January is Stalking Awareness Month
Updated: Mar 10
Jan. 4th, 2021
By Corinne Sigmund, Life Together Fellow
What comes to your mind when you hear the term “stalking”? Maybe a creepy movie or a scary spy thriller? You probably aren’t thinking about people you know. But stalking is happening to people we know and care about in our communities.
Stalking encompasses a range of behaviors designed to intimidate and control. It may involve following, threatening or harassing, unwanted gifts and communications, and other behaviors that cause fear. Experiences of stalking can be difficult to talk about, which explains why we don’t often hear about them, but according to the CDC's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have been stalked during their lifetime. New research shows that stalking is more dangerous than we may think, and can be a precursor to serious harm. In fact, stalking can be lethal. Every year in the U.S., nearly 1,000 women are killed by their current or former intimate partners. Of the women who were murdered by an intimate partner, 76% of them had been stalked by that partner.
Within our congregations and communities, we can all be alert for signs of stalking. Do you know someone who is being followed? Does someone show up uninvited and unwanted at their home, work, school or congregation? Do they get repeated and unwanted calls, voicemails, texts, or emails? Is their property damaged by someone they know? Is someone spreading rumors about them? These are all indications stalking may be occurring.
If someone you know in your family, congregation, or community is being stalked, you can help. Listen respectfully and show your support. Understand that victims may minimize incidents or conversations with their stalkers out of fear of judgment or criticism. Don’t blame the victim for the crime. Instead, use language that makes the victim feel safe and respected. Finally, recognize that victims may not know that they are experiencing a pattern of behavior that could be considered stalking and may represent a threat to their safety. If necessary, help the victim understand this using respectful and empowering language.
We all have a critical role to play in supporting survivors of stalking, so we all need to learn more about how to help. Please, talk to your friends and others in your community about your ideas. You can also learn more about how to support victims of stalking in our community here.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you or someone you know may be experiencing stalking or domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 (SAFE).
Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse links faith communities with domestic violence education through national and local work.