January is Stalking Awareness Month
January 14, 2010
“Stalking: Know it. Name it. Stop it.”
What follows is a true and frightening story that occurred here in South Lake Tahoe. A woman walked into the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center in crisis. After taking some time to calm herself down she began to tell her story. The woman described how she met a man on a popular social networking Web site – MySpace. After making several contacts with this man, she started to develop what she thought to be an honest friendship so she agreed to meet him in person. Upon their first meeting she realized that he was not who he said he was; he had posted another person’s picture and provided false profile information. The woman decided to end the relationship immediately. The man did not take “no” for an answer and began to stalk her. He searched high and low and finally found out where she lived. The situation became so severe that the FBI became involved. Their investigation revealed that this man was wanted in another state for murder. With the help of the Women’s Center, the woman was able to relocate her family to a safe and protected area.
Stalking is a serious crime defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. More than half of all states classify it as a felony, yet it is only reported by approximately 40 percent of victims. Most stalkers pursue their victims at least once a week, many do it every day, and all use various forms of stalking. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts such as: Unwanted phone calls, letters, text messages, or other types of correspondence through Web sites; following or spying on a person; leaving unwanted presents; and posting information or spreading rumors about a person on the Internet or by word of mouth. This type of conduct can cause victims to experience serious symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia and depression.
It is important to recognize that stalkers can be strangers, acquaintances, or someone that you know very well. If you or someone you know is being stalked, please contact the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center’s 24-Hour Crisis Line at (530) 544-4444. Advocates can provide information about stalking, your rights and options and safety planning.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month and the Women’s Center would like to bring our community together to take action and promote awareness by offering a women’s self defense class that is open to the public. The class is free and will take place Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. at Inn by the Lake, 3300 Lake Tahoe Blvd.
Liliana E. Sanchez is an outreach advocate at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.