SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – To a casual observer, it might appear just plain odd, annoying, yet harmless behavior. But the physical and emotional distress experienced by victims demonstrate that not only is it serious, but it also can be a very dangerous matter. January is National Stalking Awareness Month, and the County of Santa Clara Office of Women’s Policy is partnering with the Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium to encourage everyone to focus on a crime that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention affects millions of people in the United States every year.
“Raising awareness helps the victims and their families identify with confidence this type of behavior and seek the protection to which they are entitled,” said County of Santa Clara George Shirakawa, Chair of the Board’s Public Safety and Justice Committee. “We want to reassure the victims that they are not alone and they can fight this crime.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), one in six women and one in 19 men have been stalked during their lifetime. For both female and male victims, stalking was often committed by people they knew, or with whom they had a relationship.
“Like domestic violence, stalking is a crime of control and power that impacts people of all ages, origins and educational, social and cultural backgrounds,” said Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, Director of the County of Santa Clara Office of Women’s Policy. “Anyone can be stalked, so an understanding of this crime and empowering victims with information and resources to seek immediate help is crucial.”
According to the Stalking Resource Center, National Center for Victims of Crime, stalking is a pattern of repeated (two or more occasions), unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other type of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear for their safety. Because victims usually know their perpetrators, their behavior may appear harmless to outside observers; however, victims often endure intense physical and emotional distress. Many lose time from work or have to relocate because of the stalking.
“If more people learn to recognize stalking, we have a better chance to protect victims and prevent tragedies in Santa Clara County,” said Cynthia Hunter, Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium Director.
Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate and prosecute, because at times it might look as odd but harmless behavior. Quite often stalkers do not fit standard psychological profiles, and many follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another.
One in four victims reports that the stalker uses technology to track the victim’s daily activities.
Unlike other crimes, stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism or burglary. It can manifest as unwanted calls, gifts, flowers, or visits; repeated, unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications from the perpetrator by phone, mail, and/or email; following or waiting for the victim at places such as home, school, work, or recreation place; making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim, the victim's children, relatives, friends, pets or property; hiring private investigators, going through the victim's garbage, following the victim, contacting victim's friends, family work, or neighbors, all common techniques used in stalking.
Cyber stalking is also on the rise. Cyber stalking includes harassing a victim, and posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet; obtaining personal information about the victim by accessing public records, and using internet search services.
What victims should do
In recognition of National Stalking Awareness Month, the County of Santa Clara and the Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium are providing advice to safeguard victims and educate witnesses on what they can do to help:
· If you are in immediate danger, call 911
· Trust your instincts. Do not downplay the danger. If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are.
· Take threats seriously. Danger generally is higher when the stalker talks about suicide or murder, or when the victim tries to leave or end the relationship.
· Contact a local crisis line. They can help you devise a safety plan and give you information about laws to protect you.
· Develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay and having a friend or relative go places with you.
· Do not communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you.
· Keep evidence of the stalking.
· Contact the Police.
· Consider getting a court order that directs the stalker to stay away from you.
· Tell family, friends and co-workers about the stalking and seek their support.
· Warn security staff at your job or school about the stalking and ask them to help watch out for your safety.
About the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy:
Since 1998, the Office of Women’s Policy has addressed existing and emerging issues for women and girls. It serves as a focal point for collaboration to improve the status of women and girls through identifying and initiating programs, services, systems and policies to effectively address the needs of women and girls.
About the Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium of Santa Clara County:
Started in 2004, the Consortium is a coordinated network of nonprofit domestic violence organizations that ensure collaboration with policymakers at the local and state level. Members of the network have collectively provided services to victims and their children for over 100 years in Santa Clara County. The Consortium catalyzes leadership, resources and survivors’ wisdom to promote safety, justice and healthy relationships in Santa Clara County.
Local Crisis Hotlines:
AACI Asian Women’s Home – 24-hour hotline (408) 975-2739
Community Solutions – 24-hour hotline 1-877-363-7238
Maitri – helpline 1-888-862-4874
Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence -24-hour hotline (408) 279-2962
YWCA Silicon Valley –Domestic Violence Department Support Network Program 1-800-572-2782
Posted: January 23, 2013