Stalking is a very serious and all-too-common crime. An estimated 6 to 7.5 million people in the United States are stalked every year, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. In fact, because of the prevalence of stalking, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified it as a public health issue that is critical for individuals and organizations to understand and work to prevent.
National Stalking Awareness Month, which is observed each January, is a time to raise awareness about the warning signs of stalking and promote ways people can stay safe if they believe they have a stalker. Throughout this month, we encourage you to learn, take action, and share information to prevent and end stalking on your campus and in your community.
The first step to staying safe is to learn the behaviors that constitute stalking. Stalking can include unwanted appearances or contact at a person’s home, work, or school; leaving strange or potentially threatening items for a person to find; watching, following, or tracking a person; or sneaking into a person’s home or car. As we’ve become more connected digitally, people are also experiencing an increased rate of cyberstalking–stalking that happens using electronic means, such as sending unwanted emails, instant messages, text messages, voice messages, or social media messages. Nearly 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking, including through email (83%) or instant messaging (35%), according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Individuals and organizations should take action to prevent and eventually end stalking. Educational institutions can take action to create a healthy and safe environment for students, faculty, and staff by implementing some of these simple practices:
- Create programs that provide education about potential dangers and consequences of stalking
- Define procedures victims of stalking should follow if stalking occurs on campus
- Outline the disciplinary procedures the school will use if stalking is reported.
Campus leaders can also learn more about preventing stalking in the Response to Stalking on Campus report by the National Center for Victims of Crime and the Stalking Resource Center.
The Stalking Resource Center also offers several tips to help individuals stay safe if individuals believe they are the victims of stalking, including:
- Keeping a phone nearby in case of emergency
- Treating all threats as legitimate and alerting law enforcement agencies
- Varying regular routines and limiting alone time when out shopping or running errands
- Not interacting with the person stalking or harassing you in any way, including online
During the month of January, you can share tips and resources online and throughout your campus to raise awareness about the warning signs of staling and how to prevent or end it. Use the hashtag #stalkingawareness on social media and join the national conversation about stalking prevention!