Filed Under:

Fed Up With Harassment, Author Reveals Her Cyberstalker

Play associated audio

Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

Melissa Anelli is the author of Harry, A History, a best-selling book about Harry Potter from J.K. Rowling's famous series. And for more than five years, she has also been the victim of a cyberstalker.

Anelli initially reached out to New Zealand resident Jessica Elizabeth Parker when moderators of Anelli's online forum reported harassing behavior. "I wrote her an email with all of my staff cc'd, asking her to please listen to my staff," Anelli tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "She told me she would immediately, and the next morning, I woke up to a death threat."

She went to the police, but a restraining order would only be useful if the stalker was in New York, where Anelli lives. As the rate of harassing messages increased, she finally turned to the FBI.

There, she got immediate assistance. "The agent was a massive Harry Potter fan, which helped, I think," Anelli says. "She was the first one to say to us that no, you absolutely shouldn't be going through this, and we can help."

There was no big break in the case until late 2011, when Parker was arrested for criminal harassment in New Zealand. Parker was instructed not to contact Anelli, and to stay off the Internet. But the day Parker's restrictions were lifted, Anelli received another threat.

Anelli was hopeful that because Parker had been arrested once, it would be easy to have her apprehended again, for her more recent messages. Not so, but she has been blocked from entering the U.S. Getting a cyberstalker placed on the Interpol database was a really big deal at the time, Anelli says.

Since then, the harassment has continued. Anelli takes comfort in the fact that Parker's a long way away, but "that doesn't stop you from fearing what's behind the door every time somebody unexpected is there." She's sought therapy, locked down her online presence, and turned to her family and friends.

But being quiet doesn't feel like enough. "You're not supposed to engage her ... but whether you like it or not, you do forge a familiarity with your stalker," she says. "When she makes a fake account, I can spot that account by the name, instantly." So Anelli decided it was time to start talking about her experience publicly.

Anelli's experience has dramatically affected the way she lives her life. She built her career online, and she once enjoyed connecting with people there. "This has completely changed that in the sense that I'm a much more suspicious person."

Join Our Sunday Conversation

Tell us what you think on the Weekend Edition Facebook page, or in the comments section below.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit


No Meekness Here: Meet Rosa Parks, 'Lifelong Freedom Fighter'

As the 60th anniversary of the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott approaches, author Jeanne Theoharis says it's time to let go of the image of Rosa Parks as an unassuming accidental activist.

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'

Internet food culture has brought us new words for nearly every gastronomical condition. The author of "Eatymology," parodist Josh Friedland, discusses "brogurt" with NPR's Rachel Martin.
WAMU 88.5

World Leaders Meet For The UN Climate Change Summit In Paris

World leaders meet for the UN climate change summit in Paris to discuss plans for reducing carbon emissions. What's at stake for the talks, and prospects for a major agreement.


Payoffs For Prediction: Could Markets Help Identify Terrorism Risk?

In a terror prediction market, people would bet real money on the likelihood of attacks. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Stephen Carter about whether such a market could predict — and deter — attacks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.