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Stalking on college campuses: An increasing problem (Part 2)

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

Part 1 of this series focused on the increase in stalking at colleges and universities, and how the nature of campus life lends itself to stalking.

Predictable schedules, which include attending classes and eating meals at the same time each day, can make it easy for campus stalkers to know a student’s comings and goings; and some campus buildings don’t have 24-hour security, giving stalkers easy access to their victims.

Living away from home for the first time with no day-to-day parental supervision, and little or no training in how to handle this potential danger of campus life can leave many students vulnerable to this silent epidemic.

How dangerous is stalking?

The story of Rachel Pendray, a 20-year-old student and cheerleader at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas is an example of what can happen in this type of case. 

She was shot to death just before Christmas last year by a stalker who then committed suicide by turning the gun on himself, authorities say. They add that he was a former fellow student, and Pendray hadn’t reciprocated his romantic feelings. Ironically, Pendray had saved his life only weeks before.

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).

Many victims are unaware of what constitutes stalking.  College campuses, give many students a false sense of security. They’re either not paying attention to their surroundings while talking on cell phones, listening to iPods, etc. — or posting their schedules and personal information on Twitter, Facebook and similar Web sites.

What can you do to protect yourself from becoming a stalking victim?

1. You need to know what constitutes stalking.  Stalking is defined by Stalking, as threats along with repeated harassing behavior such as: following a person; appearing at a person’s home, class, or work; making harassing phone calls or e-mails; leaving written messages or objects; or vandalizing a person’s property.

2.  Work at improving your personnel and situational awareness.  Begin by paying more attention to who is lurking nearby as you go about your day.  Follow your intuition.  If your gut tells you something isn’t right, it isn’t.  It is always better to be safe than sorry.

3. If you suspect that you are being stalked you need to address it immediately.  Make it clear to the stalker that you want no further contact from him/her of any kind. You can do that on the phone, face-to-face, or whatever way makes you feel most comfortable and secure.

4. If they continue stalking you after you have made it clear you want no further contact you need to contact the police.  Tell them that you made your intentions clear; this may include filing a formal police report.  Save all evidence such as texts, voicemails, e-mails, and letters.

5. Take precautions in your use of social media.  The recent trend where you check-in to provide your whereabouts to your friends can also be used by a stalker to locate you.  Do not disclose personal information.  Do not assume people you communicate with in chat rooms are telling the truth.  Pick a username that does not reveal your last name, gender, age, or location. 

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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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