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January 2019 marks the 15th National Stalking Awareness Month, an annual call to action to recognize and respond to the serious crime of stalking.

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 physical and sexual assault. Stalking impacts more than one in six women and one in 17 men in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yet 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 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 move.

Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right as well as 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, according to a 1999 study published in the journal Homicide Studies.

Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia but 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.

The National Stalking Awareness Month’s theme — “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” — is a call to action for everyone in Scott and Carver counties and across the country.

While police and victim-serving professionals are critical, 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.

Southern Valley Alliance for Battered Women offers a 24-hour crisis line, safety planning, advocacy and assistance through the criminal justice system, support groups and youth and community training and discussions to promote awareness and public education about stalking and intimate partner violence during this annual observance.

More information can be found at 952-873-4214, stalkingawareness.org and svabw.org.

Stephanie Smith

Community Relations Director

Southern Valley Alliance for Battered Women

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