In recognition of National Stalking Awareness Month, Gannon University’s SAVE (Safety Awareness and Violence Education) organization has devoted a week to stalking awareness by organizing a series of awareness-raising activities.
According to SAVE director, Katie Allison, the theme of this year’s national awareness month is “know it, see it, stop it.”
Allison said that stalking is a serious issue that the university community needs to be diligent in preventing. The week will feature a movie screening at 7 p.m. tonight in Zurn 104 with a brief panel discussion afterwards, which will be headed by Les Fetterman, Gannon’s assistant police director.
The movie is entitled “Stalking: Real Crime, Real Fear.” Allison said it was a Lifetime movie and follows a young girl who was stalked and shows how it can escalate.
“It can have tragic results,” she said. “It doesn’t just go away – it often escalates if they don’t get the attention they want.”
Gannon’s Stalking Awareness week will also include giveaways in Waldron.
Stalking is defined by the Stalking Resource Center as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause that person to feel fear.
While this definition includes a wide range of possible scenarios, Allison said that there are several things people need to make themselves aware of as possible outlets for stalkers.
According to Allison, the advent of new social media outlets has made cyber stalking become increasingly “trendy.”
“It’s all through Twitter and Facebook and posting your location,” she said. “A lot of people put that right on Facebook, and all those are invitations to somebody who is a potential stalker.”
The location feature on Facebook and Twitter, also known as “checking in,” as well as new tracking devices have become increasingly problematic in regards to stalking, according to Allison.
“I actually had a friend who was run off the road on I-79, her car flipped over,” she said. “She couldn’t figure out why, when she came out of a store at the mall, or Starbucks, this car would be there. Well, he had a tracking device on her car.”
However, Allison said that besides the newer methods, people need to notice other, more discreet warning signs.
“There are frequent texts, showing up at work, showing up at your apartment,” she said. “It’s unwanted gifts, it’s notes, it’s calling friends, family.”
According to Allison, the stalker is usually someone that the victim knows, and it is usually someone trying to get out of a relationship that is either abusive or unhealthily overbearing. She said that 31 percent of female victims are stalked by an intimate partner. She also said that men and women are both at risk, and that a clean break is often the best and only way to deal with a stalker.
“Each time you give a little more, you answer the phone call on the fifth time after not answering the first four, then you’re giving them hope,” she said.
Statistics from the Stalking Resource Center show that people ages 18-24 are the most susceptible to stalking, which coincides with the time period when most people attend college.
Allison said that there have been instances of stalking that have occurred at Gannon, though she was unable to divulge names of victims or accused parties.
“What concerns me are the unreported cases,” she said.
Allison said she encourages students to report cases of stalking to either Gannon’s Police and Safety or to the SAVE office.