Stalking: Know it. Name it. Stop it.’
January is National Stalking Awareness Month, and Public Safety has placed posters around campus to raise awareness about the dangers of stalking and to assure the safety of the Seton Hall community.
In New Jersey, a person is guilty of stalking, a crime of the fourth degree, if he or she purposefully or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety, the safety of a third person or suffer other emotional distress.
Anyone found guilty of stalking on campus can receive strict discipline from the University on top of legal criminal charges. Gary Christie, the assistant director of Public Safety, encourages members of the community to report any act of stalking on campus and in the surrounding community in South Orange.
“The definition used by the University is essentially two or more acts, directed at a person, which would cause a reasonable person fear,” Christie said. “If the incident is related to a dating relationship, the stalking could be the basis for a Domestic Violence complaint.”
Students who believe they are being stalked should file a report with Public Safety whether the incident occurs on or off campus. South Orange victims should first file a report with the South Orange Police Department. Students involved in reports of stalking will be assisted by Community Development.
“Evidence of stalking should be collected including notes, messages, recordings, text messages and emails,” Christie said. “Personal safety should become paramount and victims should try and travel in company and be connected to others at all times.”
The non-profit organization Stalking Resource Center has been increasing stalking awareness throughout January, using the slogan “Stalking: Know it. Name it. Stop it.”
The Center’s mission is to enhance the ability of professionals and organizations to deal with matters of stalking.
“More than half of states classify stalking as a felony upon second or subsequent offense or when the crime involves aggravating factors,” the Stalking Resource Center reported in its Stalking Fact Sheet.
“Aggravating factors may include: possession of a deadly weapon, violation of a court order or condition of probation/parole, victim under 16 years, or same victim as prior occasions.”
Public Safety said the number of incidents involving harassment and domestic violence have been low. The number of reports regarding these issues is expected to increase simultaneously with the increase of students’ knowledge on these matters.
The SAVE (Sexual Assault and Violence Education) team under Psychological and Counseling services offers further emotional aid to students seeking help. The University advises all students to remember that stalking can occur in person and through the use of technology. Victims should trust their instincts, not communicate with the stalker, and inform loved ones to cut off communication between the victim and the stalker.
“Our number one priority is the safety of our community members,” Christie said.
To have a better understanding of stalking and how to handle incidents, students can follow the Twitter hashtag #SHUstalkingawareness.
Leah Carton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.