“I cannot believe the difference in my life over the past six months. I was so scared and so hurt-in every way. When my sister first helped me, I couldn’t even see what was going on in my life. Now, I love the direction of my life and my sons’.”
Kelly is a single parent of two young boys, one of whom she shares with an abusive ex-boyfriend, Connor. Throughout their relationship, Kelly endured severe physical and emotional abuse by Connor, including verbal degradation, threats to take their child, hitting and strangulation. When she ended the relationship, he found new ways to abuse her through stalking and death threats. He took every opportunity to harass her when he saw her in the grocery stores. He made scenes at her work place, left notes on her car, and made threatening posts on her Facebook page. In one Facebook message, he sent her a picture of him smiling while holding rope and duct tape. After seeing the photo, Kelly filed for a temporary restraining order, and although it was granted, Connor’s violent behavior persisted. Eventually, Kelly’s sister, who had witnessed the abuse on multiple occasions, encouraged her to seek assistance from Turning Points Network (TPN).
An advocate from TPN met with Kelly in court on the day of the hearing for the permanent restraining order. The advocate explained to Kelly and her family members who had come to support her about the court hearing process and what to expect. The order was granted, but Kelly was still afraid of what Connor would do in retaliation, especially given the fact that they shared a child in common. Aware of the increased risk of lethality due to the combination of physical abuse and stalking, TPN worked with her to create a safety plan in preparation for violations of the protective order and helped her through the process of getting a Parenting Plan issued.
Today, Kelly’s permanent order is still in effect and has primary decision making over her son with Connor, who has supervised visitations every other Sunday. Connor violated the order a month after the hearing, making threats to take their son away from her once the protection order expires. Kelly, at TPN’s advice, reported it to the police. The police didn’t arrest him, but they did issue him a warning and Kelly has not heard from him since. With the help of TPN and her family’s support, Kelly summoned the courage and determination to take back control of her life and give her sons the safe and healthy family environment she wanted for them.
January marks the 15th National Stalking Awareness Month, an annual call to action to recognize, educate, and respond to the serious crime of stalking.
Stalking, described as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear, is widespread and affects the lives of 6.6 million Americans each year, yet, the crime is often overlooked and trivialized. The reality is that stalking is a very serious offense, which often results in physical violence, psychological trauma, and even murder (Stalking Resource Center 2012).
“1 in 7 Teens is a stalking victim”
Stalking is not a one-dimensional crime. With the availability of technology and rising use of social media, we can easily, and quickly, connect with other people. However, typical activities such as posting a Facebook status, uploading a photo to Instagram, or using a phone’s GPS to find local amenities can all be misused by abusers to stalk, control, surveil, and abuse victims. For young adults, it is especially important to know the signs, and for parents to be informed and aware of the behaviors that can constitute stalking and evolve to more serious crimes. Repeat phone calls, text messages, or social media posts, leaving notes in a locker, showing up before and after class, at your teen’s place of work, or any other behaviors that can seem scary and frustrating, are serious issues that need to be addressed.
DID YOU KNOW? (Courtesy of www.stalkingawareness.org)
• The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know. Many victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner, or by an acquaintance.
• 74% of those stalked by a former intimate partner reported violence and/or coercive control during the relationship.
• The average length of partner stalking is approximately 2.2 years (which is longer than the average of just over one year for non-intimate partner cases.)
• 31% of women stalked by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted.
• 46% of victims experienced one or more violent incidents by their stalker.
• 57% of stalking victims were stalked during the relationship
If you or someone you know suspects stalking, it is vital to trust your instincts and reach out for help. If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911. Take every threat seriously, record all contact the stalker makes with you, and do not respond to their communication attempts. Consider reaching out to a trained TPN advocate for help creating a safety plan or with filing a stalking petition. Stalking, in any form, is not okay.
For more information or help with stalking, you can contact Turning Points Network 24 hours a day.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-373-7888
Stalking Information: http://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/stalking-resource-center/help-for-victims