Column: Stalking is a serious matter

Making jokes and downplaying the relevance of stalking will only lead to more problems, not solutions.

It’s a new year and semester on campus and everyone is re-adjusting to not getting enough sleep and actually having responsibilities. As the new semester starts and classes change, we all have to get used to new schedules and responsibilities. I think this is a great time to take new steps so we can get to a better place as a campus.

One thing that a lot of people, including myself, tend to overlook is that January is Stalking Awareness Month. Today, we are all quick to refer to someone as a “stalker” in a joking matter or joke about “stalking” someone’s Facebook page. But stalking is a serious matter that should be talked about and combated today, when there are so many cases of stalking and assault being brought up around us.

The official definition of stalking in Missouri is “purposely, repeatedly and intentionally harassing or following someone,” according to MU’s Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center. Stalking is a national problem and has recently been a major issue on college campuses. Many stalking cases have been connected to sexual harassment and assault cases, which are both prevalent issues on college campuses all around the country.

It is important to realize that anyone can be a victim of stalking, considering how much of our personal lives is readily available online. With one Google search, you can learn where someone works, goes to school and even where they live. This makes it easy for stalkers to come into contact with their victim if they don’t already know them personally.

According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, almost seven million people are stalked in America in one year. According to a CDC report published in September 2014, 15.2 percent of women have been stalked in their lifetimes, compared to 5.7 percent of men.

We all need to sensitize ourselves to the high occurrence of people being stalked and sexually harassed and assaulted today. We live in what some would call a rape culture and I don’t want our campus to be that. Victim-blaming and trivializing survivors and their stories is not OK. We as a campus and community should all be of one accord when it comes to protecting and supporting one another, especially women, as they are continuously targeted.

The RSVP Center is promoting awareness on stalking on its Facebook and Twitter pages with its 31 Days of Awareness event during the entire month of January. This is a great way to get informed about stalking and what you can do as an individual to protect yourselves and your peers. But as January comes to an end, we still need to learn about these issues that affect all of us, and simply going online and doing research can be a great start.

I think it’s important to always have your eyes, ears and hearts open so stalking and other assaults can be prevented in the future. If you or someone you know thinks that they are being stalked or has been stalked before, you can go to the RSVP Center, located in the lower level of the Student Center, to get help. Your name and story will be kept 100 percent confidential, and the center is staffed with professionals who know how to handle your experience, no matter how sensitive or personal it may be to you.

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