January marks the 10th annual Stalking Awareness Month, a month dedicated to teaching people how to recognize, prevent and educate others about stalking. With cyber-stalking becoming more prevalent in addition to face-to-face encounters, people are at risk more than ever before.
According to the National Stalking Awareness Month’s website, 6.6 million Americans are stalked each year. One in every six women has experienced a form of stalking in their life. However, stalking is not reserved for just gone gender. One out of every 19 men has been victimized by stalking.
A majority of victims knew their stalker personally. 66 percent of women and 44 percent of men were not stalked by someone they considered a stranger. Eleven percent of stalking victims have been stalked for five years or more.
The UMKC Women’s Center received a grant for the Violence Prevention and Response Project in 2005. As part of that initiative, The Women’s Center organizes events to call attention to resources offered by the office located at 105 Haag Hall.
Michelle Kroner, UMKC Victim Services Adjudication Advisor, said that the Women’s Center provides campus and community resources, a safe environment on campus and safety tips to victims of stalking.
Kroner suggested that people need to be more aware of their surroundings. The National Center for Victims of Crime says there are many ways to protect oneself from stalkers. If one suspects they may have a stalker, keeping a log of any emails or gifts they send is advised. It’s a wise idea to write down incidents or encounters with the person that cause discomfort, including times and locations. This assists with being able to identify the stalker, and offer evidence to police if needed.
The National Center for Victims of Crime recommends talking to a trusted friend about an alleged stalker. Be sure not to post personal contact information on social media sites. Stalkers have started to use social networks as a way of closing in on their person of interest. Stalkers have also started to use other types of technology to their advantage. They can use a GPS system to track their victims on their cell phones. There have also been instances of stalkers sending Spyware through emails to the victim that tracks the victim’s computer history.
“Cyber Stalking is one of the most prevalent forms of stalking,” Kroner said. “Updates which say the location of a person could leave stalkers a change to trace the person, thus threatening individuals.”
As a way of prevention, Kroner suggests people be mindful with the kind of postings they make and their usual privacy settings on their accounts.
The National Center for Victims of Crime has made a list of safety tips to follow. Keeping a phone on hand at all times and ensuring the stalker does not know the phone number is one safety tip. It also encourages potential victims not to hesitate in calling 911. Change daily commute routes, especially when on foot and do not travel alone if there is any suspicion of being stalked.
Avoiding interaction with a stalker can prevent bigger issues. It is not rude to ignore a person they cause feelings of discomfort. Also, do not be afraid to seek out a protective order against a person. Above all else, trust instincts. If something feels funny, there is likely a problem.
Kroner stressed that every individual should be aware of available resources offered by the university, and should know how to access help in emergency situations.
For more information about stalking, check out the Stalking Awareness Month table presented by the UMKC Women’s Center’s from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday Jan. 27 in Royall Hall.
Authors: Kaley Patterson, Lakshmi Triveni Kavuru
Photo Credit: Lakshmi Triveni Kavuru