STALKING AWARENESS MONTH
HOW TO RECOGNIZE & COMBAT STALKING
Guest Blog Author: Jennifer Wyatt
January, 2019 is the 15th annual National Stalking Awareness Month (NASM). In July 2003, the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), in partnership with Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Lifetime Television, at a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill, told the story of Peggy Klinke, a 33 year-old woman who had been brutally murdered by a stalker on January 18, 2003. This briefing focused on strengthening law enforcement’s response to stalking. Later that same day, Rep. Wilson introduced a Congressional Resolution to support National Stalking Awareness Month.
SPARC (the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center) defines stalking as “a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” Let’s break this down a bit. A pattern can be as little as two incidents, and while this behavior is directed at a specific person, we often see that family, friends, and/or coworkers are contacted by the perpetrator, as he/she tries to gain access to or information about the victim. Fear. Fear is difficult because it is a contextual emotion; what one person sees as fearful is not necessary fearful to the person right beside them. An example of this would be receiving flowers. In itself, receiving a bouquet of flowers at work is not a scary thing, it’s usually a happy surprise for most people but, what if that bouquet was sent from an abusive ex-partner? And you were unaware that they knew were you worked? Or knew where your work is located? In this case, that beautiful bouquet of flowers becomes terrifying. It’s for this reason that the term “reasonable person” is in the definition.
Some RED FLAGS that would indicate potential stalking behavior are:
• Unwanted phone calls or texts
• Unwanted contact via social media
• Unwanted gifts
• Suddenly “showing up”, either approaching you or your family/friends
• Monitoring your movements (so easy now with current technology)
• Damaging your property
• Threats (to you, your family, your friends, your pets)
• Creating situations that will lead to contact with you
• Not taking “NO” for an answer when asked to stop contacting you
If you feel that you are in immediate danger:
• Call 911
• Don’t confront your stalker. This most often makes the situation escalate
• Tell people. The more people who know at home or work, the more the stalker’s behavior can be documented and monitored
• Keep records of the stalking activity, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem
• Change your daily routine so it is harder for you to be monitored
Who are victims of stalking? As with domestic violence, victims of stalking are all around us; they can be anyone. 1 in 6 women are victims of stalking, as are 1 in 17 men. Stalking can happen at any time to any person. If a woman starts changing her route home, changing where she grocery shops, or suddenly starts screening her phone calls, then that woman is afraid. It’s important to be able to recognize changes in behavior of our friends and loved ones in order to support them and help them. Here, in Texas, stalking is a 3rd-degree felony if it is the first offense, and a 2nd-degree felony if a repeated offense.
The most important things to remember are to trust your instincts, tell your family, friends and neighbors, notify the police and work with a domestic violence organization, like Denton County Friends of the Family if you feel you are being stalked.