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National Stalking Awareness Month draws attention to unique crime

By Steven B. Mayfield | 502 Air Base Wing Violence Prevention Integrator | Jan. 14, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

Stalking is a unique crime, and preventing it calls for focused safety planning, thorough investigations, and implementation of policies/procedures to ensure an effective response.

Stalking and harassment are similar and can overlap. Harassment may be part of a stalking pattern of behavior/course of conduct.

Generally, the element of fear is what separates stalking from harassment. Harassment is typically irritating and bothersome, sometimes to the point where a victim feels deeply uncomfortable. However, victims of harassment are not typically afraid of their perpetrators, as are persons who are stalked.

For example, a colleague who consistently mocks a new coworker for his/her appearance may be harassing him/her by saying cruel things and sending disparaging e-mails. While the victim is distressed and may feel sad, anxious, angry and/or uncomfortable, he/she is not afraid of the perpetrator – they do not believe that the behaviors will escalate or that further harm will come to them.

However, if that same perpetrator began making harassing phone calls, following the victim, and/or posting disparaging things about the victim online, it is stalking and typically has an element of fear and intimidation.

Stalkers engage in a variety of behaviors, to include: placing unwanted calls/messages; spreading rumors; following/spying; sending unwanted letters/emails, randomly “showing up” at places where their victim might be, waiting for the victim to leave a particular location, or leaving unwanted gifts/presents for their victim.

Stalking is a serious and dangerous … it impacts every community and persons across the United States, including here at Joint Base San Antonio. While awareness and attention to sexual assault and intimate partner violence has increased in recent years, stalking remains frequently misunderstood and rarely discussed.

January 2020 marks the 16th Annual Stalking Awareness Month, and the Violence Prevention Integrators, or VPIs at Joint Base San Antonio are encouraging all members of our community to heighten their awareness of this negative, and potentially dangerous, aspect of interpersonal violence. 

The bottom line is prevention of this aspect of interpersonal violence relies on action by each individual. When friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues know how to identify stalking, they are better able to support victims and help keep them safe. Will you stand guard and help eradicate stalking?

They are depending on you.