January is National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking has been such a huge part of my life for the past eight years. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some important tips I learned from being a victim of stalking.
According to the Stalking Resource Center a good working definition of stalking is “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”
To read more about stalking visit www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org.
In the United States 6.6 million people are stalked in one year. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experience stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed. I must say before I became a victim of stalking, I was not aware of these statistics. I had no reason to be. I honestly had never heard of anyone being stalked. So, when I started to conduct my research I was very alarmed at these numbers and feared for my life.
Let’s be honest, until you become a victim of anything whether its domestic violence, cancer, or mental illness, you care but it does not affect you as much. Well that’s the dilemma I encountered when I became a victim of stalking. There wasn’t anyone within my community that I knew of, personally or professionally that could relate to what I was going through. There was no one, to warn me about, how I might feel mentally or emotionally.
I learned in a blink of an eye my life could be taken without any warning. I learned you can’t wait on Law Enforcement to protect you; you have to take precautionary steps to protect yourself and pray that Law Enforcement and the Judicial System will do their part to see that justice will be served accordingly.
In 2006, I became a stalking victim. I sought help from the Battered Women’s Shelter in my community to obtain a restraining order. This was the first of what is now the fourth restraining orders I’ve obtained within eight years. My restraining is set to expire this Month, January 3, 2015.
Since Stalking wasn’t a widespread topic like Domestic Violence, I became an investigator with Google. I came across The National Center for Victims of Crime. The website was such a tremendous help. I was able to read about all the feelings I was going through and find out it was normal to be having the feelings I was experiencing. I started contacting the center for information. I subscribed to numerous webinars to learn more of what I needed to do to protect myself. A lot of the webinars were for Law Enforcement but some were for civilians. Thank God, I now had the tools to help me help myself.
In my quest to take care of myself and ensure my safety as best as I possibly could, I learned that a restraining order can only do so much to protect a victim. A victim has to do their part to protect themselves from their stalker and follow the proper channels to ensure their stalker is brought to justice. Once I understood what role I played and what was needed from me to ensure that I would have a better chance of justice being served, I began to take matters into my own hands.
Here are some of my suggestions on what to do if you believe you are being stalked. These tips are what helped me to become better prepared for the court system as I sought help for justice. You might think this is common sense, but not necessarily. You must realize when you find yourself in a state of fear, believing your life will be taken, a state of panic takes over and nothing is seen as clear.
1. Contact the police department - Calling 911 is important but if it is a case of someone following you, you can call a police officer to escort you home safely. You will need to call the police department directly. Calling 911 will only have them redirect you to the local police department in your area which will only delay your help. Contact the proper authorities for assistance and don’t be afraid to utilize your resources.
2. File a police report for each incident and make sure you get a file number. This procedure is important for tracking purposes.
3. Be persistent and consistent following up. Once you file a police report and receive a file number follow up. Paperwork can be lost in the system, ensuring you are following up on your cases will show that you are serious and you want justice.
4. Request a restraining order. This is for your safety and please do not drop the restraining order. This step makes it harder for all other victims seeking protection to be taken serious.
5. Keep a journal of everything that occurs, with dates, places, and time. This is very important. In the beginning I had sticky notes everywhere. I was not organized and it made it harder for me to keep things in which the incidents were occurring. Keep everything in one centralize place. I now have a legal size manila folder with the clasp.
6. Record the license plate number of any suspicious vehicles and a description of the vehicle. My stalker would switch up vehicles. I suspected it would be him at various places because he had a pattern of driving slow when he was stalking.
7. In case of e-mail or fax machines stalking, print messages and keep copies. This step is very important. By me keeping my inbox messages to Facebook I was able to prove in court along with other evidence that he was still stalking me to obtain my latest restraining order.
8. Report electronic stalking to local police, with copies of e-mail and/or faxes. Keep all evidence; never think something is not important. Normally, that’s when it’s the most important.
Being a stalking victim has taught me a lot about being more cautious about my surroundings. It has taught me more about safety. I value my life, because at one time I truly believed that I would be dead because of the intensity of the stalking.
To help other women, I partnered with The LSU Women's Center to raise awareness about stalking. I also speak at events and founded a stalking support group to help other women who are stalking victims. I believe unless you’ve experience stalking, you can’t basically understand nor help a person in the same situation. You can’t relate to the emotional and mental distress.
My dream is to one day travel around the world to raise awareness and educate society that stalking is real and it’s nothing to be taken lightly. I want to work with legislation in Congress to create stronger and firmer laws. I will acknowledge that since I became a victim of stalking, new laws have been put into effect. However, I still believe we have a long way to go and that stricter laws still need to be created for a victim’s safety. I know it’s a process and I’m willing to be there for the lengthy process for victims like myself.
When you experience what I’ve experienced, it changes you. Some survive, many don’t. Some end up losing their mind’s because the stress of it all. I honestly at one time thought I was at that point. It truly is a lot to bear. Because of God I made it through. I’m stronger now, so I’m determined to do my part to helping others. I want to be the VOICE for victims that are afraid to tell their stories.
On another note, please keep me in prayer as I face my stalker in court Monday, January 5th, on a stalking incident that happen 2 ½ years ago. Yes, I said 2 ½ years ago. That’s why I stated we still have a long way to go.
To read more about stalking victimization visit www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org/awareness.
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Until next time,
Spread your wings and fly…