stalking awareness month

Stalking Awareness Month: Better Safety for Everyone

January is Stalking Awareness Month, a time to learn about stalking, understand its far-reaching effects, and discover how to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones. It's the time to stand together, arm ourselves with knowledge, and fight back. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: January - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background of Stalking Awareness Month

In the early 2000s, stalking was a growing concern in the United States. Its gravity and widespread occurrence led to the birth of Stalking Awareness Month in 2004. The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) took the lead, shined a spotlight on stalking, and pushed for laws to safeguard victims.

Moreover, victim advocate Debbie Riddle left a profound mark on the roots of this month-long celebration. Her sister fell prey to a stalker, a personal tragedy that fueled Riddle's fight against this serious crime. 

Riddle's tireless campaigning was key in starting the awareness drive. Her efforts sparked a national dialogue, dragging this silent crime into the limelight.

The occasion has hit notable milestones since its early days. The Stalking Resource Center, a wing of the NCVC, rolled out the National Stalking Awareness Month website in 2006. This online hub gave the public access to essential resources and facts on stalking. 

In 2011, former President Obama issued the first Presidential proclamation supporting the cause2.

In 2013, the Violence Against Women Act broadened the stalking definition to include electronic stalking – a nod to the crime's evolution in the digital age.

The Cause and Its Challenges

man calling someone
Photo by Osama Saeed on Unsplash.

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey says that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience stalking in their lifetime1. Sadly, this serious crime often lurks in the shadows, its victims silenced and justice seemingly out of reach. 

Stalking behavior typically obsesses over a specific person. It can take many forms, from constant phone calls to intrusive emails or even shadowing the victim physically.

Victims of stalking grapple with a web of complex challenges. For starters, the hidden nature of this crime makes it a tough nut to crack legally. 

Victims often find themselves trapped in a feeling of helplessness, their pleas for justice echoing unheard. Psychologically, the impact is devastating. They live with a constant shadow of fear and anxiety, a recipe for a host of mental health issues, including depression and sleep disorders.

Moreover, misunderstandings and misconceptions about stalking in society add another layer of complexity. Usually, victims find themselves getting the blame for the stalker’s actions, resulting in further isolation. 

This lack of understanding can translate into a lack of support for victims, who might already struggle with economic burdens like changing jobs or relocating. 

And in our technology-driven world, stalkers have found new avenues to torment their victims. For one, they harass people on social media platforms, leaving victims cornered with no way out.

Efforts and Initiatives

stalking a person
Photo by Fons Heijnsbroek on Unsplash.

US President Joe Biden signed a memorandum in 2022 to form the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse. This group recommends a national strategy to the federal government and other related stakeholders to prevent technology from being used to perpetrate violence like stalking.

In the United Kingdom, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust kicked off the National Stalking Helpline in 2010. This helpline has been a game-changer, offering advice and advocacy to those stalked. The organization's unwavering dedication to victims has also been a ray of hope, a lifeline for many in dark times.

Then there's the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC), an AEquitas initiative. Their mission is to empower professionals with the insights and resources to tackle stalking effectively. SPARC's all-encompassing programs have prepared professionals to respond adeptly to stalking-related cases.

Meanwhile, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) is making strides in the fight against gender-based violence, including stalking. Active across European Union member states, their efforts mirror the global push to eradicate this persistent problem.

How to Get Involved and Support Stalking Awareness Month

First, you can educate yourself by reading articles, perusing studies, and listening to the survivors' stories. By doing so, you'll arm yourself with the necessary tools to debunk myths and disseminate facts. 

Next, why not lend a hand to community-based organizations providing victim services? The scope for volunteering is vast. You can answer helpline calls, offer legal counsel, or provide emotional support. 

On the other hand, you can organize or participate in a fundraiser, such as a charity marathon. These events gather funds that allow pertinent organizations to persist in their noble quest.

Lastly, never underestimate the healing power of empathy. A comforting word, an attentive ear, or a supportive presence can mean the world to a victim. Perhaps even initiate or join a support group, a haven where victims can exchange their experiences and coping mechanisms.

Conclusion

Stalking Awareness Month is an annual call for us to act against a crime that too frequently goes unseen. As we embrace the dawn of this occasion, let's remember the power of unity, awareness, and action. 

By understanding stalking, recognizing its signs, and acknowledging its effects, we're expanding our knowledge and fortifying those around us. It's high time we make a difference and end domestic violence.

Stalking Awareness Month FAQs

1. What is Stalking Awareness Month?

It is an annual campaign that raises awareness about the crime of stalking and its impact on victims.

2. Why is it important to raise awareness about stalking?

It helps educate the public about the signs, dangers, and legal consequences of stalking and empowers potential victims to seek help and support.

3. What are some common signs of stalking?

Common signs of stalking include unwelcome and repeated contact through various means (such as phone calls, texts, emails, or social media messages), following or surveillance, unwanted gifts or messages, and showing up uninvited at a person's home, workplace, or other locations.

4. How can someone protect themselves from stalking?

To protect themselves from stalking, individuals should document incidents, inform trusted friends or family members about the situation, notify law enforcement, secure their online presence, change routines, and seek support from victim advocacy organizations.

5. How can I support the cause?

You can spread awareness through social media, share educational resources, join local events or fundraisers, donate to organizations that assist stalking victims, and advocate for stronger legislation and policies to address stalking crimes.

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1

Smith, S.G., Basile, K.C., & Kresnow, M. (2022). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2016/2017 Report on Stalking — Updated Release. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2

The White House. (2010) Presidential Proclamation--Stalking Awareness Month. whitehouse.gov.

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