January 2021 marks the 17th National Stalking Awareness Month, an annual call to action to recognize and respond to the serious crime of stalking. As a victim of stalking for over a decade, I am one of the few people in our nation that has seen successful prosecution and, therefore, turned my career into educating others on the crime of stalking, speaking, writing and assisting victims of stalking. I regularly receive emails from people across the country who are victims of stalking -- Las Vegas, Missouri, Connecticut, New York, California and, yes, Vermont. Not only do I receive requests for help within our state but several have been people here in our Mad River Valley suffering from the crime of stalking.
It is critical to raise the issue of stalking as its own form of violence as well as a crime that frequently predicts and co-occurs with physical and sexual assault. Stalking impacts over one in six women and one in 17 men in the United States -- yet, despite the prevalence and impacts, many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its danger and urgency.
Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. Many stalking victims experience being followed, approached, monitored and/or threatened – including through various forms of technology. Victims and survivors often suffer anxiety, social dysfunction and severe depression as a result of their victimization, and many lose time from work and/or move. Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right as well as a predictor of potentially lethal violence: in 85% of cases where an intimate partner (i.e., boyfriend or husband) attempted to murder his female partner, stalking occurred the year prior to the attack.
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia – as well as tribal lands and in the military justice system -- but can be difficult to recognize and prosecute in a system designed to respond to singular incidents rather than the series of acts that constitutes stalking.
NSAM’s theme -- “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It” – is a call to action for everyone in the Mad River Valley and across the country. While police and victim-serving professionals are critical, the reality is that the vast majority of victims tell friends or family about the stalking first.
Here in The Valley, we view ourselves as safe, we think that crime doesn’t happen here, not to us and not to our neighbors. I’m here to tell you it does happen here. I urge and ask each of you to learn more about stalking, understand the seriousness of this crime and be aware of the signs and dangers that your loved ones and neighbors may be facing. Especially during these times of isolation, it more important than ever to reach out and connect.
For additional resources about stalking, please visit www.stalkingawareness.org, www.ovw.usdoj.gov and www.standupresources.com.
Nasset lives in Warren.