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January is National Stalking Awareness Month

Most victims know their stalkers.

Even though we often hear reports of fans stalking celebrities, survey information indicates that nearly one in 12 women and one in 45 men are stalked at least once in their lifetime.

Nearly 60 percent of female victims and 30 percent of male victims are stalked by current or former intimate partners. In intimate-partner cases, fewer than half of stalking incidents occur after the relationship ends. Most of the time, the stalking occurs during the relationship.

Stalking is distinguishable from many other types of crime in two important ways. First, it entails repeat victimization of a person the offender targets – it is, by its very nature, a series of acts, rather than a single incident.

Second, it is partly defined by its impact on the victim. While legal definitions of stalking vary from state to state, the following is a useful general definition: A course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person fear.

These behaviors include: following a person, appearing at a person’s home or workplace, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property.

Stalking creates uncertainty, instills fear, and can completely disrupt lives. It can involve violence and can even prove to be lethal — such as in some domestic violence situations.

Stalking and domestic violence intersect in a variety of ways. Research indicates that 81 percent of women stalked by an intimate have been physically assaulted by that person. Thirty-one percent of women stalked by an intimate have been sexually assaulted by that person.

Offenders who stalk former intimate partners are more likely to have physically or sexually assaulted them before the relationship ended. Stalking like domestic violence, is a crime of power and control.

In one study about stalking and pre-stalking relationships, over 50 percent of the women were psychologically abused, 65 percent reported physical abuse, and 8.6 percent experienced sexual abuse during their relationship.

If stalking is defined as a course of conduct that intimidates or frightens the victim, then relationships involving domestic violence also involve stalking.

So what do you do if you feel you are a victim of stalking? Call your local police department’s emergency number (911) to report any incidents immediately. If you feel you need protection, and you have not done so already, you should consider filing for a protective order, which can be obtained by contacting your local crisis center and talking to an advocate.

A restraining or stay-away order is a legal protection that prohibits the offender from contacting you or interfering with your activities or mobility. If the stalker continues to harass or threaten you, this behavior is punishable by law.

In addition to helping you to file a protective order, a crisis center advocate can help you develop a safety plan that focusing on your individual safety concerns. Research suggests that address confidentiality programs may be an effective means of combating stalking.

These programs encourage victims who face continued pursuit and unusual safety risks develop a safety plan that includes relocating as far from their assailant as possible and securing a confidential mailing address that provides mail forwarding service but does not reveal their new location.

Your local crisis center advocate can help you to access this program.

To learn more about stalking, please contact the Lakes Crisis and Resource Center at: 218-847-7446.

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