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Stalking on Campus: A Silent Epidemic

The first steps to combating this crime include taking it seriously, having an appropriate policy, and training campus personnel and public safety officers on how to effectively respond.

January 31, 2012  |  by Robin Hattersley Gray


Editor's note: This article first appeared in the January issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

Twenty-four people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, and a significant portion of these individuals attend, are employed by or are patients of universities, K-12 districts and hospitals.

It is for this reason that Campus Safety magazine has developed a series of articles that aims to provide greater awareness and information on these troublesome, yet underreported crimes. The first installment, which follows, is on stalking. Upcoming issues of Campus Safety will cover relationship/intimate partner violence (traditionally called domestic violence) and sexual assault.

Readers should keep in mind that these crimes often intersect. A teen or young adult romantic relationship or a marriage/domestic partnership with a history of violence could escalate to one that includes stalking, sexual assault or both. Sexual assault, particularly among intimate partners or acquaintances, may have elements of stalking in it.

Related Articles: Essential Elements of a Campus Stalking Policy

Stalkers Use Many Methods

Probably the least discussed or understood of these topics is stalking, and the definition of it varies from state to state and campus to campus. The most common ways offenders stalk is by unwanted phone calls, voicemails, text messages, spying, sending unwanted gifts, letters and E-mails and showing up uninvited to the victim's location or waiting for him or her at a particular location.

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.

Indeed, of the six million stalking victims in the United States each year, more than half of the female survivors and more than one-third of the male survivors say the were stalked before the age of 25.

The motivations as to why stalkers stalk vary. In a relationship with a history of domestic violence, the offender might use stalking to regain or maintain the relationship and control of the victim. With sexual assault cases, stalking might take place before and/or after the incident. It also happens with unrequited affection or romantic rejection.

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