Opinion: Fighting back against stalking

Beth

Beth Wiley

Aurora was terrified. She had received another rose delivered at her place of work. It was from an anonymous sender, but she knew it was from Adam.

Her co-workers couldn’t understand Aurora’s reaction—crying and insisting she needed to leave work early to contact law enforcement. They thought the flower was sweet and romantic, even though Aurora had broken up with Adam six months earlier.

Aurora’s co-workers offered what they thought were comforting words, saying things like, “He’s just trying to get you to see how much he loves you.” Or, “I’d be flattered to get that kind of attention!”

What Aurora’s co-workers didn’t understand was that Adam’s roses reinforced the threat he made before she left. He told her they were meant for each other and that nothing she could do would change that. He knew she would eventually figure out they were meant to be together—she would have to.

Aurora knew from the rose that Adam was still monitoring her. And she was afraid he would hurt her; it wasn’t the words he used as much as the way he said them. She felt helpless and like everything was on his terms.

Aurora was right to be afraid. Stalking is not only a crime that happens far more often than many of us realize, it’s also one of the deadliest forms of intimate partner violence.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking is pervasive and serious in the United States but it’s often hard to notice or to understand. The more everyone knows about stalking, the more likely we can end it.

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While legal definitions are different in every state, a good general definition of stalking is a pattern of behavior (including words and actions) directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

According to the Stalking Resource Center, part of the National Center for Victims of Crime, 7.5 million people are stalked every year in America. Victims are often stalked by former intimate partners, but the stalker could also be an acquaintance or a friend. In other words, victims usually know their stalker. Victims can be male as well as female.

Often, victims of stalking don’t seek help for various reasons. They might believe that ignoring the stalker will make him or her go away. Or victims might be afraid that no one will believe they are being stalked, or they convince themselves it’s all in their head.

Victims might also mistakenly believe that a stalker doesn’t have the technological know-how or the funds to track or record the victim through technology. The frightening truth is that cheap technology that monitors victims through recording devices is often easy to use and readily available.

Confronting a stalker can be very dangerous. The best recourse if facing a stalker is to get help. If you or someone you know is experiencing stalking, visit http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org to learn more about this crime and what you can do about it. You can also call the DSVS 24 Hour Helpline at 406-425-2222.

Beth Wiley is the educator and communication coordinator for Domestic and Sexual Violence Services in Red Lodge

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