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Activist to address stalking

Rebecca O'Neil | Monday, January 28, 2013

Saint Mary’s College will host Debbie Riddle, a noted speaker on stalking awareness, as part of Stalking Awareness Month activities. The event, sponsored by the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO), will be held in Vander Vennet Theater on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.

Riddle, an awareness activist since 2003, sought change in the government’s approach to stalking prevention after her sister, Peggy Klinke, was murdered by an ex-boyfriend and stalker of one year. Klinke’s death occurred just six days before the court case against her harasser went to trial.

Connie Adams, director of BAVO, said Riddle’s speech was originally set for October 2012, but was rescheduled due to weather – coincidentally to the 10th anniversary of her sister’s death.

Riddle intends to share Peggy’s story in her speech, which Adams said was “a touching and powerful testimony.”

 “I believe understanding the impact stalking has through a personal lens magnifies the power [to prevent it],” Adams said. “After all, knowledge is power.”

Riddle will also share general information about stalking and its impact on our country, specifically on college campuses. In addition, she will discuss the importance of intervention, coordinated community responses and prevention initiatives.

“Unfortunately, stalking impacts men and women in the U.S. at alarming rates. One in six women experiences stalking in her lifetime and one in 19 men experiences stalking in his lifetime,” Adams said. “As with other types of power-based personal violence, college-age women are at the highest risk.”

Senior Cristina Bueno plans to attend the event. She said she believes the talk is relevant to college students because relationships at this age begin to intensify and can spin out of control.

“I think stalking is a prevalent form of harassment on college campuses because it is very easy to find out where someone lives, who they hang out with and their class schedule,” Bueno said. “Campuses can be small and close-knit and that makes it easy to find someone and follow them around.”

Bueno believes that Riddle’s speech is beneficial for the Saint Mary’s community because it offers a personal account of just how dangerous an accelerated romantic relationship in college can be.

“People need to be able to recognize the signs of a stalker, whether they are being stalked or someone they know is being stalked,” Bueno said. “It is important to know the facts, be able to recognize the signs and to realize how you can take action to protect yourself and those you care for.”

Adams said she hopes the event will be informative for students.

“My hope is that participants gain a better understanding of stalking as a whole,” Adams said. “There are many misconceptions in our society about violence. Events such as Debbie’s lecture allow us to gain a better understanding of the issue and empower us to create change.”