Sexual assault activists raise awareness about campus stalking

According to a report by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 6.6 million people are stalked each year in the United States. One in six women and one in 19 men experience stalking in their lifetimes. The UW is not excluded in these statistics.

As part of National Stalking Awareness Month, which takes place during January, Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Activists (SARVA) is promoting awareness regarding issues of sexual assault and relationship violence, including stalking.

In April, 2011, Sexual Assault & Relationship Violence Information Service (SARIS) invited 5,000 randomized undergraduate students from the university to take part in an online survey regarding campus safety. The study found that 8 percent of women and 3 percent of men said they had experienced stalking.

“Not everybody is reporting the stalking they’re experiencing,” said Melissa Tumas, a specialist in sexual assault and relationship violence for SARIS. “A lot of people feel that they can handle it themselves, or that maybe it is not a big deal.”

Tumas said the survey found there has been an increase in stalking at the UW in the past decade.

SARVA Director Robin Sacks said there are a lot of myths about what stalking entails, and that students may not realize how serious of an issue it can be. The Stalking Resource Center defines stalking as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”

“It’s really important to raise awareness, even about just what stalking is,” Sacks said.

Natalie Dolci, a victim advocate for the UW Police Department (UWPD), said people should report stalking as soon as possible.

“Starting somewhere is a really important step, and hopefully someone will have an entry point that feels comfortable for them,” Dolci said.

As an advocate for those who experience stalking, Dolci provides a direct service for students, faculty, and staff. She is just one of the many resources students can reach.

One of these resources is UW Green Dot. Green Dot is an organization that teaches bystander intervention skills to students so they know when to intervene if they see a friend in a dangerous situation, and when to speak up when they hear a joke about a sensitive subject such as stalking. Tumas said Green Dot’s focus is prevention.

“The university ultimately wants to provide assistance for a person that is being distracted or in some way being harmed by this behavior,” UWPD Cmdr. Steve Rittereiser said. “Law enforcement officers have become very sensitized to the fact that stalking is a problem that needs to be dealt with in a swift and effective manner.”

Reach contributing writer Jacob Jagodinski at development@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @JSJagodinski

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