|President Barack Obama has designated January as National Stalking Awareness Month in an effort to bring attention to the seriousness of the issue.
“In our schools and in our neighborhoods, at home and in workplaces across our nation, stalking endangers the physical and emotional well being of millions of American men and women ever year,” Obama said, during a December proclamation ceremony.
Too often, stalking goes unreported and unaddressed, he said.
“We must take action against this unacceptable abuse,” he said. “This month, we stand with all those who have been affected by stalking and strengthen our resolve to prevent this crime before it occurs.”
The U.S. Department of Justice defines stalking as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear for his or her safety of someone close, such as a family member.
Stalking is also one of the four crimes addressed in the Violence Against Women Act, which is currently awaiting reauthorization in the U.S. Congress.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released a report analyzing data regarding stalking.
According to the report, nearly one in six women has experienced stalking “so severe that she felt very fearful or believed that she or someone close to her would be harmed or killed.” In addition, one in 19 men has also experienced the same level of stalking.
However, women are still more likely to be stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
“Stalking is also frequently a precursor to much more serious, and sometimes lethal, acts,” said Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women. “In fact, 76 percent of female intimate partner murder victims had been stalked by their partners prior to their death.”
She said despite the fact that millions are victimized each year, stalking remains a widely misunderstood and hidden crime, which tends to go unreported.
“During this month and through the year ahead,” Carbon said, “we are committed to spreading the word that stalking will not be tolerated.”