According to Regina Brown, victim advocate for the Contact Rape Crisis Center in Mason County, this month is being observed as National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and Brown said it affects men and women, with one in 12 women and one in 45 men being stalked in their lifetime for approximately two years.
An informational area about stalking is available at the courthouse throughout the month.
Brown described a stalker as being someone who was in a significant relationship that had broken off even though one of the two might not have wanted the relationship to end. A stalker also could be someone that a victim would not know, which happens when someone walks into a workplace and thinks another person is who they want to be with and begins to follow him or her.
“Stalking is a difficult crime to prove,” she said. “It is hard for law enforcement to track down a stalker. Plus, there is a lot of documentation (to track).”
According to Brown, victims of stalkers may experience psychological trauma, financial hardship and even death. More than 80 percent of victims stalked by an intimate partner also were physically assaulted by that partner, and about 76 percent of female homicide victims were stalked before their death.
Victims underestimate the seriousness and impact of the crime and may view it as being creepy but not dangerous. She said they might even think that ignoring or confronting stalkers will put a stop to it, but it does not.
Even if the victims see the danger and report it, Brown said, stalking can be hard for authorities to recognize, investigate and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not easily identifiable but could be a series of acts that are directed at a specific person and cause fear.
Stalking can happen in different forms such as assault, threats, vandalism, burglary or animal abuse as well as receiving unwanted cards, calls, gifts or visits. Stalkers may use a range of devices such as computers, Global Position System devices and hidden cameras to track their victims. They fit no standard psychological profile and may have been known to follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, which makes an arrest more difficult.
To learn more about stalking or how to protect oneself from a stalker, Brown said the Contact office in Point Pleasant has a stalking kit that contains a journal for logging information about a potential stalker, a camera to take a picture of that person, a can of pepper spray and a glove and paper bag in case the stalker leaves something behind that can be given to law enforcement and informational guides.
“The community needs to be aware of things that they may see but a victim doesn’t see,” Brown said. “We ask that they be observant and let law enforcement know what they see. It will help put a light on the situation.”
The informational booth will contain information with resources and includes West Virginia laws and codes about stalking.
Authorities also recommended that anyone with information about a stalker or anything suspicious call the local law enforcement agency or 911.
For more information, call Brown at 304-675-6724.