North Coast Journal

April 1995 - TAKING NOTES

Clear as a Bell

by Lisa Ladd-Wilson

When I was about 20 years old, living in Champaign, Ill., someone started calling me on the telephone. He called me late at night, early in the morning and when I got home from work. He called me at my job, and he called me at my sister's house.

He said creepy things. He said he'd been watching me through my window that night, or he had followed me as I was driving home. Sometimes he asked where I'd been, because he hadn't been able to find me that day.

From what he said, and when and where he called me, it was obvious he knew me - and I knew him. But I didn't know him as him; I knew him as a friend. It scared the hell out of me.

I called the phone company for help, and the people at Illinois Bell said they would put a tracer on my telephone. When he called, I was to dial the operator immediately and tell them to trace that specific call. Then we'd know who he was, and something could be done.

Except that wasn't quite true. We wouldn't know who he was; Illinois Bell would know who he was. But they wouldn't be able to tell me. Some kind of policy or law or something - I don't remember anymore.

But the gist of it was, this guy could invade my life in all these ways, and possibly even come into my house under the guise of acquaintanceship, but his identity was protected information; not my business. I was stunned.

Illinois Bell told me: Keep a record of his calls. Log the time, log the date. It will help us go after him.

Great, I thought. Illinois Bell goes after him, which makes him really, really angry. Then he comes knocking on my door. And I won't have a clue who's really there.

So here it is, 20 years later, and a group of lawyers is on TV discussing the relevance of certain evidence in the O.J. trial. Hasn't Judge Ito erred, they are saying, by allowing the prosecution to introduce "a pattern of violence" in O.J.'s behavior toward Nicole?

The general agreement was yes, Ito indeed had ruled poorly. Although the lawyers accepted that O.J. beat Nicole, threatened to kill her and stalked her after she left their home, he never had held a knife to her throat. Since that was how she died, they said, these other incidents were irrelevant and merely served as character assassination.

(A free legal tip not only for abusive mates but Loony Tunes characters, as well: "Your honor, although Mr. Coyote has chased the victim with Acme Launch-O-Rockets, attempted to squash him with giant mallets, and once tried to feed him metal balls so he'd be pulled to his doom by a 6-foot-tall Acme Monster Magnet, never had my client assaulted Mr. Roadrunner with the sort of cannonball that killed him!")

I think it is significant that all the lawyers in that discussion group were male, although I realize there are undoubtedly women who would be in agreement with them. (If Camille Paglia springs to mind, take a few aspirin and maybe she'll go away).

But almost every woman I've talked to is baffled that the question of relevance is even being asked. To us, it is obvious, what's called "a no-brainer."

We are baffled by other questions being asked, too, such as why didn't Nicole take out a restraining order against O.J., or pursue charges after the door-breaking incident that led to the infamous 911 call; why didn't she tell the authorities the things she told her friends, and why did she keep a diary and photos of her bruised face safely locked away "just in case." No-brainers, all.

We aren't striking the pose of Nicole Simpson's "Sisters in Outrage" (although we are a little ticked off), and we aren't saying she was a saint (although we don't think it matters). We've just had experiences - here and there, now and again - that make these things very clear.

I wish these things were more clear to others. I wish they had been more clear to Illinois Bell.

Lisa Ladd-Wilson, a Eureka free-lance writer, is a former reporter for the Arcata Union and the Times-Standard



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