Stay safe: January is Stalking Awareness Month

By Corey Riner, Contributing Writer

As people begin to embrace the new year, there are most likely many thoughts running through their heads, such as resolutions that they have made or the general hope that this year will be better than the last, but others may have more frightening concerns to deal with.

 January is known as National Stalking Awareness Month, and it carries a harsh but necessary message to those who may not be fully aware of the crime of stalking and its universal reach. Stalking itself has had a long and storied history of not being taken seriously as a legitimate crime.  

Less than 1/3 of states classify this particular crime as a felony upon first offense and over 50% of states only classify it as a felony upon a second or subsequent offense. While observations like these may suggest that stalking isn’t much of a problem, as perceived through the limited reach of the justice system and its response to this type of crime, other resources would beg to differ.  

The website uses resources and statistics found from many different sources such as the Bureau of Justice, the Journal of Forensic Sciences, and experts in the fields of psychology and sociology, have found multiple statistics that support the idea that stalking should be taken seriously.  

It was found that between 6 and 7.5 million people are stalked each year in the United States. It was also found that, due to the crime of stalking, many victims have missed work, moved on multiple occasions, and suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and social dysfunction than the general population.

Another alarming statistic is that the people who have the highest rate of stalking victimization fall within the age range of 18-24, making college students prime candidates for experiencing this particular crime.  

As a university, West Liberty has taken many precautions to prevent this and other crimes from occurring within its jurisdiction.

The annual security report that the university releases even includes the crime of stalking, as defined by the Clery Act, which is defined as engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others; or suffer substantial emotional distress.  

While it is still an uphill battle to convince people that stalking is more than just a light-hearted obsession and that it should be taken seriously, there are still many tips for those who may encounter this sort of crime.  

People who are being stalked are encouraged to develop a safety plan, one that includes changing your routine, finding a different place to stay, and always having a friend or relative to go places with you. People are also encouraged to not communicate with their stalker and to take the crime seriously by contacting the appropriate authorities.

Issues regarding stalking, along with the other crimes that fall under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), can be reported to the West Liberty University Police Department (304- 336-8021) or the Title IX Coordinator Kate Billings at [email protected].

Photo Credit: VictimsofCrime.org/NSAM