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January is Stalking Awareness Month

The Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC) website reflects the 16th annual action call to recognize stalking as a serious crime. Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

A pattern of behavior is considered two or more incidents. There are a variety of actions, including but not limited to unwanted contact including texts, calls, and social media contact; following the person; showing up/approaching an individual or their friends/family; tracking the person (using apps, hidden cameras, or GPS); sending unwanted gifts or letters; hacking the person’s accounts and changing the person’s passwords or impersonating the person online; showing up or waiting for the person at work, home, or school; threating to hurt the person, or those close to the person – pets, family, friends; sharing or posting or threating to post or share intimate photographs of the person; spreading rumors about the person whether online or in person, and property damage.

Even if the behavior is not a crime on its own, for example excessive texting, this should be documented and reported because it could be a part of the stalking behavior pattern.

The definition of stalking identifies fear as an indicator for stalking. Fear is contextual so what might be cause fear for one person might not invoke the same response for a different person. Fear can be masked through frustration, hopelessness, anger or despair.

If a person feels they are being stalked, they should document everything, tell people a trusted person about the situation, including finding out if there are security plans at work, home and school, and consider getting a court order.