Published On: Fri, Jan 24th, 2014

Commentary… January National Stalking Awareness Month

Submitted by Family Refuge Center

January 2014 is the 10th anniversary of the original commencement of National Stalking Awareness Month. This is a time to acknowledge the prevalence of stalking, to understand the real and imminent threat of danger it imposes to men and women, and to challenge ourselves to fight victimization by becoming more knowledgeable.

It can happen to anyone. Stalking does not discriminate based on social class, gender, age, race or lifestyle. Over six and a half million adults living in the United States are stalked each year and over 25 million will be a victim within his or her lifetime.1 Stalking is a crime that is pervasive, dangerous, and potentially lethal. Stalking is recognized as a crime in all of our 50 states. In West Virginia, it is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or to suffer significant emotional distress.2 The emotional effects of stalking can cause significant symptoms. A victim can suffer from substantial depression and anxiety. Many have also reported panic attacks, hyper vigilance, chronic sleep disturbances, appetite disturbances, persistent nausea and excessive fatigue.3 These symptoms commonly affect productivity at work and in daily life.

Stalking behaviors include, but are not limited to: surveilling the victim by watching, following, or going through the victim’s trash, appearing unexpectedly at the victim’s place of work, home or school; harassing the victim through phone calls, text messages, emails, or through third party participants; sending the victim unwanted gifts or letters; or by vandalizing, threatening, or physically attacking the victim, his or her friends, family or pets. Although women are more likely to be stalked, anyone can be a victim. Stalking can be committed by or upon either gender, and in fact, one in six women and one in 19 men will be victims of stalking in their lifetime.1

Stalking is a largely unrecognized crime. It is frequently unreported due to the difficult nature of providing evidence for police. However, the danger of the victim grossly outweighs the clear and evident signs of the stalker. Over 50 percent of female homicide victims reported stalking to police before being killed by their stalkers.4 Technology plays a large role in the stalkers ability to track the victim, and can also play a key role in collecting evidence for law enforcement. Through knowledge, understanding, and a collective effort, we can work together to protect men and women from the dangers of stalking victimization.

The Family Refuge Center is a community-based organization serving Greenbrier, Pocahontas and Monroe counties. Victim services are free and accessible, victim-centered and confidential. Crisis intervention services are offered 24/7. Advocates can be reached at 304-645-6334. We are committed to ending physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

For more information on stalking, please visit http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org and www.ovw.usdoj.gov.

1. Black, Michele C., Kathleen C. Basile, Matthew J. Breiding, Sharon G. Smith, Mikel L. Walters, Melissa T. Merrick, Jieru Chen and Mark R. Steven. 2011. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 17, 2014 (http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf).

2. West Virginia Legislature. 2014. Stalking; Harassment;Penalties;Definitions, West Virginia Code §61-2-9a. Retrieved January 17, 2014 (http://www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=61).

3. Baum, Katrina, Shannon Catalano, and Michael Rand. 2009. Stalking victimization in the United States. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved January 17, 2014 (http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/docs/stalking-victimization.pdf).

4. McFarlane, Judith M., Jacquelyn C. Campbell, Susan Wilt, Carolyn J. Sachs, Yvonne Ulrich and Xiao Xu. 1999. “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide” Homicide Studies, 3(4). Retrieved January 17, 2014 (http://www.margolishealy.com/files/resources/stalking_and_intimate_partner_femicide.pdf).