Recognizing stalking behaviors and resources for students
Every UW-Madison student deserves a campus experience that is free from violence and fear which includes stalking, a crime that has not gathered as much social awareness on college campuses as other types of victimization. Some research indicates that college students experience stalking at than the general public and the effects on student victims can impact academic and personal success.
“Stalking in the college aged population is more prevalent than many students think,” says Zoë Whaley, a survivor services coordinator at University Health Services.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month and the UHS Violence Prevention and Survivor Services Unit is co-hosting an awareness event on February 13 that focuses on campus dating violence—a crime that often sees stalking tactics used as part of the perpetration, both before and after the dating relationship ends.
Stalking is repeated harassment that terrorizes the victim. Anyone can stalk or be stalked, inclusive of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability, age, or income level. Stalking is most often committed against someone the perpetrator knows, including family members, friends, intimate partners, classmates, coworkers, casual acquaintances, but strangers can also be targets.
“The perception that stalking doesn’t happen very often can lead to a victim feeling very isolated. They might fear that if they tell someone about it, they won’t be believed,” adds Whaley.
The National Center for Victims of Crime created quiz to help increase knowledge about stalking.
Stalkers often try to intimidate, harass, and control their victims. The behavior may start slowly and escalate. For instance, a stalker may begin by calling or texting once or twice a day and progress to calling several times a day, following you, and waiting for their victim outside of class or work.
“The intimidation, threats, and harassment that people may experience when they’re being stalked often result in the loss of a sense of personal safety and control. If people don’t feel safe or don’t feel like they have control in their lives, there’s lot of associated distress–both physical and psychological,” says Whaley.
Common behaviors associated with stalking:
- making unwanted telephone calls (78%)
- waiting inside or outside buildings (48%)
- watching from afar (44%)
- following (42%)
- sending unwanted letters (31%)
- sending unwanted emails (25%)
- making unwanted visits (5%)
- giving unwanted gifts (3%)
Stalkers most often know their victims. Most female victims and many male victims are stalked by intimate partners. Stalking is most dangerous when it occurs as part of an abusive relationship. An attempt to end an abusive relationship often causes the abuser to become more possessive. Sometimes this leads to stalking.
Victims/survivors relationship to the stalker:
- current or ex-boyfriend (42%)
- classmate (24%)
- acquaintance (10%)
- friend (9%)
- coworker (6%)
Whaley says the negative impacts of stalking on a person shouldn’t be minimized or dismissed. “Everyone deserves to live their lives without fear for their safety. It’s important that students know they are not alone and there are resources available to support them.”
UHS Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy offers resources, definitions, and support for victims of stalking or those who are being stalked. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608.265.5600 (option 3) to connect with a staff member. Students can also drop in to Open Access Hours—no appointment needed—Mondays and Wednesdays, 1 to 5 p.m., and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to noon to speak with someone. Additional resources are available on campus and in the community.
Written by Kelsey Anderson, Health Communications Specialist