Stalking: Understanding it and Supporting Survivors

In dialogues about interpersonal violence, stalking is a topic that is often misunderstood and minimized. For example, folks often throw around the term “Facebook stalking” when discussing looking often at another person’s profile. We use terms like “Facebook stalking” lightly because we often associate stalking with  a person being followed by a stranger down dark alleyways. However, stalking is often much more complex than that. Stalking is often a result of relationship violence and can involve physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. Examples of stalking can include contacting a person against their will, sending excessive emails or Facebook messages, texts or letters, watching their workplace, home or other places they routinely visit, vandalizing their property, abusing their pets or burglarizing their home.

Stalking is often used by an abusive person in a relationship to control and frighten their partner. When a victim chooses to end a relationship or physically distance themselves from the abuser, they take control away from the abuser. Abusers use stalking as a way to continue to harass their victims after the relationship is over, which is part of the reason why stalking has become a major risk factor for relationship violence cases ending in homicide. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, almost forty percent of stalking victims are stalked by an intimate partner, friend, roommate or neighbor and seventy-five percent of victims know their stalker.

It is important that we understand the seriousness of stalking. If you or a friend are being harassed in person or via any form of written, verbal or electronic communication, tell the stalker once that you do not want any contact with them. If it feels comfortable, survivors have the option to report the incident to the police, department of public safety, the Dean of Students Office, or Compass Center for Women and Families. After that instance, do not answer calls, text messages or emails from a stalker, because engaging with the harasser can encourage them to continue or escalate their harassment. Keeping a detailed log of all incidents will make it easier to show the police the unwanted communication should a survivor wishes to press criminal charges in the future. If you know someone who is being stalked or harassed, do not make light of their experience. It is important to recognize that what may seem harmless to an outsider is very frightening for survivors. Be an advocate, listen without judgment and help the survivor find resources and support. Check out for a complete list of campus and community resources available to survivors of stalking. To learn more about how to recognize stalking and support survivors, sign up for a HAVEN training at

Providing Support Through Active Listening

One of the questions most frequently asked in HAVEN training is “How do you make survivors of interpersonal violence feel better?” or “What do you do to fix a survivor’s situation?”  It is a difficult to help people understand that our job as allies is not to tell survivors what to do or make their choices for them, but rather to support, listen and empower survivors to make their own decisions and have faith in their own ability for creating positive change. We try do this by active listening.

Active listening functions as one of the most valuable tools each of us has, whether we work with survivors or not.  Active listening is a structured way of listening which focuses entirely on the speaker.  We use active listening skills if a survivor discloses an instance of interpersonal violence in order to help that survivor focus and feel understood.  It is non-judgmental and accepting while conveying the desire to understand what the survivor is feeling and saying.  Active listening helps the speaker clarify their thoughts, vent if they need to and better understand their feelings.  Often people come to us with problems to be heard and validated, not necessarily to get a solution.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to become a better listener:

1. Who is doing the majority of the talking- the person with the problem or me?

2. Am I asking questions based on my own curiosity or are the questions that I’m asking relevant to the issue that they are struggling with?

3. Am I listening or making to do lists in my head?

4.  How does he/she know I am listening? Am I reflecting feeling and content back to him/her?

5. Am I empowering him/her or trying to “fix” the problem?

6. Am I asking open ended questions or am I asking close ended questions to get a specific response? For example, asking “How did that make your feel.” as opposed to “So, you must have been pretty angry about that?”

It can be difficult to hear a survivor’s story and not want to jump into action mode to “fix” what’s happening. Even though these feelings are rooted in the very best intentions of caring about a survivor they are problematic. Many survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking are trying to regain control in their lives after their assault. If you as a friend or ally jump in to “fix” a survivor, you send the message that they still aren’t in control of their own lives. By believing and active listening to a survivor’s story, you give them the power and control back.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to support survivors of interpersonal violence check out to sign up for an upcoming HAVEN training!

Countdown to Spring Break!

Spring break is only a week away and, if you’re like me, you’re counting down the days until your life isn’t dictated by school work, classes, and other obligations.  For me, the week before spring break is probably one of the most stressful times of the year. So to keep you all motivated, healthy, and happy (relatively), here are some tips on how to survive this upcoming week:

1.  Keep on moving on. Multi-tasking is like kryptonite for your brain, especially when you’re trying to learn something new. The key to remembering facts is to give your whole attention to learning them. So if you’ve got a to-do list a mile long, instead of trying to do everything at once, just try and tackle one task at a time and change the tasks up once an hour. Switching things up every once in a while can keep you mentally stimulated and engaged in what you’re doing, making you a more efficient student!

2. Disconnect the cable. When you’re studying for that big test or trying to get that assignment finished, be sure to turn off your phone and the wireless function on your laptop! This is a really tough one, but distractions only prolong the pain, so turn it off!


3. Get plenty of shut eye. Making sure to get enough sleep each night will help you be mentally prepared for the day and can actually help you perform better on that super hard test of yours! According to a 2007 study at Harvard Medical School, sleep helps memories lodge themselves into our brain (as anyone who has ever pulled an all-nighter and then tried to recall important information can attest).  Here’s the link to that study. Point is, get at least 6.5-8.5 hours of sleep a night and you’ll be brilliant by morning time 🙂 Or you might turn out to look like this poor pup:

4. Get your mojo back. Taking time out of your busy schedule to do something you find pleasure in can really help you de-stress and recharge! I personally like to attend group exercise classes with friends or meet up with someone and have dinner with them. I find that if I take time to take care of my mental and physical health, I’m more motivated and able to complete the tasks that lay ahead of me.

Hope you enjoyed these tips! Are there any survival tips that you all gravitate towards? Leave them in the comments down below!

The Power of Perspective

By Melody Jou

So as the weather begins to change (finally), the clocks have been dialed back an hour, and the semester starts getting really crazy and hectic, I wanted to share an encouraging little book that I’ve come across with all you faithful CWS blog readers 🙂 This book is entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…And it’s All Small Stuff”, by bestselling author and speaker Richard Carlson. In a lighthearted and candid manner, Carlson gives some serious perspective by sharing 100 simple ways to keep the little things from taking over our lives. Here to whet your appetite are two of my personal favorites.

  1. Be aware of the snowball effect of your thinking: I’m definitely the type of person who gets stressed out from thinking about everything that I need to do in a day. Carlson advises readers to always be aware of the negative and stressful thoughts in our head so that they don’t spiral out of control. The more time I spend thinking about how overwhelmed I am, it only exacerbates the problem by making me feel even more stressed than I already am! Instead of get caught up or absorbed in those thoughts, Carlson says that we should just nip these thoughts in the bud by saying, “Whew, there I go again!” and move right along.
  2. Be happy where you are: In the book, Carlson quotes Alfred D’Souza: “For a long time, it had seemed to me that life was about to begin- real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, and a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” Many of us, myself included, may have the habit of postponing our happiness. We convince ourselves that, “Someday I’ll be happy.” We tell ourselves that we’ll be happy after all the homework is done, when we graduate from college, when we get our first job, when we get married and have kids, and on and on and on! All the while, life keeps moving forward. The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now! And if not now, then when? Life will always be full of challenges. It’s better to accept the challenges and be happy anyways than unhappily caught up with the challenges of life.

Hope that you all were able to get some perspective from those tips!If you’d like more information about the author and his other works, I’d like to invite you to visit his website at

I find it really helpful for me to change my thinking and attitude when things in life get tough or stressful. And here to show you one example of how it’s done, check out this video of one little girl’s daily self-affirmations! Enjoy!

How Altruism Creates Healthy Benefits

By Anna Holcombe

Who knew helping others could in turn benefit your own health?

As college students we are often encouraged to volunteer, offering up what little free time we have in order to help others. These acts of altruism occur in many different ways, from volunteering with an organization to providing a ride for a friend. Yes, sometimes we only are contributing because we feel an obligation to do so, but no matter the initial reasoning, helping others will always create benefits for our own health as well.

The personal benefits of random (and not so random) acts of kindness can foster spiritual and developmental growth.  Direct advantages can include “helper’s high” or a sense of euphoria, decreased stress due to a greater sense of calmness, a more positive and open-eyed prospective on life, a sense of belonging to a community, and even physiological benefits such as stronger immune system and reduction of high blood pressure. I was able to experience a few of these last weekend when I volunteered at the “Pedal for Peds” bike race. People of the UNC community came together on a Saturday morning to bike a 29 mile trail in order to raise money for the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.  It was inspiring to watch children with cancer and their parents and loved ones bike parts of the trail.  Although exam week is right around the corner, I was able to step back and appreciate the important things in life like personal health and the love of my family. In our hectic college lives we need these types of stress relievers.

So, how does a UNC college student get involved? Visiting the Pit is probably one of the most effective and easiest ways to find one way or another to get involved.  If you don’t find anything that interests you there, be sure to check out all the flyers around campus. The next time you see a wall or pole consumed by colorful paper, don’t just walk past without a care. Stop and find one that will allow you to incorporate your own personal passions with helping others. I promise you will reap rewards and helping the cause you are supporting will benefit your health in more ways than you can imagine.