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January 6, 2013

Domestic violence coalition looks to spread awareness about stalking

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault is hoping to inform Oklahomans through Stalking Awareness Month in January.

Executive Associate Director Sunshine Gross said they see stalking as a predicate crime that leads to other crimes. She said stalking can also be present with domestic violence cases.

“With domestic violence, it doesn’t start it,” she said. “That dynamic is already there, but what we see is when these perpetrators are losing power and control by the victims leaving, getting help, whatever the case may be, a lot of them will resort to stalking as another means to reinforce power and control.”

Gross said the issue of stalking only came to the forefront in 2004 when Peggy Klinke was stalked and murdered in California. According to a OCADVSA press release, Klinke’s sister Debbie Riddle called the Stalking Resource Center which led to a number of events, including congressional response.

The release said 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime.

“Most perpetrators are men,” Gross said. “That doesn’t mean that men can’t be victims but what we see is when you have a male victim that is being stalked, they typically report it as harassment. They’re not necessarily in fear like your female victim would be.”

Gross said men may interpret it as a nuisance until is escalates. Gross described portions of the statute on stalking.

“It’s got to be repetitive,” Gross said. “It can’t be a one-time event. You have to show that timeline of these different types of behaviors. Any of that can be following the victim, laying in wait, breaking into their house to watch them sleep. We’ve seen an escalation in technology use. I think 1 in 4 victims report some form of technology use. That’s a pretty big number.”

Gross said the statute asks for the emotional impact, which means a level of fear, she said.

“You’ve got to have a victim who is in fear or otherwise it’s hard to prove a stalking case,” she said.

The release also said about 1 in 5 female victims and 1 in 14 male victims experienced stalking between the ages of 11 and 17.

“This is about the average age when relationships start and these perpetrators are picking up these dynamics, a lot of them are learned at home,” Gross said.

“And they’re picking up on it or they’re seeing it at the movies and the way it’s portrayed is kind of cool.”

She said children this age do not necessarily understand that what they are doing is wrong.

Sometimes, stalking can heighten quickly.

“The thing with a stalker is they’re going to start out typically pretty low key, watching the victim, maybe calling and blocking their number and when that doesn’t do it for them or doesn’t get the response they want, they escalate,” she said.

Escalation may include the use of weapons. The release said weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases. The most common weapon is a knife, she said.

“And I don’t think with a lot of them that they mean to hurt them, it’s just that they’re trying to get that level of fear so they can get that power back,” Gross said.

Over the past few years, Gross has held galas and training sessions across the state. This year, they are dispensing awareness packets and contacting media to make Stalking Awareness Month known. Gross’ advice to those who believe they may be a victim of stalking is to take note and inform police.

“With stalking, if they think something is going on and it’s really going to depend on the victim because stalkers are so scattered across the spectrum of behavior, make note of it, create a log ... and write down the date, the time, what you think is happening, and if you start to see this happening over time, it’s probably happening and that’s when you call law enforcement,” she said.

Gross said police will want that log of incidents. Gross said making police aware of the situation is important.

For more information or assistance, call the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault at 405-524-0700, the Oklahoma Safeline at 1-800-522-SAFE or visit the National Stalking Resource Center at www.victimsofcrime.org.

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