Breaking News Bar
updated: 11/14/2010 8:19 PM

Suburban teen unsilenced after years of fear

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Elgin High School student Hannah Perryman worked to strengthen state law about who can get an order of protection.

       Elgin High School student Hannah Perryman worked to strengthen state law about who can get an order of protection.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin High School Student Hannah Perryman has worked to change the state's stalking law.

       Elgin High School Student Hannah Perryman has worked to change the state's stalking law.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Hannah Perryman talks about the ordeal she has gone through trying to stop a teen from standing outside her home for hours.

       Hannah Perryman talks about the ordeal she has gone through trying to stop a teen from standing outside her home for hours.
    JOHN STARKS | Staff Photographer

  • After years of being harassed, Hannah Perryman says, she got sick and tired of being a victim and decided to do something to make it easier for people going through what she has.

       After years of being harassed, Hannah Perryman says, she got sick and tired of being a victim and decided to do something to make it easier for people going through what she has.
    JOHN STARKS | Staff Photographer

 
By Kerry Lester

A lot has happened to Hannah Perryman over the past six years.

The Streamwood teen, now 17, has worked to become a standout pitcher on Elgin High's varsity softball team, learned to drive, and attended school dances and pep rallies.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

And she's been the force behind strengthening a state law to protect people who are being stalked.

Hannah says she knows well the frustration and anger stalking victims go through as they struggle to obtain orders of protection.

After six years, she is finally coming forward to talk about being one of those victims.

Hannah's story began in December 2004, when she was in fifth grade.

She says a 12-year-old she'd known for a few months assaulted her and her younger sister Jennah at a sleepover.

That sleepover was someplace Hannah never wanted to be.

But weeks before, Hannah said, when other children in the neighborhood had refused to do something the other child instructed, their pet rabbit turned up dead, just as the child had predicted.

Hannah says she and Jennah went because the teen had threatened to kill their pets, too, if they did not attend.

After the assault, Hannah's parents, Deb and Mark, called the police, and charges were filed.

But until just this month when the juvenile court case where the teen, now 18, faced multiple charges for stalking and disorderly conduct against Hannah was resolved she was forced to live like it never happened.

The original 2004 assault case, which went through the Cook County Juvenile Court system, was "diverted" or resolved outside of court, and the teen ordered to undergo therapy.

With no conviction on the books, Hannah and her family say, the situation only got worse.

In the months and years that followed, the Perrymans say, the teen began to watch Hannah's every move, walking back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the family's home for hours at a time after school, early in the morning, even in the middle of the night swearing at Hannah and making strange animal-like noises.

Neither snow nor thunderstorms served as a deterrent.

Scared, Hannah developed a habit of locking every door in the house and closing the blinds when she went into a room.

She hated being home alone.

She felt like a prisoner in her own house.

"(The teen) has more rights than I do," Hannah said angrily last year.

Hannah's parents called the police dozens of times, to have every incident on record.

Because the teen stayed on the public sidewalk and never -- until October 2008 -- made a threat directly to Hannah, nothing could be done, said Streamwood Police Detective Daryl Syre, who spent four years investigating the case.

"You know that their concern is rooted in something real. And you really want to be able to help them, but you know if what the person is doing isn't against the law there really isn't a lot you can do," he said.

Assistant State's Attorney Adrienne Lund, who dealt with the original 2004 case, said she started getting more and more calls from Syre and Deb Perryman about the incidents.

"I was getting more and more frustrated. He was getting more and more frustrated. We couldn't legally, ethically do anything until something bigger happened."

At the time, Illinois law only granted individuals orders of protection if they have had a personal relationship with their stalker.

Hannah did not qualify.

To make matters worse, because the 2004 case was diverted and the teen's juvenile records were sealed, Hannah and her family couldn't talk about what happened with their friends and neighbors for fear of opening themselves up to a lawsuit.

"Never in a million years did I foresee what would happen," Lund said.

With the first case being diverted, "this kid got a break. We couldn't figure it out."

The teen's family, who has since moved out of state, could not be reached for comment.

The teen's lawyer, Sherwin Zaban, noted he "never discusses juvenile cases. … As far as I'm concerned, it's over. I hope both parties have moved on," he said.

The Perrymans tried to move shortly after the stalking started, but the real estate market tanked and they couldn't.

So, they modified their lives in other ways instead.

Living in Streamwood, Hannah should technically have attended Streamwood High, the same school as the teen. But she said she was frightened of what might happen in the hallways.

Hannah asked her parents if she could attend Elgin High instead, where her mother teaches science.

Jennah, now a freshman, did the same.

Hannah says she was mad about having to switch, leaving the friends she'd made in elementary and middle school. And Hannah -- one of the best pitchers in her high school conference -- has received some flack from parents of opponents and sports reporters alike over whether they might be breaking IHSA rules by switching schools.

Again, the family was forced to keep mum on why Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Jose Torres personally signed off on the switch after they explained to him what was happening.

Outside of school, Hannah and her sisters learned to avoid the area around the teen's house.

When going to visit their grandmother, several blocks away, they would take the long way, to avoid the teen's house.

They had a laundry list of excuses for their friends, when they would see the teen outside.

"We'll say, 'Oh, we have to go and eat dinner now.' And it'll be noon," Hannah says.

Year-round softball players, Hannah and Jennah say they get their frustrations out through batting and pitching practice.

"We try to redirect our anger into sports we can do," Hannah said.

Since the girls didn't want to be outside the house, their mom allowed them to put in some practice time indoors albeit with a bit of a toll on their home. It wasn't until last fall when the teen was finally made to stay away from their home that Deb Perryman says she began hanging pictures in the living room again, after the girls had been using it as a makeshift practice area.

In October 2008, after yet another incident, Hannah decided she'd had enough. She would take matters into her own hands, and refuse to play the victim any longer.

• Coming Monday: Hannah, frustrated with her own situation, decides to push to change the state's stalking laws.

Share this page