Stalking Awareness Month

January 2021 marks the seventeenth annual National Stalking Awareness Month

What is stalking?

Stalking is a serious crime that can take a long-term emotional, physical, and financial toll on survivors. Despite the high-profile or celebrity cases involving stranger stalkers, stalking is most often perpetrated by someone the survivor knows and is defined as a patter of behavior directed towards a specific individual causing them to feel fear.

How does Sexual Violence Response support survivors?

Sexual Violence Response supports survivors of stalking through:

  • safety planning
  • navigating their rights and reporting options
  • accessing services both on and off campus

Events

Recognizing and Responding to Stalking

Wed, January 27, 2021 | 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Join Sexual Violence Response (SVR) for an introductory session to understanding stalking as a form of violence. Stalking and its short- and long-term physical, psychological, economic, social, and spiritual impacts will be defined. Participants will explore the barriers individuals face in recognizing and responding to incidents of stalking and ways to address this on an individual and systemic level. Finally, participants will learn how to apply bystander intervention techniques in various scenarios. Facilitated by Charlene Bernasko, M.A., Ed.M., Violence Prevention Educator.

Please register in advance for this Zoom webinar:  https://columbiacuimc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_n5IppzbuSxSH--DpkwdRSg 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the webinar.

Learn More

Please join us this January in raising our community's awareness of this important topic by checking out the information and resources below or learning more on the SVR Facebook page (@SVR.Columbia). 

Stalking is a course of unwanted attention that is repeated or obsessive, directed toward an individual or a group and that is reasonably likely to cause alarm, fear, or substantial emotional distress. Stalking may take many forms, including but not limited to lying in wait for monitoring, or pursuing contact. Stalking may occur in person or through telephone calls, text messages, unwanted gifts, letters, e-mails, surveillance, or other types of observation and communications.

Please visit Columbia University's Gender-Based Misconduct Policies and Procedures for Students to learn more.

  • In-Person: Repeated unwanted contact in person, following someone around, showing up where they are
  • Online Stalking: Using the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass (aka cyberstalking)
  • High-Tech Stalking: Using a variety of technologies to surveil, harass, intimidate, coerce, or monitor
    • For more information or resources on technology and stalking, please see the National Network to End Domestic Violance (NNEDV) website here and here
  • Revenge Porn: The non-consensual sharing or publication of an intimate image or video

 

Stalking behaviors may include, but are not limited to:

  • persistent patterns of leaving or sending someone unwanted gifts/items
  • following or lying-in wait for someone
  • damaging (or threatening to damage) someone’s property
  • defaming someone’s character

Perpetrators can also stalk survivors through the use of technology. Cyberstalking can include:

  • persistently sending unwanted communication through the internet
  • posting threatening or personal information about someone (including private photographs)
  • spreading rumors on the internet about someone
  • installing video cameras that give access to someone’s personal life
  • using a tracking system to monitor someone without their knowledge
  • using someone’s computer to track their activity

College Campuses

  • 46.1% of incidents occurred on campus and 53.9% off campus
  • Only 32% of participants reported being stalked by a stranger while the rest identified their stalkers as acquaintances, friends, or former intimate partners

LGBTQIA+ Communities

  • 31.9% of bisexual women disclose a lifetime prevalence of stalking compared to 15.6% of heterosexual women and 19.5% of lesbian women
  • 28.1% bisexual women report technology and internet stalking compared to 13.0% of heterosexual women
  • 11.4% lifetime stalking prevalence in gay men and 5.2% in heterosexual
  • LBGTQIA+ students are two times at risk for being a victim of stalking as their heterosexual counterparts
  • LGBTQIA+ community has the lowest reporting rates despite evidence of rapidly increasing rates of stalking

Male Survivors

  • About 1 in 17 men in the U.S. were victims of stalking at some point in their lifetime
  • Approximately 41% of male victims experienced stalking before age 25
  • 46% of male victims reported being stalked by only female perpetrators
  • 3% of male victims reported being stalked by only male perpetrators
  • 8% of male victims reported being stalked by both male and female perpetrators

Often overlooked is the link between stalking and (power-based) violence. Stalking is a crime that is often co-perpetrated with other crimes, including intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Stalking is often used as an extension of power and control and may occur before, during or after the relationship ends, or both. Research supports a connection between stalking and sexual assault – both pre- and post-assault.

  • 81% of survivors who were stalked by a current or former partner had been physically assaulted by that partner
  • 57% of intimate partner stalking survivors reported being stalked before the relationship ended
  • 2% of stalking survivors are assaulted by their stalker, but 31% of women stalked by an intimate partner report also being sexually assaulted
  • Of the 70% of femicide victims who were physically assaulted before their murder, 90% reported at least one episode of stalking in the 12 months before their murder

Many stalking survivors fear they will not be believed or taken seriously if they report stalking to authorities. This is a well-founded concern given that research indicates that for all genders and identities, the criminal justice system often minimizes the severity of stalking, which increases the risk for a dangerous outcome. Due to gender stereotypes, male survivors are especially at risk for having their experience and concerns minimized.

In addition to these obstacles, survivors from marginalized and underserved populations may face added barriers that can include discrimination, language barriers, fear of law enforcement, and lack of accessibility. Support for survivors of stalking is not one size fits all. It is important to take social identities, cultural needs, disabilities, and immigration status into consideration in order to provide appropriate resources and referrals. In some circumstances stalking can be perpetrated by families, communities and/or other networks of people.

  • Do not share your passwords or account information with others
  • Do an internet search of your name to see what personal information about you is available online and notify a site’s webmaster to request any information be removed.
  • Disable apps and websites from automatically tracking your location and be mindful of posting public content that may reveal where you are (ex: listing your location on Social Media posts)
  • Keep a log of all stalking incidents including date, time, location, what happened, and any witnesses who may have been present. A standard stalking log sheet can be found here.
  • If possible, preserve unwanted digital contact in its original form (voicemails, text conversations, messaging platforms, social media posts, etc.) rather than as recordings or screenshots. However, screenshots are at times the only option.
  • Vary your physical daily routes and routines
  • Change your locks and install security devices
  • Photograph evidence of trespassing, property damage, or unwanted gifts
  • Instruct your school or place of work not to disclose your contact information
  • If you receive an order of protection, provide a copy to your school or place of work and keep a copy on you at all times

More resources here.

  • Federal: An anti-stalking law that is part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Under this law it is a federal felony to cross state lines to stalk or harass an individual if the conduct causes fear of serious bodily injury or death to the stalking victim or to the victim's immediate family members. It is a federal felony to stalk or harass on military or U.S. territorial lands, including Indian/Indigenous Country.
    • Key provisions: 18 U.S. Code § 2261A. Stalking
  • New York State: 
    • ​​​​​​​4th Degree: A person intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, behaves in a way that is directed at a specific person, and should reasonably know that such conduct will likely cause the victim (or a member of the victim’s immediate family) to reasonably fear they face material harm (physical, emotional, or economic well being)
    • 1st - 3rd Degrees: The law escalates the level of the offense based on whether the offender has committed a stalking offense in the past, committed the act of stalking against several individuals, or stalked a person under the age of 14 (among other factors).
      • Key Provisions:
        • ​​​​​​​NY Penal Code § 120.45. Stalking in the fourth degree
        • NY Penal Code § 120.50. Stalking in the third degree
        • NY Penal Code § 120.55. Stalking in the second degree
        • NY Penal Code § 120.60. Stalking in the first degree
        • NY Penal Code § 245.15. Unlawful dissemination or publication of an intimate image

About Sexual Violence Response

Sexual Violence Response provides confidential, trauma-informed support through crisis counseling and intervention, advocacy, prevention, and outreach. Our mission is to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence. Through collective community action, the program is committed to social change and creating a culture of accountability.

Read more about the resources we offer students.