Articles

Have We Been Desensitized to Stalking?     

By Bailey Skeeter and Patrice Tillery   

Some people would rather be in jail than alone. Relationships can be emotional, meaningful, and complicated, but should never be dangerous. One way a relationship can become dangerous is through the crime of stalking.   

The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines stalking as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person, with the intention to intimidate and frighten the victim. Stalkers may be a classmate, an ex, a current partner, a friend, or even a stranger. 

Stalking is more common than one would think, with young adults aged 18 to 24 experiencing the highest rates of stalking among adults. According to statistics from the Stalking, Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC), 1 in 10 women and 1 in 33 men experience some form of stalking during their college years, especially as undergraduates. In recognition of National Stalking Awareness Month, let’s get clear on what stalking behaviors look like: 

  • Observing or “coincidentally” showing up, waiting outside of a person’s home, job, class, etc. 
  • Unwanted contact via phone calls, texts, social media, unwanted gifts 
  • Hacking into a person’s social media and/or other accounts 
  • Property damage, spreading rumors and/or threats. 

It's time to take stalking seriously and no longer brush it off as just a joke. 

Modern advances in technology have the potential to make it incredibly easy to stalk someone. It is especially alarming that social media platforms now make it "cool" and convenient to do, easier to pass off as just a joke. For instance, Instagram notifies users when someone is online; Snapchat uses Memojis to place users on a map in real time; and Apple's FindMy pinpoints location and provides directions to another’s location. Even something as seemingly innocuous as password sharing can be problematic, as it may result in personal information being shared without knowledge or consent.  

In the real world, what does this look like?   

Take Olivia’s experience for instance. Olivia is a sophomore in college and trying to break up with her boyfriend because of his controlling behavior and insecurities. While in their relationship, he made Olivia share her social media passwords. Her boyfriend has been watching her screen time and receiving notifications whenever she creates a post or adds to her story. Because he has access to her account, he takes it upon himself to post pictures of them together and sends threatening direct message responses to other guys in her DMs. 

Fortunately, Olivia found a way to break free from his hold. With the help of her roommate, she contacted the campus Women’s Center where she was connected with an advisor. After completing a no-contact order, https://bwjp.org/site-resources/campus-no-contact-order-and-civil-protection-orders-an-examination/she created a new social media account that her now ex-boyfriend didn't have access to. This allowed her to post whatever she wanted, without him monitoring her, and she continued going to class and extracurriculars without having to worry about him unexpectedly showing up. Olivia is excited to start fresh and grow her online presence without her controlling ex-boyfriend.  

What are some healthy ways to deal with someone who keeps reaching out to you after you've said no?  

Yes, someone continuing to reach out to you after you have expressed your disinterest in them is stalking! It is important to seek help if you are experiencing unhealthy behaviors, like stalking, in your relationships. The University of Colorado Boulder has a great resource entitled 3 Things Everyone Should Know About Stalking. One way to identify healthy and unhealthy behaviors is by setting and respecting boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries means clearly communicating your needs and expectations and expecting others to respect them. For example, if you express disinterest in a relationship, the other person should leave respectfully and not reach out again. 

If someone oversteps your boundaries and chooses to contact you despite your disinterest,  it is crucial to document what is happening, whether through screenshots or by writing down the person's concerning behaviors with dates. This relatively informal documentation can serve as evidence if you need to seek help or take legal action. It is important to remember you have the right to feel safe and respected in your relationships and to reach out for help. 

Have we been desensitized to stalking, abuse and intimate partner violence? If so, that’s a problem we need to solve. Change starts with you. 

If you think you are experiencing stalking, need help and want to talk to someone, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788.  

Bailey Skeeter is a graduating senior at Loyola University Maryland’s College of Arts and Sciences, where she is pursuing a degree in Psychology (BA) and a minor in African and African American Studies. Ms. Skeeter is a full-time student who has been awarded dean’s list for 3 consecutive semesters. She has founded a small business, Milestones Mentoring, which is a tutoring and mentoring program that works with elementary and middle school aged children since the summer of 2020. She also had the opportunity to work as an intern with Loyola’s Center for Community, Service, and Justice (CCSJ) DC’s Office of Attorney General, and the Maryland Anxiety Center. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies, she intends on becoming a doctoral candidate to further her interest in psychology, specifically counseling and progress towards a career as a psychologist.  

Bailey loves the culture of Prince George’s County, Maryland, where she resides and finds joy in curating community in all that she does. She enjoys spending her free time creating content for her podcast, reading, volunteering, and cooking meals for friends. 

Patrice Tillery is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park with over 15 years of experience in relationship selling and development. She is excited to use her skill set to develop relationships that further the BWJP Mission. When she isn’t working, Patrice enjoys planning fun outings with her two daughters, and singing her heart out at concerts with friends. 

TAGS: #BWJP Announcements #Children and Teens #Coercive Control #News #stalking

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