By Jennifer Simmons
Special to GUIDON
January 2020 marks the 15th year where organizations across the United States have promoted National Stalking Awareness Month, an annual call to action to recognize and respond to the crime of stalking.
The Family Advocacy Program at Fort Leonard Wood believes it is critical to raise the issue of stalking as its own form of gender-based violence, as well as a crime that frequently predicts and co-occurs with intimate partner violence, including physical and sexual assault.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stalking impacts more than one in six women and one in 17 men in the United States each year — yet, despite the prevalence and impacts, many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its danger and urgency.
Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. Many stalking victims experience being followed, approached, monitored and/or threatened — including through various forms of technology. Victims and survivors often suffer anxiety, social dysfunction and severe depression as a result of their victimization, and many lose time from work or feel forced to move.
Stalking is a predictor of potentially lethal violence: in 85 percent of cases where an intimate partner (i.e., boyfriend or husband) attempted to murder his female partner, stalking preceded the attack.
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, all U.S. territories and the District of Columbia; however, it can be difficult to recognize and prosecute in a system designed to respond to singular incidents rather than the series of acts that constitutes stalking.
NSAM’s theme —“Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” — is a call to action for everyone in the Fort Leonard Wood community and across the country. While police and victim-serving professionals are critical to prevention and response, the reality is that the vast majority of victims tell friends or family about the stalking first.
We all have a role to play in identifying stalking, intervening when necessary and supporting victims and survivors.
The Fort Leonard Wood Family Advocacy Program offers sessions to promote awareness and public education about stalking. For more information, please contact Army Community Service, FAP at 573.596.4268.
For additional resources to help promote National Stalking Awareness Month, visit www.stalkingawareness.org and www.ovw.usdoj.gov.
(Editor’s note: Simmons is a Family Advocacy Program specialist.)