diverts her to some sort of facility)? I really hope this gets resolved for you soon and that you'll be able to find some measure of peace after all this.

I also want to thank you for everything you've done for the Harry Potter community. You probably don't remember, but I was just thinking about how I was sitting next to you and your mom and sister at the J.K. Rowling Casual Vacancy event at Lincoln Center and you all were so nice to me and I had no idea you were dealing with all of this. I know you've detailed how much this has hurt you and your family, but for you all to still be so welcoming to complete strangers is miraculous [must be the magic of Harry Potter :) ]. I'm so glad that this hasn't stopped you from being a part of and leading the Harry Potter community! Wishing you all the best!

melissaanelli9 karma

Thank you so much! I HOPE that this never makes me lose basic respect and decency, and YES I remember sitting next to you at the event! Thanks so much for being so cool. :) I don't know if there are mental health alternatives, and I totally agree that she really needs it. But it seems that actually, jail is more likely that involuntary commitment. Crazy,I know.

legdrag5 karma

Is it odd to you that your stalker/bully is female fixated on a female when most of the stalkers and harassers are males fixated on a female?

What are the big things that you believe are needed to change legally for this type of thing to be more effectively dealt with?

melissaanelli13 karma

I don't know how I missed this before, sorry - I thought at first it was odd that it was a woman, not for any sexuality reason, but because of the probability you mentioned above. Then I realized she's just ill, and again, logic doesn't apply. So I can't really say. I answered this in another question but I'll say again: something we need that I think we'll never get, is a global agreement that stalking someone online from another country means you are subject to the laws and practices of the home country of the victim, and speeds up the rate of justice. That's a big, big, big reach that we probably will never get. But if I could make anything happen, it would be that.

darkpurple_5 karma

Wow what a horrible experience!! I'm sorry you had to go through that. When did you first realize this person was a stalker and not just some creep who didn't know when to stop, and at what point did you decide to go to the police?

melissaanelli14 karma

Thank you for your nice words. After she sent her first death threat we started to ask advice from friends as well as approach different agencies. We tried everyone - homeland security, TSA(??), local police. Local police said, well, we can get you a restraining order but it's just a piece of paper that's useless unless she's in NY. Finally someone said "Try the FBI." And the FBI was the first step in bringing it this far.

Governor_Explosion4 karma

I'm a victim of both cyber harassment and cyberstalking, but the few times I was actually threatened, nothing could be traced back to anyone, and I always assumed it wasn't worth pursuing, as nobody had done anything actually illegal.

I had gotten nasty comments from classmates, people I barely talked to, years ago on MySpace (mostly about how weird and ugly I was, and how nobody would ever like me), deleted it, and they remade it, continuing to spam it, knowing it wasn't me.

My then-boyfriend and I broke up a couple of years later, because he had cheated on me repeatedly, and wasn't even speaking to me anymore, and his response was to spam my email and follow me from website to website, where I had to block him multiple times to keep him from talking to me.

In the first case, the school did nothing about it, other than call me a liar, and in both, my parents just turned a deaf ear, or used it as a lecture on how I was stupid for going on the internet.

I don't...feel like there's anything I could do, other than maybe blame myself? Should I? What's the right course of action here?

melissaanelli7 karma

I should say up front, I am neither a stalking or law enforcement expert: I am only speaking from personal experience and on no one's behalves. So, okay, that's said.

Not every threat that has been made in my case has been signed by her, but all have been obviously her (it's hard to explain; you develop a shorthand with your stalker that's unfortunate but undeniable, you can identify something that means I always, always instantly know when it's real), but I still screenshot, label, and send each one to authorities at the first second I get it. (Mostly: there have been times I've badly needed a break from the endless trudge of screenshotting and reporting, and have allowed myself that.) Even if no one is taking you seriously, keep this record. You never know when someone will look at it seroiusly.

Online abuse is a new method of school bullying. I am very lucky that in-person bullying is all I had to deal with; if I was a teenager with all these anonymous bullying options in front of me these days I don't know what I would do. Go to people in authority positions until someone takes you seriously. Don't do it in a way that makes you feel unsafe or targeted - do it as privately as you can so that you feel safer. Keep respectfully insisting to your parents that it's serious and they should listen.

But the harassment is wrong and is illegal. I am so sorry, because it is not yet an issue that everyone takes seriously enough. People think because it's digital you can just turn it off, or the effects aren't real. But kids commit suicide because of what happens to them on Facebook. This is a real, credible, threat, and we have to start taking it more seriously. We have to continue calmly using reasoning and facts to convince people that cyberstalking is a crime that should have all the weight of any other type of stalking and harassment. That's the only time a chance will happen.

I sincerely hope this stops for you. The one thing I can say with 100000% surety is that the last thing you should do is blame yourself or believe anyone who tries to blame you.

topjosh4 karma

Thank you for doing this, we need more strong people standing up and speaking out against cyber bullying and cyber stalking. I know your conferences are very fun positive events, but have you ever considered addressing cyber bullying during them, or in blog posts on your site? Kids hear a lot about bullying at school, and adults get "sensitivity" training at work, but if they were to hear it from your events or sites, it could really hit home.

melissaanelli8 karma

Yes! We started this year with the "Positive Fandom" panel, which was the beginning of what will be a larger effort on the topic. And I'm sure we'll have more in the future on what it means to be part of a positive community. We try and attack these things from the angle of how it best fits with our conference and its aims, so we'll try and keep contributing to it as we go, and as we find we can. :)

ZxncM84 karma

Why did she specifically target you?

melissaanelli13 karma

I am not sure. She's ill, so every time i try to assign a reason, I fail.

ellenpepe4 karma

Since your stalker also sends things to your family and friends, how have those relationships changed?

melissaanelli14 karma

Since I have family and friends made of pure, pure gold, they have only changed for the better. My friends would stand in front of me wielding swords if they could, and my family magical staves made of fire and ice. They have encouraged me, supported me, given me the confidence to speak about this publicly, stood by every last decision I've made regardless of their own opinion. They have been there to hear me in frustration, in tears, in creeped-out-ness, in rage. They are wonderful, and I wish family and friends like mine on everyone.

foxxtin33 karma

Hi Melissa, All of the things you've been through seem horrifying! How did you find the strength to keep attending all of the public events, let alone the ones out of the country? Hoping this will be resolved for good soon! Melinda

melissaanelli5 karma

Thank you :) I've definitely had lesser moments where I thought I would refrain from certain public events, but then I realize it would mean she wins. Though, the presence of a warrant stopping her from coming to the country? That helps. ;) Out of the country, well... mostly I don't say publicly that I am out of the country. And when I must, I tell the FBI, who informs the local authorities. A whole lotta mess.

Astraea_M3 karma

Have you talked to the other well-known victims of online harassment? Have you considered working with them?

I really hope the strong women and men who have been targeted band together to advocate for stronger laws, and more vigorous social media policing too.

melissaanelli5 karma

I have talked to a couple of organizations, but until recently have really resisted becoming someone who made this a big part of her life. It felt like it was already a big part of my life and I was doing myself a disservice by making it a bigger one. For a long time I didn't even want to recognize it existed. But that is over! I am in it now. So I do hope to speak to other victims of harassment and make this a bigger part of my life, and advocate for stronger laws.

Anon-sama3 karma

Do you know why she does it? Does she have feelings for you or does she just get a kick out of making you uncomfortable?

melissaanelli9 karma

I wish I knew why she does it. Every time I try to answer that question I come back to the fact that she's very ill, and though that does not excuse her actions it does explain them. There have been admissions of love in equal measure to death threats? None of which is real, and all of which is a factor of her illness. So I can't say she has feelings, because what she has is a sickness. And while that is tragic, the stand-by, it's-just-internet-comments nature of the way our laws and society work right now is unacceptable. It has taken more than six years to get to this point where she MIGHT, PERHAPS, if we are VERY lucky, face consequences for her actions. This isn't okay.

earthmoonsun3 karma

Ever thought of taking justice in your own hands?

melissaanelli4 karma

No. Justice is not in my hands, and the idea that one can force it to be in their own hands is fallacious.

fredandlunchbox2 karma

Two questions:
1) Do you think the degree to which this affects your daily life is amplified because of -- I don't know quite how to say this, but -- how normal you are?

Like as a movie star, having a bodyguard or not publishing your location on the internet are fairly common considerations, but for a regular person, those seem like over-the-top measures. Similarly, I think movie stars deal with these kinds of stalkers pretty frequently as well. Do you think this is all just amplified because you're not a movie star, and therefore you were both ill-prepared for this sort of thing and easier to access?

2) I'm sure you've second guessed your own actions at a lot of different points in this process, but do you think you could have diffused this situation earlier if you'd acted differently at any point? Like if you had just disappeared from the internet for a while when this started to become an issue, would she have just directed her rage at someone else?

Obviously crazy's gonna crazy, but I wonder if she didn't have you to obsess over, how long would it take for her to find someone new? And I guess relatedly, has she ever stalked someone else before you?

Edit: One last thing, how old is she?

melissaanelli5 karma

Hey and thanks for the questions:

  1. I do think this is a big part of it. There's a level of "known" on the Internet now where you live like a normal person but experience a simulation of "fame." But you aren't rich: you can't have bodyguards and lawyers and that bubble around you. So someone like this can get in. And it doesn't make this issue any less important: there are SO many people like that now, that it makes it MORE important.

  2. Disappearing from the Internet in response to a stalker is not an option. It is not up to the victim to take an action to stop abuse. Ever. One of the worst problems with stalking is how hard it is to speak out about it. Because you are told, constantly, DON'T SPEAK UP. DO NOT SPEAK UP. DO NOT ENGAGE. ONCE THEY EVEN REALIZE YOU ARE PAYING ATTENTION YOU GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. And let me be clear, to a certain extent, that is true: as much as it's painful to admit, this is advice grounded in experience. But after a time when it's clear that is not going to work - in my case five years - something has to give.

  3. she was in her mid-20s when this started. I believe she is at least 30 now.

Patriciasurtherlan2 karma

How do you do? I wish you best of luck. I don't even know you but it's okay. Right? :-)

melissaanelli4 karma

Totally okay and even wonderful. Thank you!

karabreanne192 karma

Other than sharing the post on tumblr you made on this is there any way we can help?

melissaanelli7 karma

Keep signal boosting - this issue and others that deal in online harassment. Speak up whenever you see it. Become active on the issue. Tell people when they're being terrible to others online, and insist, resepctfully, they stop. As for me, the best way to help is to keep signal boosting the posts, especially to press and friends in NZ.

For_fucks_sak32 karma

What did u do/post that caused this person to stalk you?

melissaanelli3 karma

Nothing. It is never the fault of the victim.

UrbanTactician2 karma

This may be a stupid question and I hope it doesn't come off as insulting but have you tried ignoring her? Easier said than done obviously, and she escalated this to a whole new level, but just wondering.

melissaanelli4 karma

Yes, I ignored her for five years.

OunknownO1 karma

why don't you simply stomp her to the ground?

melissaanelli2 karma

I don't believe in the usefulness of violence.

Doctorwhat131 karma

How did you and this girl meet on the first place? We're you friends? Girlfriends? A fan of yours? Coworkers? How did this all start?

melissaanelli2 karma

She was fan of my website, podcast, and book. She was making comments on a web forum I ran, and harassing one of my staffers; I didn't realize the harassment was related to me at the time.

melissaanelli1 karma

Actually slight edit: she was a fan and had made a threat before my book came out.

______DEADPOOL______1 karma

Harry Potter and the deathly wacko

NY Post always have the best titles...

Obligatory Questionmark: ?

melissaanelli3 karma

Sad but true. LOL. My favorite editor I've ever worked with is now the Sunday editor there, and I tell him this often.

[deleted]-22 karma

[deleted]

melissaanelli17 karma

Yes, I do. Because I stand for a lot of other people. And I think people like you are the reason we have to speak up as loudly and as bravely as we do.

legdrag11 karma

That's a very wrong thing to say on several different levels.

I don't know what caused you to take your anger out on this lady, but it's not ok and you should do better in the future.

Freeqt-29 karma

[deleted]

melissaanelli18 karma

It's OK: He's proving correct every single statement made here about the necessity of greater action and laws.

cbully-25 karma

Was she a former lover?

melissaanelli4 karma

No. Never met.

adirolfo-63 karma

How can society best respond when lesbian trolls turn evil?

melissaanelli23 karma

By downvoting your comment.

adirolfo-17 karma

Why?

melissaanelli19 karma

Because it's hateful and bigoted and showing we disagree with a person's behavior is the first step to changing that behavior (if not yours, then those viewing yours).

barcedied2-63 karma

At some point have you ever found it arousing?

melissaanelli7 karma

No.