Thursday, March 8, 2012

Campus Voices Against Violence analyze prevalence of stalking

More than 6 million adults stalked annually

By Amanda Brasgalla, Guest Writer

Pacific Lutheran students learned the source of stalking’s prevalence at the Stop Stalking Workshop Feb. 29.

About 20 students attended the workshop as part of PLU’s Voices Against Violence program. The event featured speaker Michelle Garcia of the National Stalking Resource Center in Washington, D.C., who talked about the seriousness and social normalization of stalking.

“Stalking’s a much greater problem than people realize,” Garcia said. “We want to show people how to recognize and respond to stalking.”

As director Garcia said she seeks to increase public awareness of stalking. Garcia travels across the country to educate victim service providers, law enforcement, emergency responders, campus professionals and technology services about ways to identify and combat stalking.

Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that might cause the individual fear. Examples of this include constant calling or texting, waiting outside or inside a building for the person or watching an individual from afar.

Garcia said 6.6 million people in the U.S. are stalked annually. Of that 6.6 million, adults 18-24 years old have the highest rates of victimization. Therefore college campuses have a higher stalking rate than the general population.

Voices Against Violence program coordinator Jennifer Warwick organized the workshop. Warwick also serves as PLU’s victim advocate.

“We want students to realize what stalking looks like and how they can protect themselves,” Warwick said. “It does happen and there’s help.”

Yet the greatest problem of stalking lies in society’s normalization of it.

“A lot of pop culture images and messages show that stalking isn’t a big deal, but I think social normalization is the biggest challenge we have in controlling it,” Garcia said.

“I didn’t realize how understated stalking is,” first-year Hannah Anderson said after the workshop. “I definitely gained an awareness of how prevalent stalking is and now I feel prepared to educate my peers on the issue.”

According to Garcia, being able to identify stalking is the first step toward combating the social normalization of it.