SHEPHERDSTOWN – Fewer than ten students attended the stalking awareness program put on by the Shenandoah Women’s Center and Shepherd’s counseling services on Friday, Feb. 13, despite the relevance of the event’s subject matter to college students.
The event was arranged by Rachael Meads of student affairs, Brian Miller of counseling services and was presented by Katie Spriggs of the Shenandoah Women’s Center.
Spriggs shared her personal experiences with stalking when she was in high school throughout her presentation, which goes to show just how common this form of harassment is. She explained how, despite her friends’ support and concern, she insisted on dealing with her stalker on her own and even made excuses to them for the things he did.
According to Spriggs, most victims of stalking are between the ages of 18 and 24; three in four victims previously knew their stalker, and women are at a higher risk for stalking than men.
Most states define stalking as a pattern of behaviors toward one person that cause fear in him or her. This ambiguity can cause issues for the victims of stalking trying to report the crime.
For instance, West Virginia’s law states that a stalker is “any person who repeatedly follows another knowing … that the conduct causes the person followed to reasonably fear for his or her safety.” This policy leaves out those who stalk their victims using the Internet or other technology and requires the stalker to know that they are causing harm to the victim, both points that leave many victims without a strong case to make.
“Stalking is one of the hardest crimes to prove,” said Spriggs. She suggested that if you or someone you know is concerned about possible stalking behavior, then it is vital to document each incident and take photos of evidence. She also advised to take all threats seriously, to seek help, spend more time with close friends and family and to even change up predictable habits.
“The responsibility should not be on the victim to change,” Spriggs said, but unfortunately it has to be in many cases. Spriggs also noted that the Shenandoah Women’s Center is always available to help victims of stalking and gives out stalking kits put together by the W. Va. Foundation for Rape Information and Services that contains mace, a camera and other tools useful to the victims of stalking.