Again, I ignored the letter. At this point, Mark seemed legitimately unstable, but I thought if I ignored him, he would go away. I was wrong. A few weeks later, my boss received the following letter.
Ditto for seven editors at various other Philadelphia newspapers and magazines.
October 4, 1999
Charyn Pfeuffer has set the poorest example of how one should engage oneself in sexual relationships. Her descriptions of her own innumerable one-night-stands over past months have been a most dangerous disservice to our community. Taking her poor advice, countless young women have compromised their mental, emotional, and spiritual health – and may have been raped, contracted diseases, and conceived unwanted pregnancies!
One of Charyn’s most egregious personal commentaries was published on September 8, 1999. But even this week finds her expressing guilt over not having yet another one-night-stand from a “first date” – on her 22nd birthday. It is now at the point where Charyn Pfeuffer ought to be immediately silenced, ostracized, and vilified – just to avert and reverse the damage already done. Otherwise, she will continue to subvert and undermine society by her most ill advice and poorest example…unless, and, until, she finally falls victim, herself, to the very horrors and tragedies that she promulgates.
Concerned for the success of Philadelphia Weekly,
I demanded support from the Weekly and was met with very little concern. My section of the paper brought in a lot of revenue, and a big part of that was due to my very public persona. Two days later, I realized my employer didn’t have my back, so I reached out to the Philadelphia Police Department to file a restraining order and an incident report. The next day, I filed a private criminal complaint with The Philadelphia Municipal Court.
At the time, there was a serial rapist on the loose in Philadelphia, dubbed the “Rittenhouse Rapist.” Mark fit the MO of the man accused, so police took special notice of my case. When cops started parking outside my apartment and stopping by for welfare checks, I got really scared. Like, this guy may actually try to harm me. Scared, I tried to live life as normally as possible. Try dating though when you’re in a constant state of paranoia – having a stalker is in no way a relationship resume builder.
I never knew when Mark would break the restraining order or where he’d appear, or when rants would show up in my inbox or mailbox. Or anyone else connected to my professional life, for that matter. For four months, I lived in a constant state of worry.
At 9:00AM, on February 16, 2000, I appeared before the Philadelphia Municipal Court, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia in Courtroom 806. A guy I was casually dating agreed to accompany me to court. I was a disaster, and although I wanted the saga to end, I did not want to see Mark in court.
Taking the stand was the single most humiliating event of my life. I was questioned, in detail, on everything from how old I was when I lost my virginity to how many sexual partners I’d had. The whole process took place in front of a packed courtroom, and I felt like I was the one on trial. When Mark was sentenced to one year in jail, I did not feel any sense of relief. He clearly needed mental health services, not a year in a cell. And when I voiced concern, I was ignored.
Sure enough, one year later, Mark was released. He started harassing me 24 hours later. I’d been playing with the idea of a move to San Francisco and his behavior cemented the plan.
The timing was not a coincidence, and I moved cross-country move a few months later.
The harassment continued for close to a decade.
In late 2002, I was the subpoenaed to appear in court in a protracted trial to testify on behalf of Philadelphia Weekly and instructed to bring:
Copies of ALL written correspondence over received by, or addressed to, this Witness/Defendant, CHARYN PFEUFFER, from any and all PW readers who ever responded to PW’s “Ask Me Anything columns, up until April 4, 2001; copies of all correspondence engaged between CHARYN PFUEFFER and any and all “escorts,” owners or managers of “massage parlors,” and any “escort services” that advertise in Philadelphia Weekly.
The attorney? Mark. The details of the trial made zero sense since I did not interact with the adult services sections of the paper. I did not appear.
I’m not sure why the stalking eventually stopped, but I was relieved when it did. Still, my head is on swivel when I’m in Philly, and somewhere in the back of mind, I wonder if he’s going to appear again.
The only difference is now, I refuse to live in fear or feel unsafe. I’m still mad as hell that I was humiliated for speaking up and that Mark didn’t get the mental help that he needed. If I’d known the scrutiny I’d face in court, there’s no way I would’ve come forward. I’m not afraid to use my voice, or of Mark for that matter, but my situation made me question the legal system’s ability to protect stalking victims.
For National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM), let’s educate ourselves and do more to advocate for victims.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. For more information on stalking, visit the Stalking, Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC) or call the National Center for Victims of Crime