RSVP Center confronts perceptions of stalking in National Stalking Awareness Month

The RSVP will host a lunch discussion on Jan. 27 and a presentation called Stalking and Social Media on Jan. 28.

In one year, 7.5 million people in the U.S. are stalked.

This statistic, published by the National Center for Victims of Crime, was compiled as a resource for National Stalking Awareness Month, which started in 2004 to educate the public about stalking.

The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center hopes to educate and inform MU students about stalking and resources through discussions and events during the month of January.

“College students should absolutely hear this conversation so they can know about their own problematic behavior and language and know how to help someone if they find themselves in that situation,” RSVP graduate assistant Kelsey Burns said.

The RSVP Educators Lunch Discussion on Jan. 27 will include peer discussion on how stalking affects college campuses, how to be better allies and how to address perceptions that create stigma.

“Sometimes peer education can be even more so affective than someone standing in front of the room,” Burns said. “It’s an opportunity for a really fruitful discussion.”

On Jan. 28, Sara Rubenstein from the Student Life Web Team will host a presentation called Stalking and Social Media. Burns said that terms like “Facebook stalking” tend to be used as a joke, but that in stalking cases, social media can be a tool used to hurt a person.

Burns and RSVP graduate assistant Tim Maness agreed that stalking happens more than people seem to realize. Fifteen percent of women and 6 percent of men experience stalking in their life, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Burns and Maness also said that stalking is romanticized in U.S. culture. The 1989 film “Say Anything” came to mind for Maness. In the famous jukebox scene, Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) attempts to rekindle his love with Diane Court (played by Ione Skye) by standing outside of her bedroom window playing their song.

Although this scene is heartwarming to many viewers, events like this are only romantic if there is consent. Unwanted advances can cause stress, anxiety and can be considered a crime, Maness said.

Both Burns and Maness attributed some of the causes of stalking to the way the media portrays excessive contact, gifts and love notes. They hope that the RSVP Center events this month will help break down myths that relate to stalking.

“We see images of media all the time that normalize (stalking) and make it seem like you should like that, and that it should be cute,” Burns said.

Maness said some people come to the RSVP Center to find ways to help a family member or a friend.

“(The goal is) to learn about how prevalent stalking is and to correct myths and biases we have about stalking in our culture,” Maness said. “I think equally important is knowing how to help yourself or how to help a friend.”

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