STATEWIDE COALITIONS RECOGNIZE STALKING AWARENESS MONTH
Stalking is about to get a lot of attention in Maine. The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV) and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MECASA) are promoting stalking awareness in January, National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking impacts at least 1 in 10 Mainers.
A Maine-based 2011 crime victimization study found that stalking has one of the highest victimization rates of crimes in Maine. Additionally, not only are stalking victims more likely to be the victims of other crimes, but reporting to law enforcement has dropped significantly in the last five years despite an increase in incidents.
Stalking, a crime in Maine and all other states in the U.S., is often hard to recognize and many victims have difficulty coming forward. “However,” says Jill Barkley of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, “the more Mainers know about stalking, the more easily they can recognize it and potentially help victims.”
Cara Courchesne of MECASA agrees. “Educating and increasing awareness in Maine communities about what stalking is, and what action to take if they think someone they know may be a victim of stalking, is one of the best ways to address concerns related to stalking.”
Barkley and Courchesne both note that awareness about stalking as a crime, as well as the impact on victims, may help increase reporting. “Last year, during Stalking Awareness Month, we had victims call and say that they had seen an article or a report on the news about stalking and it helped them realize what they were experiencing was in fact stalking. They were able to come forward and get help,” says Courchesne.
“Such awareness is important,” says Barkley, “especially because stalking is one of the most significant risk factors for femicide (homicide of women) in abusive relationships.Keeping our communities educated and aware of stalking helps address the problem and give people a place from which to come forward.” Adds Julie Colpitts, Executive Director of MCEDV, “Cyberstalking, when a stalker uses technology to harass and stalk, is an increasingly common element of stalking behaviors, particularly among young people.”
If you or someone you know has experienced stalking, member agencies from both the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault are available to help. To reach the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence’s statewide helpline, call 1.866.83.4HELP or TTY 1.800.437.1220. To reach the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s crisis and support line, call 1.800.871.7741 or TTY 1.888.458.5599. Both helplines are free and confidential.
www.StalkingAwarenessMonth.org provides additional resources.