Sep 122005
 
Authors: Margaret Canty

According to the anti-stalking laws, a person can be charged with stalking for willfully and repeatedly contacting another individual without permission. Under these laws, assailants could be charged with stalking for repeatedly:

* Following or appearing within the sight of another.

* Approaching or confronting another individual in a public or private place

* Appearing at the work place or residence of another.

* Entering or remaining on an individual's property.

* Contacting by telephone.

* Sending mail or electronic mail.

* Getting other people to harass on their behalf.

* Leaving notes on cars, in mailboxes.

For those who think stalking is a minor, rare occurrence – think again.

According to Aardvarc.org, 13 of 100 women on a college campus will be stalked during the next six to nine months.

"Stalking is an extension of harassment elevated to a level where it is causing disruption or physical threat to the person being harassed," said Lieutenant Mark Childress, head of investigations at the CSU Police Department.

Chris Linder, director of women's programs and studies, said stalking is not a significant problem at CSU.

"Stalking can be an issue anywhere. It happens on campus, in our community and in other campuses across the country," she said. "CSU is just like any other campus."

Because of the dangers young women face when walking alone at night, graduate student Tara U'Ren, a vocal performance major, takes necessary precautions.

"I always make sure my husband knows where I am and at what time I will be home. I also avoid being on campus at night after games and things when there are crowds," she said.

Most stalking situations happen between people who already know each other, Linder said, and commonly can be the result of a break-up. Stalking can include anything from incessant text messaging to actually being followed.

However, Childress said a situation where a stranger waits to follow a random victim is not very common.

"Most of these situations are handled at patrol level and include phone harassment or letters and notes that are mostly just annoying in nature," Childress said. "But when it elevates to following in public or violating a restraining order it can become a felony."

Childress said 99 percent of the cases CSUPD deals with have been restraining order violations.

"Stalking is a crime of major victimization," he said. "(CSUPD) wants to solicit people to be alert and aware of their rights."

The Internet also can be a source of unwanted attention similar to stalking.

"Each individual has to take their own precautions and be aware of where their information is. A lot of people have access to Facebook and sites like that," said Linder, who recommends not putting personal information online at all.

CSU offers several options for people being harassed or stalked to seek help, including CSUPD, the department of women's studies and the Victim Assistance Team.

"We will help you get a safety plan and take precautions against the person stalking," Linder said.

CSUPD Corporal Yvonne Paez (CQ)es recommends students utilize the Safe Walk system, a program that sends volunteers to walk people home who would otherwise be alone.

"(CSUPD officers) are very user friendly. If someone needs us to walk them somewhere, we'll do it anytime, day or night," she said.

Megan Walker, a senior psychology major, has had a stalking incident, but said she still feels secure on campus.

"I was followed to my car once," Walker said. "I think CSU could use better lit parking lots with surveillance, but I feel safe on campus."

Childress said CSUPD handles actual stalking situations "seriously" and "rapidly," and victims will be handled with "utmost courtesy and confidentiality."

"Stalking can get violent. We take no chances," he said.

Childress said the harassment/stalking rate on campus is down, but it is hard to tell whether there have been fewer incidents or if fewer are being reported.

"We want to remove cultural walls that dissuade victims from reporting crimes of the nature," he said.

Paez said people have the power to enhance their own safety.

"We have more power as individuals than people think we do. Many think that they are at the mercy of their circumstance, but we can control our own safety," she said

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