Every year, women in the UK are killed by stalkers and domestic abusers—despite previously reporting them to the police. Unfollow Me is a campaign highlighting the under-reported issue of stalking and domestic abuse in support of anti-stalking charity Paladin's calls to introduce a Stalkers Register in the UK. Follow all of our coverage here.
Andreea Bolbea, also known as Andreea Cristina, is a 30-year-old Instagram influencer with over 1.2 million followers. She runs a popular blog, Simply Andreea , which offers lifestyle and beauty tips for a millennial audience. Bolbea has been stalked and harassed on multiple occasions since entering the public eye.
Never in a million years did I ever think I’d become a public figure. Even now, when I’m in a room and people are staring at me, I don’t love it. I’m definitely not the sort of person who sought fame! But fame just happened to come to me when I started sharing my love of skincare and beauty online.
I used to date someone who became really famous, really quickly—pretty much overnight. I had to shut down my Instagram because I kept getting really weird people posting mean and derogatory comments on it. That’s when I started attracting a fanbase that I didn’t want. They acted like they knew me and what sort of person I was, and what my morals were.
It took me a really long time to get over that experience and understand that those people just wanted to tear me down. That’s something I still don’t understand to this day. Why would you want to make somebody feel bad that you don’t even know? It was the worst period of my life. The whole world thought I was someone that I was not.
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There was this one stalker, Bill, who somehow found every single email address I’d ever had. [Bill's name has been changed for legal reasons.] You know how you accumulate emails throughout your life, like your college email address, or that random one you use for spam? He literally found me everywhere, and it was so scary. I would just ignore his emails, but the more I ignored them, the angrier the emails got. Then he started making threats against me. If you live in certain states in the US, anyone can look up your address. He did that and said, “I found your address, and if you think that you’re just going to keep ignoring me, I’m going to come and find you.”
He actually came good on his threats. He flew to where I live, spent a month living in a hotel, and started dropping packages and letters off at my house. What he didn’t know was that my parents were actually living at my house at the time—I wasn’t even there—so obviously, that really freaked me out. My mom sent me a text and said, “Hey, someone’s left a letter for you on our front porch.”
I thought, that’s really weird, so I asked her to send me a photo of the letter. It read, “from Bill” and I just freaked out. I was so terrified for my mom. It’s one thing to be afraid for yourself, but it’s another thing to be afraid for the people you care about the most. I had to get a private investigator in the end, and they were trying to serve him with a restraining order, but they couldn’t find him to actually serve him the paperwork.
Recently, I’ve had a new stalker who keeps messaging me every day. I’ve blocked him so I don’t see his emails any more, but he just finds new ways to contact me, like LinkedIn. It looks like he’s being catfished by someone who’s not me, and he thinks he’s in a relationship with that person. He keeps sending me emails saying, “When is this going to end? You keep asking me for money.”
It’s surreal because he thinks he’s in a relationship with me, even though I’m very publicly married. The other day I posted that I was getting a tattoo, and he immediately messaged me and was saying, “I can’t believe you didn’t okay this with me. How dare you! You only just got that other tattoo lasered off your arm.” It frightens me how much he knows about literally everything I do.
There are also the people who hate me. Someone keeps making all these accounts and posting pictures of me where they'll Photoshop my head onto the bodies of naked women, and then make the worst captions. It’s as if the person making the images absolutely hates me with every fiber of their being. There will be like, 40 comments in a row, all saying, “You’re the worst human,” “I hope your cat dies,” “I hope you die.” Sometimes they reach out to my husband and harass him by sending him pictures of me and my ex, which puts a strain on our relationship.
They’ll even reach out to brands and try to sabotage my career that way. One time, I was on a work trip to Paris, and one of my trolls messaged one of the women I was out there working with, and sent her really horrific stuff. Even though she knew it obviously wasn’t me, and she reported it, it was just so humiliating for me. Because when you’re on a job, you want to be on your A-game. And just to know that there’s someone on the opposite end of the spectrum who’s working to tear you down is really hard.
The social media platforms are not helpful. I report stalkers all the time, and Instagram just says, “keep blocking them and report them.” But it’s not enough when tomorrow I wake up and there’s another new account, and it just keeps continually happening. I’ve asked Instagram, “can’t you track these people’s IP address?” It’s really the most frustrating thing in my life right now, the fact that I am totally helpless against the people who are trying to make sure that I don’t have an income, who are trying to destroy my marriage, and they can just pop up at any moment. It makes me feel terrible.
There are people who would say that I invite this upon myself, by choosing to live my life in the public eye. But I think there needs to be a line drawn when it comes to my personal safety. It’s fine for you not to agree with me or bash me. Say I’m stupid, and everything I say about skincare sucks, or whatever. That’s your choice. If you want to call me a weirdo, fine! You’re justified in doing that, because I’m putting it out there, so you’re welcome to comment on it. But I don’t think anyone should be allowed to cause you harm, just because you’re in the public eye. There needs to be a line drawn.
If you are being stalked and you are based in the UK, you can call Paladin on 020 3866 4107. If you are based in the US, you can call the Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime on 855-484-2846.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.