The Edmond Sun

January 16, 2013

Report reveals fears stalking victims face

January is National Stalking Awareness Month

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Stalking victims face many issues, including fear.

For stalking victims, the most common fear is not knowing what would happen next. Others fear death, fear the behavior will never stop or they fear bodily harm to themselves, their child or another family member, according to a 2009 Bureau of Justice Statistics special report on stalking victimization in the United States.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month, according to a presidential proclamation issued by the White House.

Stalking is dangerous and surprisingly common, especially among victims of domestic violence, according to YWCA Oklahoma City. Both females and males can become targets and it inflicts emotional, economic, even physical harm on victims every day in central Oklahoma.

Stalking can happen at a very early age. One in five women and nearly one in seven men who ever experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced some form of intimate partner violence between age 11-17.

Sunshine Gross, assistant executive director for the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said awareness about stalking is increasing in Oklahoma, meaning stalkers are losing control, creating friction.

Gross said while progress is being made in areas like educating members of law enforcement, more needs to be done. Her wish list includes making a first stalking offense a felony, continuing the effort to educate law enforcement officers, doing more to understand the trauma victims experience and securing more funding for awareness events.

In Oklahoma, stalking occurs when someone repeatedly follows or harasses a victim in a way that makes them feel scared, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested; or when someone commits a “course of conduct” consisting of a series of two or more separate acts or unconsented contact with a victim that occur over a period of time; it can be a short period of time.

The contact must have begun or been continued by the stalker without a victim’s consent or in disregard of the victim’s expressed desire to avoid or discontinue the contact.

Nationally, stalking has been an issue on many college campuses. Locally, it has been a limited issue at the University of Central Oklahoma, where 90 percent of students commute, said campus Police Chief Jeff Harp.

If someone feels they are being stalked, they should report it immediately to the appropriate agency, Harp said. If a victim isn’t sure of jurisdiction, UCO Police Services can help determine that and provide other help through the school’s support network. UCO Police Services will also work within the school’s related policy and the district attorney.

Edmond Police Department spokeswoman Jenny Monroe said stalking is a crime some are reluctant to report, one that comes in many forms, like unwanted contact, texts, phone calls and messages via social media websites.

“It is common for victims of stalking to know the offender in some fashion as in a coworker, an acquaintance, a neighbor,” Monroe said. “The best thing possible is to report it to police if you are being stalked. Save the information if it is coming in the form of a text or email, etc.”



HOW TO HELP OR GET HELP

Gross said her coalition needs funds for making stalking kits, which include items useful to a victim of stalking. They include items for documenting the timeline of related incidents, disposable cameras and disposable gloves. To contribute, call Gross from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 524-0700.

Gross also urged anyone who is told by someone that they are a stalking victim to not joke about it but to take it seriously and listen.

For domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking hotline services, call the YWCA Domestic Violence Hotline at 917-9922, the YWCA Sexual Assault Hotline at 943-7273 (RAPE) or the Oklahoma statewide SafeLine at 800-522-7233. For immediate assistance, call 911.



marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108