by Youth and Young Adult Ministry Coordinator, Gabby Plaep
Did you know January is Stalking Awareness Month and that this year is the 15th annual National Stalking Awareness Month?
I must admit, I was shocked to hear that this has been around for 15 years. Stalking is not a topic discussed often, or that people know much about.
So, let’s look at the basics and some common misconceptions.
What is Stalking?
According to Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC), stalking is “a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”
While many think of stalking as being followed or spied on, it involves much more. Besides the person stalking showing up unexpectedly or uninvited at places the person being stalked spends time, stalking also includes any unwanted contact. This may be in the form of text or social media messages, gifts, approaching the person’s family or friends, damaging the person’s property, or threatening the person.
Who Can Experience Stalking?
The answer is anyone.
Highest rates of stalking happen between the ages of 18 and 24.
One in six women will experience stalking at some point in their life. I first heard this statistic in a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) training as a senior in college. It was followed by the chilling illustration that since there were about 10 of us girls sitting in the room, it was likely one of us would experience it. This turned out to be true, as I had been stalked two years earlier, as a sophomore.
About 1 in 17 men will also be stalked in their lifetime.
Who Does the Stalking?
But What They’re Experiencing Doesn’t Seem Like a Big Deal
Something that seems harmless to you may be terrifying to someone experiencing stalking.
That gift you think is so romantic? It might signal to the recipient that a stalker now knows where they live or work.
That behavior you would classify as annoying but not really a big deal? It may be a part of an escalating behavior pattern that has left the affected person fearing where this is going and what will happen next. Remember the part of the definition that it causes fear in a reasonable person? It is important to understand why the person is scared.
It is likely that someone being stalked will sense being dismissed by those around them, so receiving understanding and compassion from you will mean the world to them.
When I was stalked, I revisited campus security because what they promised to do had not been done. They implied that I should be forgiving and just let it go. I’m thankful that God brought friends, family, some close faculty, and a chaplain to support me through the process. I wouldn’t have been as assertive without their support.
But They Don’t Seem Scared
This can be confusing. At Door of Hope, we talk about feeling defenses, which are emotions exhibited in place of the core feeling. For example, someone being stalked may appear angry when they’re actually scared.
There are other behaviors that may reveal if someone is being stalked. For example, do they go out of their way to avoid certain locations or change their appearance? Look for behaviors that demonstrate a fear of someone, even if the one being stalked seems angry or irritated.
1. Making a change starts with awareness of stalking and becoming informed. SPARC is a great resource for more information.
2. Then educate those around you. Talk with your friends and family, start a campaign on your college campus, etc.
3. Know the signs and be someone that can be turned to in a stalking situation. The one being stalked will need someone who strives to understand their fear rather than brush it off as “no big deal.”
Although stalking was something I went through, it is not my identity. I have experienced God’s healing and am finding my identity in Him. His perfect love is casting out my fear (1 John 4:18) and is continuously renewing and restoring me.
My story is not unique, as God’s healing love is available to all. At Door of Hope we see Jesus bring healing every day. If you, or someone you know, is being stalked and needs help, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 763-767-2150.