January is Stalking Awareness Month, and it’s an important to highlight a crime that is often invisible. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will be stalked in their lifetimes. Young women ages 18-19 experience the highest rates of stalking. The fears, threats and intimidation endured by victims is often felt by family members as well.
To mark this important month, this week we hosted the first ever White House stalking roundtable with survivors, law enforcement officers, victim advocates, and researchers. We learned from law enforcement experts that while many victims are stalked by ex-partners, others can be stalked by acquaintances and even strangers. Stalkers often track their victims’ daily lives and make themselves known in ways that are scary and unpredictable. Stalking can force victims to change everything about their lives in order to be safe.
I commend the bravery of two survivors who shared their stories. One woman was stalked by an ex-husband while another was stalked over a long period of time by someone she barely knew. Both were terrorized through cyber stalking and a range of strategies designed to keep them on constant edge and make them feel afraid every day. The stalking extended to family members and children, making it even more terrifying. Their stories put a human face on the statistics and helped us understand the true personal cost of stalking.
We are taking steps across the federal government to combat stalking as well as dating violence and sexual assault. The Apps Against Abuse challenge sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services resulted in two mobile apps that can help protect against dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. These Apps can be used to stay in touch with your friends and call for help if you need it. The next step is to improve research on stalking and learn more about what victims need to be safe. Most importantly, we need to raise awareness about this hidden crime.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women