January is Stalking Awareness Month
Special to the Tribune
As daylight breaks, we get up in the morning and begin our daily routine. Some days we feel inundated with to-do lists, places to go, people to see. As we go on about our day, we are often not aware of our surroundings or the dangers all around. The dangers that constantly surround us can be damaging to our belongings, physical being, family, or pets. Trees falling on power lines due to bad weather (as we recently experienced) is one example of the dangerous situations that may arise at any given moment. Another example of a dangerous situation that may arise at any moment is stalking.
President Obama declared January 2011 National Stalking Awareness Month and the South Lake Tahoe Women-s Center would like to shed some light on this serious issue. Stalking is often mischaracterized and may sometimes be considered harmless. It is difficult to decipher behaviors and characterize them as stalking, especially at times when it is cordial to show gratitude or appreciation for gifts, letters or other personal appearances. However, if the letters, emails or gifts are not welcome and cause fear it is an indicator of an underlying issue that could potentially be stalking.
Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime there are about 3.4 million people older than 18 who are victims of stalking in this country every year. Stalking comes in different forms and it is not limited to emails, letters or gifts. It also includes cyber stalking, phone calls, text messages, GPS tracking, and spying among other behaviors. It is a serious crime that can have devastating consequences, which is why all 50 states including the District of Columbia have laws against it.
Like sexual assault and domestic violence, the majority of stalking cases are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. About 75 percent of stalking victims know the stalker, who could be a man or woman. This type of conduct can cause victims to experience serious symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia and depression. It is important to recognize that this type of conduct is potentially dangerous. It is also important to recognize that the community and individuals can stand up and do something about it.
What can you do if you suspect you are being stalked or if you know someone who is being stalked? The South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center can provide more information, referrals and or assistance with issues stemming from stalking. It is important to remember that every case is different and may require a different course of action. It is also crucial to report the incidents and behaviors to the police and keep a log of issues related to this problem. If you would like a copy of an incident and behavior log, or have any questions about stalking contact South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center at 530-544-2118 or visit http://www.ncvc.org.
– Liliana E. Sanchez is an outreachadvocate for the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.