In her first appearance as a "Good Morning America" contributor, Erin Andrews directly confronted an issue that had a drastic impact on her own life: stalking.
Andrews, who is also a sideline reporter for ESPN, was thrust into the national spotlight last summer when a former Illinois insurance executive named David Barrett recorded several videos of Andrews through the peephole of her hotel room and posted the videos on the Internet.
Garrett pleaded guilty to interstate stalking in December of 2009. But while Garrett has been quiet behind bars, Andrews took up the cause of promoting stalking awareness and campaigning for tougher anti-stalking laws.
Not limited to those in the public eye, stalking affects up to 3.4 million people over the age of 18 every year in the U.S.
For her first report with "GMA," Andrews sat down with three women who were the victims of stalking. For this report, victims asked that some names be changed and their last names not be revealed.
If you or someone you know are the victim of stalking, you can visit the National Center for Victims of Crime, call its helpline at 1-800-FYI-CALL (1-800-394-2255) or visit www.safehorizon.org.
Stories of Stalking Terror
Michele said she was stalked by an ex-boyfriend for two years.
"It basically was phone calls in the beginning," she said. "Lots and lots of phone calls. 'I love you. I miss you. Why did we break up?' But then very shortly it turned to death threats."
Sarah was stalked after a disagreement with a family member. She received hundreds of threatening calls a week and she said it took a full year before she could convince law enforcement to intervene.
"I thought he was going to kill me," she said. "I thought he was going to come up and kill me."
Since her stalker was a family member, Sarah had a difficult time convincing anyone to take her seriously.
"I felt like I was using that word [stalker] from the beginning and that other people were invalidating it. It was a family member. So, people just kept saying, 'Well, this is a family issue.' Especially the police. They love to say, 'Well, this is a family issue. Can't you just work it out?'" she said. "And you know, the definition of New York State stalking law fits exactly perfectly into what he was doing to me."
Ten Percent of Victims Are Stalked By Strangers
Like Michele and Sarah, three-fourths of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know. But like Andrews, 10 percent of victims are stalked by a stranger, according to the Stalking Resource Center.
Dawn, a university law professor, said she was stalked by a homeless man. According to Dawn, he was a serial campus stalker and targeted African-American women.
"I was living alone with my 13-year-old daughter who was my height," Dawn said. "She looked older than 13 and people used to mistake us all the time. I was very much worried about her safety."
For all of them, fear of their stalker completely altered their lives.
Michele said that for a long time she was afraid to go outside.
"I can remember walking down the street shaking. I would literally shake as I would walk down the street," she said. "I couldn't sleep at night, I had stomach problems, my hair was falling out. You know, it affected every aspect of my life."
Sarah was so afraid she started to carry a steak knife in her bag.
Dawn said a recurring nightmare jolted her awake at night.
"I had this recurring nightmare that I would go to the ladies room at the law school... and in that dream he raped me, slit my throat and threw my body out the window," said Dawn.
Their Advice for Stalking Victims
Michele said that one of the hardest challenges of stalking is that it's up to the victim to prove there's a legitimate problem in order to get physical protection. With that in mind, Sarah said one good thing to do is to document any evidence.
"And you should really work with someone out there on a safety plan," Sarah said.