Twenty years ago, the National Center for Victims of Crime declared January as National Stalking Awareness Month to help increase awareness of stalking crimes.
According to interim director of the Violence Awareness & Response Program (VARP) Rachel Maccabee, this year is the first to have an official Stalking Awareness Day, which was Jan 18. Maccabee said stalking is a big concern.
“Specifically about college population, one in three college women and one in six college men will be stalked before they’re 24 years old,” said Maccabee.
Maccabee said there is a distinction between regular gossip about someone’s location and actual stalking.
“So sometimes we don’t always recognize stalking because we want to see it as something big and scary,” said Maccabee. “Saying ‘Oh my God, I saw your crush today’ is normal gossip. But saying ‘Let me know if you see him’ or asking friends to spy on someone is one of the forms of stalking.”
Stalking is considered a crime in all 50 states. Maccabee said even with stalking being considered a crime in state and federal law, it may be hard to recognize it.
“The more we know about stalking, both statistics and what it actually looks like versus what the movies tell us, the more prepared we can all be to help our community and help those who are going through it.”
According to the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center (a federally funded project providing education and resources about stalking) adults aged 18-24 — the age range of most college students — experience the highest rates of stalking. The SPARC also says:
• 92% tell friends and/or family.
• 29% contact a program or resource for help, more than victims of sexual harassment (12%) or IPV (19%).
• Transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, or gender questioning (33%) are more likely than cisgender students (28% cis women, 29% cis men) to do so.
• Of those who contact a campus program for help, 40% say it was extremely or very useful and 35% say it was a little or not at all useful.
• An estimated 13.5 million people are stalked in a one-year period in the United States.
• Nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point in their lifetime.
• More than half of all victims of stalking indicated that they were stalked before the age of 25, and nearly 1 in 4 were stalked before the age of 18.
Students experiencing stalking can find helpful resources or seek help from VARP and the Women’s Center.
“I think that one of the most important things we can do to combat stalking and to let others know how important it is to keep good records,” said Maccabee. “We have a website. We have resources, such as SPARC, that have logs on there that you can keep track of because information gathering is key when combating stalking behavior and getting support from outside resources for that behavior.”
The director of the Women’s Center, Liz Steinorn-Gourley, said communication can be very helpful in combating stalking behavior.
“Communication with others can be helpful,” said Steinborn-Gourley. “If I’ve accidentally bumped into this person a couple of times outside of class, I need to say, ‘Please stop following me’ clearly. Recording the incidents is also very important because the first question that security and law enforcement can ask is, ‘Did you tell them not to contact you?'”
To learn more about stalking behavior prevention, students can attend the events hosted by VARP during Spring 2024 or come by the Women’s Center of VARP office.
Write to Amalia Sharaf and Amalia.Sharafkhodjaeva@mnsu.edu