“He left a coffee in my car!” may seem like a fairly harmless gesture when law enforcement reads it in a police report. But the phrase means so much when you add context like that the stalking victim had recently moved into the area, and the coffee was left by their stalker.
“‘To the victim who moved to a new city, new apartment, and new job to escape her stalker, it indicated he has found his victim, and it is terrifying without context to the police,” says Christina Coultas, CEO at Hope’s Door New Beginning Center in Plano.
January marks the 17th National Stalking Awareness Month with a call to action to recognize and respond to the 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men struggling with stalkers each year in the U.S. The New Hope Center’s theme of “Know It. Name It. Stop It.” is a call to action for the Collin County community and across the country:
“While police and victim-serving professionals are critical, the reality is the vast majority of victims tell friends or family about the stalking first. Responding with empathy and connecting victims to resources is key.”
Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person and causes fear. Many stalkers follow their victims, approach them, and monitor and threaten them, often through various forms of technology. They look for ways around being blocked on social media, and try to sneak past caller ID. It causes victims to experience anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression. They often lose time from work. Some have to uproot their lives and relocate to protect themselves.
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories, the District of Columbia, tribal lands, and in the military justice system, Hope Center writes in its Jan. 21 press release. It’s a psychologically harmful crime and leads to violence: 1 in 5 stalkers use weapons and increases the risk of intimate partner homicide by three times.
It’s also difficult to recognize and prosecute in a justice system designed to respond to singular incidents rather than the series of acts that constitute stalking.
“We all have a role to play in identifying stalking, intervening when necessary, and supporting victims and survivors,” Coultas says.
For additional resources to help promote National Stalking Awareness Month, please visit http://stalkingawareness.org and ovw.usdoj.gov.
Hope’s Door New Beginning Center Administration | 860 F Ave., Ste. 100, Plano | 972.422.2911. 24-Hour Hotline: 972.276.0057. | hdnbc.org