Have you ever been stalked? Did you, or someone you know experience emotional or physical violence as a teen? Stalking and teen violence are both difficult to recognize because they don’t always leave physical scars. But both are very damaging. which is why awareness of these topics is so important. A 2008 survey from the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center found that “1 out of every 12 women, and 1 out of 45 men have been stalked at some time during their lives.” According to a 2008 study by Liz Claiborne and loveisrespect.org, “One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.”
January is National Stalking Awareness Month, and February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Now is the perfect time to talk with those you love and care for about stalking and dating violence. Together, a community can support victims and survivors by educating and empowering one another. Anyone can help, no matter who they are or what position they are in. If you are a teacher, parent or otherwise in direct contact with youth, talk to your kids about the reality of abuse. Try to be a healthy and safe role model. Do some reading or studying about the complexities of abuse and trauma. Share that information with others.
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia that affects 6.6 million victims a year. Yet, many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its seriousness and impact. In one of five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for femicide (homicide of women) in abusive relationships. Victims suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and many lose time from work or have to move as a result of their victimization.
Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear. Stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits. Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many stalkers follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making it difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute their crimes.
Teen dating violence also affects millions. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. Teen dating violence can happen in opposite- or same-sex relationships and can be physical, emotional or sexual. It’s very common in Clark County, with most violence taking the form of manipulation, isolation, verbal abuse and threats. Victims are at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, suicide and adult re-victimization. A teen’s confusion about law, and the desire for confidentiality are two of the most significant barriers to young victims of violence seeking help.
Technology is commonly used in stalking and in teen dating violence. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime and the Stalking research center, “1 in 4 victims report being stalked through the use of some form of technology (such as e-mail or instant messaging).” A 2007 Liz Claiborne survey noted that 25% of teens in relationships have received harassing or degrading text messages from their partner.
You can help stalking victims and dating abuse victims in your community. Take action, and share information about stalking and dating abuse. Educate the teens in your life about the subtleties and nuances of violent behavior. Tell them where to get support and be available for questions. Stalking is considered a crime by the State of Washington and is punishable by law. For teens experiencing dating violence, a report may be filed with Child Protection Services (CPS). YWCA’s abuse hotline (360 695 0501) is anonymous and available to anyone seeking help.
A 2008 resolution presented by the National Association of Attorneys General encourages schools to develop teen dating violence awareness curriculum. YWCA Clark County has resources to support these efforts. If you are a parent or a student and you would like a visit from a violence prevention specialist to your class or school, talk to your teacher, school counselor, or administrator who can make arrangements with Cecily Griffus by calling 360-696-0167 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes a teen will need services if they are already in the midst of a violent relationship. Advocates at YWCA Clark County can help create a safety plan, offer support, and help with filing a protection order if needed. It is important for youth to identify safe adults they can talk to. Youth can call the 24-hour hotline (360 695 0501) anonymously with questions. Finally, YWCA will offer a training this February called In Their Shoes, an activity designed for adults who work with youth that puts them in the “shoes” of the youth survivor. The training is free to adults in Clark County.