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January is stalking awareness month
Saving Grace feels the more people that know what stalking is, the better they can raise awareness and help victims
January 17, 2013
Stalking is a dangerous crime that affects 6.6 million adults in the United States per year.
Because of this dangerous crime, Saving Grace is honoring National Awareness Month during January. The organization believes that the better people understand the facts about stalking, the more that can be done to stop it and raise awareness of what stalking is and how to help the victims.
Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime, but a series of acts—a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a person fear. It may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits.
“Stalking is much trickier (because) it’s a long-term, ongoing pattern, and it’s really hard even for the victim to identify what is going on or happening,” commented Assistant Executive Director for Saving Grace, Rebecca Swearingen. “It is hard for law enforcement to investigate it and for the district attorney to prosecute it, because it is really tricky. It often goes unreported or unprosecuted because of that.”
She added that there are options victims can take legally, such as stalking protection orders, which are similar to a restraining order. There are also criminal charges of stalking that are different than a stalking protection order.
Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins said that the crime of stalking is a class A Misdemeanor. If a person has a prior conviction for stalking, it is a Class C Felony, or if a person violates a court-stalking protective order, it is also a Class C Felony.
Vitolins indicated that this includes a person knowingly alarming or coercing another person or a member of that person’s immediate family by engaging in repeated and unwanted contact. She explained that it is different from assault where there is injury and it occurs once.
“It’s repeated and unwanted contact that causes a reasonable apprehension regarding the safety of the victim or member of the victims’ immediate family or household,” she added.
According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, the majority of victims are stalked by someone they know. Sixty-six percent of female victims and 41 percent of male victims of stalking are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. Seventy-six percent of intimate partner femicide (homicide of women) victims have been stalked by their intimate partner.
Saving Grace also added that one in four victims report that the stalker may use technology such as computers, global positioning system devices, or hidden cameras to track the victim’s daily activities.
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia. In one of five cases, stalkers may use weapons to harm or threaten victims, and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships. Victims may suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and many lose time from work or have to move as a result of their victimization.
Vitolins indicated that people should be aware of their surroundings at all times, and make sure not to place themselves in situations where there are dark places without a light. Always have keys ready when you get in the car, and if someone scares you with contact, the best thing to do is try to get out of the situation.
“Often it’s not enough to just get out of the situation, it’s important to report that kind of activity to the police,” she added.
For more information about stalking and free family violence and sexual assault services, visit Saving Grace at www.saving-grace.org or contact Lauren Biskind at 541-382-9227.
The Stalking Resource Center can be found at www.victimsofcrime.org/src