After I had quit my job in finance, I interned in fashion for three months, which I really enjoyed. Luckily, the offices were not too far from where I was previously working, so the commute wasn't that bad. One Monday morning in October, I was travelling my usual route to work and arrived at the station where my office was based, headphones in and totally zoned out. I reached the top of the escalator and was ambushed by an ex-colleague from my previous job, Emily*. Oh god, what does she want?
Emily worked as a temp marketing assistant in the legal department at my company. She had recently moved from America and was newly married to Martin* who worked with me. Both our offices were a stone's throw away on the same floor. I never really spoke to her unless I was in need of marketing materials for an event I had to plan, but other than that, I had little to no contact with her.
Word got around the office that she was having an affair with someone in her department. They were caught after being spotted on the CCTV located in the lift. Her husband Martin found out and quit his job.
When I bumped into Emily at the station, a month after I had left my job, I was surprised. Even more so when she started to blame me for her affair, which was incredibly bizarre considering I had nothing to do with it. She was the one who cheated on her husband - with a man in the same office - yet she continued to create a scene in the middle of the station, in front of all the commuters.
As you can imagine, I was bloody mortified. I was more embarrassed at the public humiliation of being accused of ruining someone's marriage (and she was making it sound like I had slept with her husband - UGH!) but was also conscious that my new colleagues were somewhere lurking in the station. Imagine if you saw one of your interns being screamed at. Doesn't look good, does it? So I told her to leave me alone and tried to ignore her but she kept following me. She followed around the station and even through the barriers. Emily then threatened me and then asked me to punch her. I knew what she was trying to do and I wasn't going to bite.
I kept my cool and continued to walk off. But she followed me and wouldn't let me pass. I pushed her - not hard - but enough to get past her and broke free from her barrier. I walked to the exit and called after a security guard to help me get rid of this woman who was harassing me. She continued to follow me out of the station until I reached the escalators up to my office.
Finally, she's gone.
I was pretty shaken by the whole experience and was shaking - I think I was more worried that she would hit me. I went straight to the bathroom in my offices to fix myself up and made myself a cup of tea to calm myself down. It's nothing, don't worry. She's probably angry that she was caught out and just wants to blame someone else for her own mistakes. That's normal.
Except, it wasn't normal and it wasn't nothing.
A month later
I received a phone call from the police requesting I come in for questioning over an assault which took place in the station. Are you kidding me? Emily reported me to the police? For assault?!
Not only did she give my details to the police, but she also gave them details of my blog, in an attempt to use my mental health as a reason for my 'attack'.
I remained calm and co-operated with the police, informing them that I was flexible to attend a meeting with them whenever suitable.
As soon as the police officer hung up, I panic-called my parents. Every worse case scenario ran through my mind: has this woman told the police I'm a nutter? Has she contacted my work place, or even worse, contacted Mind? Will this affect my chances of finding the job I want? Will I be arrested? Will I have to go to court or prison?
With this sudden influx of anxiety, I had to try to walk back calmly to my desk as if nothing had happened, and continue with the tasks I had been set, but all I kept thinking about was the call. Later that day, I made a few calls and realised this woman could potentially be dangerous, so I hired a lawyer.
The Police Station
Arriving at the police station on time, I had a chat with my lawyer about the structure of the meeting. He informed me of my rights, and all that jazz, and asked me if there was anything I wanted to tell him before we went in. No. I'm going to tell them exactly what happened, word for word, and tell them my side of the story. But then something strange happened. My solicitor asked me about some emails. Emails? What emails? He asked me if I had sent any emails to Emily. I told him I hadn't but I double checked my inbox - nothing.
I walked into the interview more perplexed than I was before. I thought I was being questioned over an alleged assault, not harassment and abuse too. The interview started well. I answered all the questions with detailed answers, followed protocol and remained polite and calm. I was happy to be of assistance to the police, I was totally cooperative - after all - I am innocent. My solicitor remained silent as requested. I've seen enough episodes of Suits to understand how these situations pan out if your lawyer starts panicking so I made sure I had everything under control. We were both, however, more concerned over these 'emails' (BUT HER EMAILS!!!!!)
"Does this email look familiar to you?" No.
"So, firstname.lastname@example.org, isn't your email address?" No. I use Gmail. I don't think anyone has used Hotmail since the 90s.
"So you didn't write these emails to the Home Office requesting the deportation of Emily? And you didn't write emails to your ex-employees asking for legal advice on deportation about Emily?" No, that is not my email address and this is the first time I am aware of such emails.
This was the exact moment both my lawyer and I shot each other a look. You know that look you give your best friend when someone says something stupid and you're like, what the actual fuck? Yeah, that look.
I took the email print outs and absorbed. This woman has created an email address with my name and sent abuse to herself, requested her own deportation from the UK, and emailed her own colleagues/bosses about herself?!
I couldn't believe it, like, I literally couldn't believe it. I actually started laughing because I was in complete disbelief but not because she had stolen my identity, but because this idiot left a paper trail. Did she not think that the police can trace where the emails came from? Does she not know what an IP address is? At this point I was crying with laughter because she could've had a case against me with regards to the little push I gave her, but she totally fucked the credibility of her story by 1) lying to police 2) wasting police time and 3) lying to her employers. Does she honestly think that no one will find out?
To be honest, I was pretty angry about this for a really long time, but not because I could've potentially been charged with common assault, but the fact that this whole ordeal added more stress, low mood and anxiety to my life than what was needed. I still don't understand why Emily did what she did and I don't think I'll ever find out. But I can only guess that she acted in this way simply because she couldn't take responsibility for her own actions. She's not angry with me; she's angry at herself. People do stupid things when they're angry - and I'm sad she felt the need to take it out on me.
It would be naive to think bullies don't exist when you grow up. In fact, they're even more dangerous because they have more resources. I'm glad my sensible hat was on the day she provoked me at the station and I'm happy I dealt with it like an adult. If this happened when I was an angry and rebellious 18-year-old, maybe I would've reacted differently. Who knows. I'm glad this happened because it's opened my eyes to how conniving people can be. But I don't hate Emily for what she did, instead, I forgive her. She saw a weakness and tried to use it against me. But it didn't work because hate fails and love prevails, and the sooner she realises this the happier in her life she will be. At least I hope she will.
*Names and places have been omitted for legal reasons.