With over 1.4 million people stalked every year in the United States and an increasing number of UC Irvine students seeking service for stalking-related incidents, UCI groups are participating in a nationwide, month-long event to educate students about the dangers of stalking and how to prevent it.
January marks National Stalking Awareness Month. According to Cindy Dyer, director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), their office teamed up with the National Center for Victims of Crime to launch the 2009 campaign under the slogan, “Know it. Name it. Stop it.” At UCI, Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE), has adopted this month’s theme and plans to inform and educate the student body of the critical nature of the subject.
“While legal definitions of stalking vary from one jurisdiction to another, a good working definition of stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear,” said Robert Buelow, Violence Prevention Coordinator of CARE. “This is the first year we have campaigned for awareness of stalking during the month of January.”
In an anonymous study conducted by CARE in the spring of 2008, 18.5 percent of UCI students reported that at least once, someone has “undesirably and obsessively pursued [them] by following [them] around.” Furthermore, 19.7 percent of UCI students stated that they have been “undesirably and obsessively pursued by being watched,” while 15.5 percent of UCI students said that someone has “undesirably and obsessively pursed [them] by monitoring [them] and/or [their] behavior by calling at all hours to check on whereabouts, checking up through mutual friends etc.”
These alarming numbers show the small but still significant prevalence of stalking on campus, and have compelled CARE and its constituents to pursue a different course of action this year.
In addition to distributing informational pamphlets about stalking behaviors, common myths about stalking and resources available to almost 30 campus departments, CARE, in conjunction with the UCI Police Department, has created a support group for UCI students.
“CARE has also increased the amount of outreach and awareness efforts to the campus this year … we are encouraging staff and faculty to have discussions with their colleagues and students about stalking and the services available on campus,” Buelow said.
CARE and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center (LGBT) also plan to put on a number of events; this past Tuesday a movie entitled “Boys Don’t Cry,” starring Hillary Swank, was screened at the Cross-Cultural Center. Swank won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1999 for her performance.
The film is based on a true story about a biologically born female who identifies as a man. After moving away from his small town, he gets close with a girl that is involved with another young man who feels like he owns the girl and will do anything to keep her.
“CARE sponsored this movie because there is a lot of assault that occurs in it as a result of gender bias, small town hostility and rape,” said LGBT Resource Center Director David Bishop. “The movie also has a lot of marginalization of women, men feeling entitled, possessive, and controlling women and how they love.”
“Boys Don’t Cry” is only the first of many events to come. Affiliates of CARE, the LGBT Resource Center and their respective supporters plan on working together to leave a lasting impression on campus and become a more unified power player.
“National Stalking Awareness Month is incredibly important to CARE and the UCI community,” Buelow said. “Stalking is much more than an annoyance — it is a crime. A lot of people may experience behaviors that make them uncomfortable or afraid, but they may not realize that there are things they can do about it.”