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Stalking on college campuses: An increasing problem (Part 1)

Not all campus safety lectures include discussions of stalking, which has been on the increase on college campuses. Credits: By Hector Alejandro (hectorir) via Creative Commons

Today’s edition of Inside Higher Ed reported on the increase in stalking on college campuses, which was a topic of discussion at a recent one-day conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Clery Center for Security on Campus.

Where does stalking rank on the list of safety issues most directors of campus security face?

According to Gary J. Margolis, a former campus police chief at the University of Vermont and a speaker at the Cleary Center Conference, stalking generally isn’t high on the list of concerns among university police, student affairs officials and health center staff, but it should be.

“The link between stalking and dying is real, and it’s significant,” said Margolis, who is now a managing partner at Margolis Healy, a campus safety consulting firm.

Why isn’t this problem getting more attention?

The very nature of stalking – as defined in the National Violence Against Women survey (Tjaden&Thoennes, 1998), includes repeated (e.g., two or more) occasions of visual or physical proximity, non- consensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats that would cause fear in a reasonable person – makes it non-conducive to police work, in which, “You get a call, there’s a problem, you go, you deal with it and you leave. It’s incident-focused, it’s not pattern-focused” said Margolis.

Why is the reporting of stalking and prompt follow-up by authorities so important?

Eighty-one percent of the women in the NVAW survey who were stalked by a current or former husband or cohabiting partner were also physically assaulted by the same partner (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). This supports other studies that report stalkers are more likely to be violent if they have had an intimate relationship with the victim (Coleman, 1997; Meloy, 1998).

The National Center for Victims of Crime reported that Stalking on college campuses is occurring at an alarming rate and it now appears that college students are at greater risk of being stalked than other populations. According to the most recent National Sexual Victimization of College Women Survey, more than one in eight, or 13 percent, of female college students surveyed had been stalked within a six to nine month period.

Does the nature of campus life increase a student’s chances of becoming a stalking victim?

1. Many students are living without parental supervision for the first time in their lives and may not be aware of the dangers they face when they go off to college.

2. College buildings and residence halls provide relatively easy access to virtually anyone who wishes to enter the premises.

3. Students tend to follow predictable schedules, attending classes and eating meals at the same time each day.  Campus stalkers can easily familiarize themselves with a student’s comings and goings-and campus buildings that don’t have 24-hour security provide stalkers with physical proximity to their victims.

4. The use of social media provides another avenue for stalkers.  The recent trend where students check-in and provide their whereabouts to their friends can also be used by potential stalkers to locate there victims.  Stalkers threatening or intimidating Facebook messages, and tweets, have added to the growing threat from stalkers.

5. Stalking is not a top safety concern for many college security directors.

In the Part 2 we will look at what students can do to prevent and combat being stalked on campus.

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Ed Kress
For over 40 years Ed Kress has been an instructor and student at the Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts, named "Best Overall Martial Arts School” worldwide by Black Belt Magazine. Master Fred Degerberg awarded Ed his 7th degree Black Belt in 2015. Growing up on Chicago’s Southside, Ed learned early in life to pay attention to his surroundings in order to avoid potentially dangerous people and situations. With the help of local law enforcement officers and directors of campus security, Ed developed a program focused on personal safety on the streets, and as it relates to the high school and college experience. Ed has trained thousands of adult men and women as well as high school and college students to improve their personal and situational awareness and, when necessary, how to physically defend themselves using their brains and a wide variety of martial arts techniques.

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