S.A.V.E. shares facts with students about National Stalking Awareness Month

Imagine that you don’t feel safe. Someone is following you, texting and emailing you. You are afraid. You are not alone.

In one year, 7.5 million Americans are victims of stalking — a dangerous crime that can happen to anyone.

College students are particularly at risk of being stalked. Eighteen- to 24-year-olds have the highest rate of stalking victimization, says Michelle Garcia, director for the National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center.

“The rates of stalking on college campuses are higher than in the general population; similar to the rates of sexual assault,”  Garcia said.

Approximately one in six women and one in 19 men in the United States have experienced stalking at some point in their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed as a result.

What is stalking? Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. It is serious, often violent and can escalate over time.

What is Cyberstalking?  Cyberstalking is an extension of the physical form of stalking.

Some things stalkers do:

• Post information or spread  rumors about you on the Internet, in a public place or by word of mouth.

• Follow you and show up wherever you are.

• Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards or emails.

• Damage your home, car or other property.

• Monitor your phone calls or computer use.

• Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.

• Drive by or hang out at your home, school or work.

• Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends or pets.

• Find out about you by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage or contacting friends, family, neighbors or co-workers.

• Other actions that control, track or frighten you.

You are not to blame for a stalker’s behavior.

If you are being stalked, you may:

• Feel fear of what the stalker will do.

• Feel vulnerable, unsafe and not know who to trust.

• Feel anxious, irritable, impatient or on edge.

• Feel depressed, hopeless, overwhelmed, tearful or angry.

• Feel stressed, including having trouble concentrating, sleeping or remembering things.

• Have eating problems, such as appetite loss, forgetting to eat or overeating.

• Have flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, feelings or memories.

• Feel confused, frustrated or isolated because other people don’t understand why you are afraid.

Who are they? A stalker can be someone you know well or not at all. Most have dated or been involved with the people they stalk. Most stalking cases involve men stalking women, but men do stalk men, women do stalk women and women do stalk men.

If you think you or anyone you know is being stalked:

• Document everything. Record any information that you or any witnesses can provide. Create a log to record any or all details.

• Tell everyone. Give friends, neighbors, coworkers and family members a description of the stalker. Ask them to watch for him/her. Document everything listed above and give you a written account for your records.

• Take pictures. If gifts or flowers are sent, or when you see the stalker, try to take a photo or videotape if it’s safe to do so.

• Save all communications. Save and date all cards, letters, notes, envelopes, emails and taped messages on your telephone answering machine that are from the stalker.

• Make it hard to track you down. Alter your travel routes and routine while traveling with a friend.

• If you move don’t ask the post office to forward your mail. Have them hold it for you.

• Report it to Campus Police and Safety (814-871-7690).

• Use GUEST Services (814-871-7260).

• Seek help from a trusted adviser, Resident Life, coach or any member of the GU faculty/staff.

Find out more about stalking at the GU SAVE office (871-5814 or GU portal…Health and Well Being…SAVE) or the Stalking Resource Center www.victimsofcrime.org.