Speakers Spotlight: Stalking Awareness Month
For RAINN Speakers Bureau members Katy W., Diane M. and Marianne B., dealing with being stalked in conjunction with experiencing a sexual assault meant living through threatening phone calls, having their homes broken into, being followed, having their computers hacked, and more. (Because of their experience being stalked, they have asked us not to print their full names.)
Each year, about 3.3 million adults in America experience stalking, according to a 2012 Justice Department report. Sexual violence — both the threat and the reality — is often part of the mix. To bring attention to the crime, Katy, Diane and Marianne are speaking out this month, which is National Stalking Awareness Month.
While the exact definition varies by state, stalking behavior can include repeated, undesired contact (phone calls, emails, letters, visits), following or laying in wait for the individual, making threats to the individual or her/his family, or other behavior used to harass, track, or threaten the individual.
For Katy, it started with threats over the phone: “The stalking was a premonition of what was to come.” Her stalker, a serial rapist, eventually took Katy and another woman captive. After escaping and reporting the crime, the stalker rapist was convicted and is currently in prison, but comes up for parole hearings every three years.
Marianne was aggressively stalked by her perpetrator after being raped. “I felt so confused and betrayed during this period of stalking, and it made my recovery journey very slow at first,” she says. “It was so difficult for me to share with anyone just how violated I felt by such an extreme invasion of my privacy. I was scared for my safety, and scared the stalker would cause me to lose my friends or my job.”
It’s been a very long road to recovery, but the three women have received the help and support they deserve. “There is opportunity for growth and empowerment in challenges like this — especially, the following of one’s intuition, even when others minimize your fears,” observes Diane.
Marianne wants others who may be experiencing stalking to know that it is a serious crime that requires serious action. “Please know, even if you have difficulty getting the support you need and deserve, you absolutely have the right to take action to secure your safety and wellbeing: set boundaries with unsupportive people, take charge of your online and in-person safety, and rally the support of those who care about you! Please don’t hesitate to call or use RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline for support if you suspect you are being stalked.”
Learn more about stalking and cyberstalking.
For more information about online safety, read RAINN’s Five Ways to Stay Safe Online.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800.656.HOPE, and online at online.rainn.org.