January is National Stalking Awareness Month

Laurel Kraus, Managing Editor

According to the Stalking Resource Center, 5.2 million women and 1.4 million men are stalked each year.

In response to this crime, January was established as National Stalking Awareness month in 2004, which was reinforced by the White House during former President Barack Obama’s terms.

“Any victim of stalking be it male or female, these are people who are ultimately sort of stopped in their pursuance of normal life,” said Michele Parkhill Purdie, associate professor of psychology at Oakland University. “It creates a lot of anxiety in the victims because they don’t know what’s about to happen next, and they don’t know if they’re in danger of a physical victimization as well.”

She stated stalking is more obsessive than other violent crimes against women, as it involves repeated behavior and is usually gone about through more than one approach, such as online, unwanted phone calls or spying on a person.

Stalking is also far more common than many realize, as experienced firsthand by Terressa Benz, assistant professor of criminal justice at OU, who was cyberstalked by a student in winter of 2017.

“It changed my entire perspective about where I would go on campus, if I would go anywhere by myself, what I even wore to class, what I said in class,” she said. “It changed my entire life and in a very negative way, but again, nobody really talks about that because it’s not super tangible.”

Stalking is an underreported crime and is far less spoken about than many others. In some cases this is due to the victims not realizing that it is even happening, but this is also related to the lack of education on the seriousness and high rate of the crime.

“Stalking is often followed by a more serious crime, like murder/felonious assault/rape, and that gets the media attention,” Oakland University Police Department Detective Shona Collins said via email. “Three out of four women murdered by an intimate partner were stalked in the year prior.”

The crime can also be difficult to prosecute due to an oftentimes lack of evidence among other issues.

“For it to turn into a stalking charge, you have to communicate that you want the attention to stop and then if they continue, that’s when it turns into stalking versus someone who maybe likes you or wants to date you or something like that,” Benz said. “Once you say no and they continue, that gets to be the criminal aspect.”

Collins reported forms of evidence could include phone records, screenshots, witnesses, photos and more. She also stated one should not keep all evidence in one place but should make copies or share with a trusted friend.

Living on campus in such close quarters can create a more dangerous situation for someone being stalked, according to Purdie.

Anyone at OU who thinks they may be being stalked should report it to the police, university, professor or housing.

“If you have suspicions, then my advice is to voice them, make sure that you’re not silent,” Purdie said.


The 5 steps to protect against stalking according to the Stalking Resource Center

1. See it

Rather than brushing off your instincts as paranoia, realize the behavior as stalking.

2. Threat

Recognize your unique vulnerabilities to stalking behavior and create a plan to be as safe as possible.

3. Evidence

Collect any evidence of the stalking behavior and keep more than one copy.

4. Protection

Utilize safely planning to make it more difficult for the perpetrator to be able to stalk you.

5. Support

Get aid from police, victim advocates, friends and family, and identify safe places to go if need be.