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Saint Mary’s observes National Stalking Awareness Month

and | Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The month of January is recognized as National Stalking Awareness Month — raising awareness of an issue that can be especially relevant on college campuses.

Connie Adams, director of Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO), explained that stalking is a widespread problem

“Nationally, one in six women and one in 19 men experience stalking in their lifetime, and these rates are even higher on college campuses,” she said.

Adams said that in order to become aware of the threat of stalking, it is important to understand the context and nature that enables stalking to take place.

“Understanding what stalking is helps a lot,” she said. ”Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person or group of people that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”

It is also important to understand the modern implications of stalking, particularly the role of social media in dealing with this issue, Adams added.

“Social media doesn’t create stalkers, but it makes it easier for someone who has this mentality,” she said. “With social media, it’s not about reduction, but about risk prevention. Make sure to be cognizant of privacy settings on all the different platforms. Also, be aware that everything you put on social media stays there permanently.”

Furthermore, the cultural normalization of stalking in daily life has created a greater problem, as the societal definitions of stalking have minimized the attention on this issue, Adams said.

“Stalking behavior is also minimized because it is seen as romanticized as normal behavior,” she said. “We have to do more to give stalking a name and to not minimize it by using terms like ‘Facebook stalking.’”

Additionally, Adams emphasized that greater initiative is needed in order to begin to take the necessary steps to reverse the stigma associated with stalking.

“Education is the first step,” Adams said. “Becoming more educated about what stalking actually is and recognizing that some of the cultural projections of stalking might not be the norm or most accurate depictions of what is actually going on.”

For senior Liz Crites, social media ally of BAVO, there are ways to protect oneself from the threat of stalking. One strategy is to attend a GreeNDot training, which focuses on bystander prevention and preventing sexual assault.

“GreeNDot can help prevent things before they happen and tell you how to be more aware,” she added.

In the age of social media, there are steps to prevent some of these unwanted behaviors. Crites recommended turning off location tracking services on phones and apps like Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram. As an extra precaution, she suggested waiting until after you leave somewhere to post something with the location tagged.

Crites also emphasized the importance of not ignoring stalking.

“If you know in your gut something’s wrong, it’s probably wrong, so seek help immediately,” she said. “There are resources both on Saint Mary’s campus and off to help resolve issues of stalking, such as BAVO.”

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