Article contributed by Karen VanderKaay, victim advocate
January was National Stalking Awareness month. This is a very serious action that is often trivialized in today’s society. It is the brunt of jokes used by comedians, sang about in pop and country break-up songs, and used in casual conversation to describe someone who is being too demanding. If you are being stalked, it is no joking or trivial matter! It is much more than the annoying acquaintance who pesters your with frequent phone calls or texts or “likes” everything you put on social media. But, when activities become invasive and FEAR enters the relationship, that’s when true stalking occurs. The legal definition of stalking is when someone knowingly engages in behavior that someone else would find threatening, and that would cause a reasonable person to be afraid. It is a 3rd degree felony that can be punishable with a prison sentence. It can be the beginning of a very dangerous situation.
Over 7.5 million people annually are stalked every year in the United States. Most victims know the person who is stalking them, with many, but not all, being former intimate partners. Stalking can be a precursor to more serious crimes. Of women who left an abusive relationship and were killed by their former partner, 76% of them reported that they were being stalked for up to a year before the murder.
On college campuses, most cases of stalking are not reported to authorities, but the victims do share with someone that they are afraid. These incidents should not be discredited. Education and awareness is needed to protect our young adults from naively getting into a dangerous situation; with most stalking incidents happening between the ages of 17 and 25.
If you think that you are being stalked:
- Vary routines, including changing routes to work, school, and other places regularly frequented.
- Trust your instincts if you don’t feel safe. Leave, seek help or call 911.
- Use a PO Box to receive all personal mail.
- Inform friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and other people you know that you are being stalked so that the stalker cannot get information about you from them.
- Give a picture of the stalker to security and friends at work and school.
- Be aware of how much identifying information you are posting on the internet through social networking sites and online purchases.
- Get a new number and do not share the number except with loved ones that must have it.
- Consider obtaining a protective order against the stalker.
- Save any packages, letters, or gifts from the stalker, especially abusive or threatening voice/text messages. They may be important if you decide to report to the police.
- It’s not a joke, it’s not romantic, it’s not OK!
Wise Hope Crisis Center is here to help if you fear that you, a friend, or family member is being stalked. Please contact our Jack County Outreach Office at 940-507-5025. Our phones are answered 24-hours a day. The Jack County Outreach Office is located at 200 N Church Street; open Monday – Thursday 9am-5pm and Friday 9am –1pm, no appointment necessary. There are advocates willing and able to listen to your situation. There are a number of FREE services that Wise Hope can offer including education and counseling. Confidentiality is a top priority. Everyone has the right to live respected and violence free!
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