January is Stalking Awareness Month, and stalking is a crime and a violation of UNC’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment & Related Misconduct. Approximately 3.9% of UNC students have experienced stalking during their time as a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, most often by another student, according to the AAU Campus Climate Survey in April 2015. This amounts to 1,134 students out of the 29,084 currently enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill! You may know someone who has experienced or is currently experiencing stalking, so here are some things for you to know.
Stalking is unwanted and repeated attention from another person. It may come in the form of physical, verbal, or electronic conduct that is serious enough to cause someone to feel fearful or to create a hostile, intimidating, or abusive environment.
Stalking behaviors can include:
- Repeated, unwanted phone calls, texts, Snapchats, etc.
- Leaving unwanted gifts, such as flowers or notes, on the person’s car or at their home
- Repeatedly showing up at someone’s room, workplace, class, or social space when they have no reason to be there
- Reaching out to the person’s friends online or in person to gain information about the person they’re stalking
Many times, stalking involves people who know each other and had a relationship of some kind, but it may also involve strangers.
You might notice changing behaviors from a friend who is being stalked. People who are being stalked may:
- Feel increased paranoia or anxiety about their safety
- Change their routines to avoid encountering the stalker
- Deactivate their social media accounts
- Ask you or others not to post photos of them or otherwise indicate where they are or who they’re with on social media
If you notice these behaviors, here are five tips for helping a friend who may be experiencing stalking:
- Encourage your friend to document what is happening. Encourage them to save voicemails, texts, or emails and take screenshots of messages they may receive on social media. They can also write down the details on any in-person contact, such as a location, time, and/or description of what happened. Making a list may help a friend see that what is happening is a pattern or that it may be escalating. It can also serve as evidence should your friend choose to report what is happening.
- Offer resources to your friend. Share with them that confidential emotional support is available through CAPS and the Gender Violence Services Coordinator. Let them know that they can also report the incident to the University and/or to law enforcement if they want. The Equal Opportunity & Compliance Office and the Office of the Dean of Students can help them make a report to the University. They can also help with protective measures like a no-contact order. Law enforcement can investigate the behavior(s) and determine whether criminal charges can be filed.
- Help them think about ways they can keep their contact information private. For example, they might want to block unwanted calls, texts, or emails, or change their privacy settings on social media.
- Listen to your friend. They are the expert on their experience, and if they know the person who is stalking them, they are the expert on that individual’s behavior. If they are worried that taking a particular action (such as blocking someone on social media) would anger the person stalking them or put them in more danger, respect their right to choose an alternative.
- Whatever your friend decides to do, respect their decision, let them know that they are not alone, and that help is available.
Finally, don’t hesitate to access resources yourself if you want to process your feelings or concerns about what is going on. Every situation is different, and no one expects you to have all the answers or be the only support for your friend. If you would like to learn more about supporting a survivor of stalking, check out HAVEN Training, a skills training for students, faculty, and staff.
Kelli is the Coordinator for Violence Prevention Programs at UNC Student Wellness. Kelli has a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of William and Mary in Women’s Studies. Kelli believes we can prevent sexual violence, interpersonal violence, stalking, harassment, and discrimination by changing systems of oppression, empowering bystanders, supporting survivors, and holding individuals accountable for their problematic behavior.