Stalking Awareness Month: “Know it. Name it. Stop it.”
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - These are the last few days of National Stalking Awareness Month, but for people being stalked, that's little comfort. A campaign is under way to "Know it, name it and stop it."
Stalking is a crime under Missouri state law; it can even be a felony charge, in some cases. Margaret Reger, a Legal Aid attorney who specializes in domestic violence cases, says it is not always easy to distinguish stalking from other issues, like harassment, so it can be tough to prosecute. She advises people who believe they are being stalked to keep good records.
"You've got to keep witnesses with you," she explains. "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."
In 2008, Missouri lawmakers added protections to state law for victims of cyber-stalking and Internet harassment, after a 13-year-old O'Fallon girl, Megan Meier, hanged herself after being drawn into an online relationship that turned out to be a hoax.
The Stalking Resource Center says 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.
"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 job 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.
More information and stalking statistics are available online at StalkingAwarenessMonth.org.