Stalking: Difficult to recognize, investigate, prosecute
Editor's note: The following information was provided by Someplace Safe in Alexandria.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affects 3.4 million victims a year.
This year's theme is "Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It." It challenges the nation to fight this dangerous crime by learning more about it.
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, yet many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its seriousness and impact.
In one of five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims, and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for femicide (homicide of women) in abusive relationships.
Victims suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and many lose time from work or have to move as a result of their victimization.
Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear.
Stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts or visits.
One in four victims reports that the stalker uses technology, such as computers, social networking sites, global positioning system devices or hidden cameras to track the victim's daily activities.
Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many stalkers follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making it difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute their crimes.
Communities that understand stalking, however, can support victims and combat the crime.
"If more people learn to recognize stalking," said Amity Schneider of Someplace Safe, "we have a better chance to protect victims and prevent tragedies."
Someplace Safe works with victims of stalking to provide a sense of safety and security, by assisting with protective orders, safety plans, emergency housing, among others to promote the well being of stalking victims.
Someplace Safe will provide presentations to promote awareness and public education about stalking during the annual observance. For more information, contact Someplace Safe at (320) 762-1995.
Someplace Safe's mission statement is: To create a better world for everyone. It works to eliminate violence through advocacy, education, and services.
If you or someone you know is a victim of stalking, you don't have to try to deal with the problem on your own. Local resources are available. For more information, contact Someplace Safe in Alexandria at (320) 762-1995.