National Stalking Awareness Month provides us with an opportunity to firmly rebuke the violating crime of stalking and to raise awareness about its warning signs. It is also an opportunity for us to come together as a Nation to support those who have experienced stalking or harassment.
Stalking comes in many different forms, including making unsolicited, repetitive phone calls, sending unwanted letters or other items, and following victims or showing up at their workplaces or homes. Those who have been targeted by a stalker know all too well the hopelessness, helplessness, and fear that come from experiencing this abusive and invasive behavior.
Often, stalking victims are familiar with the culprit of this crime. Almost 75 percent of stalking victims know the offender, which can lead to a false sense of security and, in some cases, unspeakable tragedy. That is why it is so important for those who feel they are experiencing some form of stalking or threatening behavior to immediately report it to local law enforcement or a trusted family member or friend.
As our society becomes increasingly interconnected through various online platforms, cyberstalking is another form of threatening behavior facing Americans, especially our young people. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in four victims of stalking reports some form of cyberstalking. This can include unwarranted e-mails, instant and direct messaging, or liking and commenting on social media posts. It is vital that online behavior be held to the same standards of respect and integrity as are our interactions in person.
Stalking behavior is a manipulative tool used to exert control and incite fear, and victims can often feel isolated and vulnerable. If you or someone you know is experiencing this abuse, there are many resources available online at the Department of Justice’s Stalking webpage, as well as through the National Center for Victims of Crime Hotline: 1-855-484-2846. Please know that you are not alone and America stands with you.