Stalking Awareness Month: Should you be afraid?

Stalking happens.

Stalking is linked with sexual assault and domestic violence.

Stalking has been experienced by approximately one in six women and one in 13-17 men, depending on the source to which you refer.

Stalking is behavior directed at someone that is intended to cause fear for the most reasonable person, advises the Stalking Resource Center, a program of The National Center for Victims of Crime (www.victimsofcrime.org.)

Examples of stalking include:

— Following or spying on a person.

— Waiting at certain places where unwanted contact can be made or the stalker can monitor the victim.

— Leaving unwanted gifts for the victim.

— Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the Internet, in public places or by word of mouth.

January is Stalking Awareness Month, and the focus is on understanding what stalking is, how to recognize it and to respond to it, and to prevent it. The goals are to

Empower everyone to understand, recognize and address stalking.

Mobilize men and boys as allies in prevention efforts.

Create and support safe environments within relationships, schools and communities through programs and policies that reduce risk and promote healthy relationships.

With the advent of modern technology over the past 15 years or so, “cyberstalking” has increased dramatically, including in the workplace.

If stalking occurs in the workplace, it becomes the employer’s business because the employer is obligated to provide a safe workplace and to address the problem of criminal behavior. An employer should have a clear policy covering what will happen when such behaviors are reported. It should make clear that harassing, stalking, or threatening actions will not be tolerated, writes Maya Raghu, senior attorney for Futures Without Violence. Further, the employer should take seriously employee reports of being harassed or stalked through company provided technology. And an investigation should be started.

If you are a victim of stalking, trust your instincts regardless of what any of your friends and family say. If you don’t feel safe, if you are afraid, get help. If you feel you may be in immediate danger, call the police and explain why you are afraid. Keep a record of contacts with the stalker and document police reports. Save the evidence: email or text messages, photos and postings on social media. Contact a local victim advocate for assistance in deciding what you should do. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available at 1-800-799-7233 (TTY, 1-800-787-3224).

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org.