To wrap up National Stalking Awareness Month, the Violence Prevention Project held a campus stalking information night Wednesday to raise awareness and provide resources for victims.
Although most victims know their stalkers intimately, some may be total strangers or merely acquaintances.
Stalking can take on various forms including making harassing phone calls, following an individual, sending unwanted e-mail or text messages and vandalizing property.
â€œOften victims may think they are cared about and loved so much, but in fact the stalker is maintaining power and control over them,â€ said Mica Vargas, coordinator of the Violence Prevention Project.
It all started with a telephone call for Georgianna MacDowell, president of Students Providing Empowerment, Advocacy and Knowledge (S.P.E.A.K.), who was stalked by an acquaintance who lived in her apartment complex.
She said that she willfully exchanged phone numbers with him because she thought he was nice, but when she did not answer his repeated phone calls he became hostile. He began to call her daily and stop by her apartment uninvited, so she eventually got the police involved.
â€œI felt mostly uncomfortable, but not threatened,â€ MacDowell said. â€œI just felt dumb, which is a common feeling for victims and it is OK and normal to feel that way.â€
Now it is easier than ever for stalkers to obtain information about their victims from the Internet and from social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.
Tamyra Pierce, Ph.D., associate professor of mass communication and journalism, has analyzed hundreds of MySpace pages and spoke about predatorsâ€™ use of social networking sites. Pierce said that her research showed that 59 percent of MySpace users used their full name, 62 percent used a picture of themselves and 38 percent included personal information like phone numbers or addresses.
â€œThere are real dangers on MySpace,â€ Pierce said. â€œI know they are fun, but too much information is being put out there.â€
Pierce was one of four panelists who discussed various aspects of stalking and ways to avoid becoming a victim.
Ronna Bright from the Marjaree Mason Center was also on the panel and discussed the connection between intimate relationships and stalking. Bright said that 80 percent of female stalking victims have also been physically assaulted.
â€œIt is very easy for former intimate partners to stalk their exes simply because they know their routines, friends and family members,â€ Bright said.
Daniel Espinoza, founder of DSC Consulting, spoke about the process of victimization and why stalking happens. Espinoza said that stalking is no different from domestic violence and both are about demonstrating power, control and domination over their victims.
â€œIndividuals who are stalking have problems letting go and are dependent on those behaviors,â€ Espinoza said.
The Violence Prevention Project was formed in 2005 to provide education, intervention, and to provide a safe place for victims.
The project has a 24-hour hotline that provides confidential support at (559) 278-5696.