Stalking Awareness Month observed in Randolph County

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Members of several local agencies gather at Elkins City Hall Wednesday as Elkins Mayor Van Broughton signs a proclamation designating January as National Stalking Awareness Month. Front row, from left, are Michael Parker, Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney; Broughton; and Tekoa Jones, Women’s Aid in Crisis prevention educator. Back row, from left, are R.W. Belt, Elkins Police Department 1st Sgt.; Margot Evick, Tucker-Randolph Child Advocacy Center executive director; Debbie Stalnaker Riddlebarger, WAIC shelter manager; Anita Lockett, Jean Poling and Renee Yokum, WAIC representatives; and Tammie Rizzio, Youth Health Services, Inc., executive co-director.

ELKINS — January marks the 15th National Stalking Awareness Month, an annual call to action to recognize and respond to the serious crime of stalking.

It is critical to raise the issue of stalking as its own form of gender-based violence as well as a crime that frequently predicts and co-occurs with physical and sexual assault.

Stalking impacts over one in six women and one in 17 men in the United States, yet, despite the prevalence and impacts, many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its danger and urgency.

Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear.

Many stalking victims experience being followed, approached, monitored and/or threatened — including through various forms of technology.

Victims and survivors often suffer anxiety, social dysfunction and severe depression as a result of their victimization, and may lose time from work and/or move.

Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right as well as a predictor of potentially lethal violence: in 85 percent of cases where an intimate partner (i.e. husband or boyfriend) attempted to murder his female partner, stalking preceded the attack.

Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the United States Territories and the District of Columbia, but can be difficult to recognize and prosecute in a system designed to respond to singular incidents rather than the series of acts that constitutes stalking.

National Stalking Awareness Month’s theme — “Stalking: Know it. Name it. Stop it.” — is a call to action for everyone in Randolph County and across the country. While police and victim-serving professionals are critical, the reality is the vast majority of the victims tell friends or family about the stalking first.

Women’s Aid in Crisis is available to provide community education on stalking, direct services that include civil legal, shelter crisis intervention and emotional support, and information to victims of stalking.

For more information, contact WAIC at 304-636-8433.