Stalking Awareness Month: “Know it. Name it. Stop it.”
HARRISON, Ark. - January is Stalking Awareness Month, and a national campaign is underway to "Know it. Name it. Stop it."
Stalking is a crime under Arkansas state law, although it is one of many that can pertain in domestic violence cases. Attorney Margaret Reger, who specializes in domestic violence cases for Legal Aid of Arkansas, says it isn't always easy to identify or prosecute stalking cases, because the law defines some types of behavior differently.
"There's a crime of harassment, which is an annoyance more than anything. Then there's terroristic threatening, which can be a one-time thing, of doing one thing that would just scare you to death. And then, stalking is a series of events; the person knows that they're being watched."
Reger says she hasn't yet seen any stalking cases locally that involve technology, such as spyware, hidden cameras or GPS devices to track people, although there have been a few high-profile cases in other parts of the country.
According to the Stalking Resource Center, stalking is linked to anxiety, depression, and missed work time for people who experience it. Reger says it can be especially frustrating for the victim when friends, bosses and even law enforcement don't take their concerns seriously.
"Oh, I've seen them terrorized, shaking - they won't go out, they're afraid to go anywhere. It's really difficult to deal with a stalker. I've had clients lose their jobs over it. Employers don't like this."
The Stalking Resource Center reports that one in six women, and one in 19 men, have been stalked at some point in their lives. Reger's best advice for people who think they are being stalked is to keep good records of what goes on and have others who are able to confirm them: not just friends and relatives, but neighbors, a landlord, or teachers if you pick kids up from school. And she says it's a good idea to not be alone.
"You've got to keep witnesses with you. You've got to get a support system. You've got to make a record before you make a complaint, because stalking is a crime that's not a one-event crime. It's an accumulation of events."
Reger adds there are a few legal options for dealing with a stalker, including getting a "no contact" order, a restraining order or an order of protection, depending on the situation.
Statistics and information about Stalking Awareness Month are online, at StalkingAwarenessMonth.org.