January is Stalking Awareness Month. And many in our community experience this traumatic problem, be it from a stranger, someone they may have briefly encountered, or someone they may have ended a relationship with that just won’t let go.
Have you ever had the feeling that someone was watching you? Perhaps you notice a car while you are parking to walk into your office or place of work. Or, you see it parked outside your home, and then it dawns on you—you’ve seen the same car and/or the occupant several times during the past couple of weeks. Then one day, you walk out of your place of work, and the person approaches you and tries to engage you in a conversation—and you feel uncomfortable. Sound familiar?
Several years ago, a young woman in Idaho was stalked by a man who had been a customer of her small business. Ultimately, he violently attacked and severely injured her. Even though she had reported the stalking to the police before the attack, there was nothing they could do because she was not, nor ever had been in any relationship with him.
Or, perhaps you have broken up with a partner or ended a friendship. This can be a stressful life event in and of itself. But how about when the individual will not leave you alone: calling you and sending text or social media messages at all hours–barraging you with belittling and disturbing messages. One hopes that simply standing up for yourself and asking the person to stop will resolve this situation, but what happens even when you ask them to stop, the individual continues to send them to you, causing stress and anxiety as the tone becomes increasingly demanding.
In both of these circumstances, there is action that you can take. Thanks to the anti-stalking legislation passed by the Idaho Legislature early in 2017, you can file a civil protection order against this form of harassment. In fact, with the passage of this legislation, our court advocate team saw a 42% increase in the number of civil protection order filings from 2016 to 2017 (from 982 filings to 1,399). Just this past year, there were 1,676, an increase of 71% over 2016.
January is stalking awareness month, and we appreciate anything you can do to help us let individuals who feel they are being stalked, either in person or virtually, know that our Court Advocates are ready to provide safety planning and input on appropriate civil options that can be taken. Stalking is not harmless. It can cause unnecessary stress and fear and in a few cases lead to deadly consequences.
Call our hotline 208-343-7025 if you find yourself or someone you know in need of help. Visit the Stalking Prevention Awareness and Resource Center (SPARC) resources and tools.