January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affects 3.4 million victims a year. This year’s theme — “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” challenges the nation to fight this dangerous crime by learning more about it.
The Dawson County Domestic Violence Program will be promoting stalking awareness education during January. Because technology is used by in four victims reports that the stalker uses technology, DCDV will also be using technology to combat stalking by texting, and posting on facebook, the National Stalking Awareness Month slogan for 2012. We ask everyone to either begin or forward this message to their friends also, as well as “liking” NSAM or DCDV on facebook, youtube and Twitter. Also, watch for the Stalking Awareness Month displays at local schools, businesses and public locations.
We always advise people to be very sparing of imparting personal information about anyone — whether in person, on the phone and, especially, on online social sites such as facebook. A common ploy used by stalkers, when attempting to find the location of their victim, is to get others to provide them with information by playing “dumb.” For instance, one victim reported that her stalker was able to find out exactly what house she lived in by simply asking a neighbor. He told the neighbor that he was a relative and just wanted to surprise her by dropping in on her. The helpful neighbor pointed out exactly which house she lived in, even though he had a handgun laying on his car seat in plain view.
In another incident, the victim had relocated to another state in an attempt to hide from her stalker. The stalker, by use of technology, discovered the town and neighborhood where she lived. He drove there, masqueraded as a package delivery person, got her house number from a neighbor and then shot her as she arrived home from work.
As mentioned previously, one in four victims reports that the stalker uses technology, such as computers, global positioning system devices, or hidden cameras, to track the victim’s daily activities. Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many stalkers follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making it difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute their crimes.
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, yet many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its seriousness and impact. In one of five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims, and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for femicide (homicide of women) in abusive relationships. Victims 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.
Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. 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 that person fear. Stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits.
Communities that understand stalking, however, can support victims and combat the crime. According to Lorraine Frank at DCDV, “If more people learn to recognize stalking, we have a better chance to protect victims and prevent tragedies.”
For those impacted by domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, Dawson County Domestic Violence Program is the catalyst for change, utilizing the empowerment model. We are committed to providing the resources and direction necessary to ensure safety, healing and the prevention of further violence. For more information, please contact DCDV at 406-377-6477. For additional resources to help promote National Stalking Awareness Month, please visit http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org
Published Jan. 11, 2012