testimony : A stalker isn't always a sinister stranger. Alison Lewis's life is being ruined by a boyfriend who just won't go away
You might think that a stalker is more than likely a nutcase - an obsessive stranger. That's not always the case. My life is being made a misery by someone I knew and trusted - someone whom I liked very much. I won't say now that I loved him because I find it hard to say that after all that's happened.

It all started three years ago when I was still at school. I met Ian when I was studying for my A-levels; he was working in a local pub. I'd never met anyone like him before. He'd lived in London and France, and worked as a DJ. He loved skiing and had lots of exciting friends. He was good-looking, too - tall and blond with very striking brown eyes.

I realised quite early on that he could act strangely. One evening he stormed out of the pub saying I was ignoring him, then came back an hour later, very upset and shouting that his friend had been killed in an horrendous car crash. I felt guilty and went home with him and he flipped completely, smashing up his room. Six months later I found out that the "dead" friend was living down the road from us.

I suppose I thought he would change, and after we'd been together for about a year I moved in with him. My parents tried to talk me out of it, but I was determined and wouldn't listen. At first things were fine, but slowly it became obvious that he would lose control whenever he'd been drinking, and he started being violent towards me. It started with an occasional slap round the face. The first time it happened I was horrified and just couldn't believe it, I even thought it could somehow have been an accident. He'd apologise and go out and get flowers and chocolates. But then there were much worse attacks, where he'd hold me against the wall and even threaten me with a carving knife. What finally made me decide to leave was when he came home very drunk, put his hands round my throat and tried to strangle me. Luckily, he passed out before I did.

I wanted to make a new start and accepted a place at university, thinking I'd be able to leave the whole mess behind me. I deliberately didn't let Ian know where I was going. But he found out where I was from a friend. At first I got a couple of letters saying how much he missed me, and I ignored them. Then one day, quite soon after the beginning of term, he just turned up. I'd been out, and I got back to the university halls quite late, at about midnight. My friend said, "There's a funny bloke sitting over there," and I looked over and it was Ian, slumped in a chair.

It should have clicked with me immediately that he was drunk, and I should never have let him come up to my room. At first he was all, "Oh wow, it's brilliant, I've found you". Then he noticed I was wearing leather trousers - which meant, to him, that I must be on the pull. He went completely crazy. First he punched me in the face, then he helped me up, apologised, told me he loved me, and hit me again. He broke two of my ribs. By now the person in the next room was furious at the noise and went to call security. I ran to my friend's room and he started bashing on the door, saying he'd kick it down. He then went off and started smashing the windows down the corridor, causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage. By now half the place was awake and the police turned up and arrested him. He was charged with assault and criminal damage.

By now I was really scared - I couldn't believe how persistent he was. He started hanging around, waiting for me outside the university and sending more letters, roses, chocolates - all sorts of things - with apologies and promises that he loved me and it would never happen again. He wrote and said he would commit suicide because he couldn't live without me. Then he threatened to come up to the university and kill me. He started phoning my parents' home at three in the morning. He wrote and said his mother had died, then that he was in hospital. He phoned the university reception and said he'd been in touch with someone I knew from home who'd been in a car crash. I didn't believe him, but there was always a "What if it's true?" at the back of my mind. I went back early for the new term because he'd rung so many times over New Year at my parents'. When I got to my room there was a note from him pushed under my door. Everywhere I go he's around.

Student days are meant to be a happy time, but I'm always having to look over my shoulder because I never know when Ian's going to turn up again. Whenever I go out, I'm ready to turn and run, and I always carry a spray of breath freshener in my handbag - you can use it like mace. The campus security guards have to put me on the bus when I want to go anywhere.

One of the worst things is that I don't know what I can do about it. I don't know how the new Act will help me, because if someone is just determined enough they will ride rough-shod over anything that the law says. Ian's not allowed on campus and all the security guards have got his photo but there's nothing to stop him hanging around outside. The police suggested we could get him for making nuisance calls, but BT found out he always calls from a different phone box, so there's nothing they can do. They suggested I took out an injunction, but the solicitor I saw said that in his view the warning letters which are sent out preceding the injunction itself tend to make matters worse. He also seemed to think that because I'd been Ian's girlfriend before that it was somehow less serious, which put me off. And because we lived together for a year, it's seen as a "domestic" anyway, and the police are less willing to intervene. I don't want to go to court, I don't want to see him or his family.

I still feel sorry for him. I wish there was some way he could get help because he is a very sweet, kind person when he's not drunk. Most of the time he can't remember what he's done when he's been drinking, and I know he has a lot of problems. I really blame myself for letting myself be the victim - for letting him get away with it. If any of my friends had been in the same situation I'd have told them to leave straight away. It's a part of my life that is well and truly over and I will never allow myself to be a victim again.

But I'm still frightened. I've had six months of this now. I keep waiting for it to peter out. I keep thinking he'll give up and go away. But he doesn't.

All names have been changed