Letter to the Editor: Stalking awareness

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Stephen Treat/Daily Collegian

Stephen Treat/Daily Collegian

“I’m stalking you,” has become a joke line. “Real” stalking is not cute, funny or romantic. It can be deadly. At best, it leaves behind a tornado’s path of emotional ruin – extreme distress, sleep and eating disturbance, lost time from work, depression and more.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month.

Rates of stalking among college students are higher than in the general public. More than half of female victims and more than a third of male victims were stalked before the age of 25, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Stalking is about instilling psychological terror, and unless you’ve been stalked, you don’t get it. If you know someone who is being stalked, avoid using terms like, “You’re overreacting.” It is, in fact, the perception that stalking incidents are not “important” enough to report to police that leaves many victims unsure about calling 911. Many victims don’t report stalking to police because they think police won’t be effective, or will see the incident(s) as minor.

Law enforcement has a challenge of connecting the dots in a stalking case, because it is a “course of conduct” crime. If you are being stalked, it is critical that you document each interaction with your stalker and present it to police in a comprehensive manner – no matter how insignificant you believe the incident to be. Stalking is a crime in all 50 states.

One myth of stalking is that if you confront the stalker, that person will go away. It is actually interaction that the perpetrator is craving. People stalk for various reasons, but ultimately, their goal is to control the victim. Leave contact with your stalker up to law enforcement.

If you’re stalked, for help with coping and a safety plan, contact the UMass Amherst Center for Women & Community (that serves both genders) at 413-545-0883.

For more information on stalking, visit StalkingAwarenessMonth.org.

Susan Ashline
Class of 1988