Crisis Center Holds Stalker Awareness Month

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Grand Island, NE-- According to the Grand Island Crisis Center, there were 328 stalking calls to police in Hall County in 2013. But that number is probably much lower than it should be.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to bring to light a crime that is often not reported.

The Crisis Center says three out of four stalking victims know their offender and don't want to report it as stalking, that's why the numbers are so low.

However 3.4 million people are stalked every year in the United States.

Officials say just following someone around is no longer the top way people are stalked.

"The type of stalking that is happening most often that isn't necessarily being reported is through technology, where there's someone doing far too many texts or phone calls or checking of another person's messages that are being received on their phone or their e-mail," said Lex Ann Roach, the Executive Director of the Grand Island Crisis Center.

"But something that continues to happen, and has been happening for a long time is just the watching. Either going by a person's home or a person's workplace."

Social media is another tool stalkers use to victimize others.

Lex Ann Roach said the rise in technology hasn't increased the numbers of stalking, it's just given offenders new tools.

A local woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she was stalked by a former co-worker after she reluctantly went on a date with him.

"Then he'd start calling 20 times a day. If I didn't answer it would be one after another and multiple messages and then he'd start driving by my apartment constantly and after a while it started to creep me out," said the victim.

It got so bad she had to go through severe measures just to sleep.

She said, "I had a hope chest that was heavy oak and I started pushing it up against the door with the chain lock and it got to the point where I started sleeping with a knife underneath my mattress."

The Crisis Center said there are ways you can avoid becoming a victim.

Roach said, "You always have a right to privacy, you always have a right to say this is crossing a line, that I'm not comfortable with in a relationship and that immediately indicates an unhealthy relationship if the other person is knowingly crossing the line that you've established."

With technology giving stalkers a new tool to harass their victims, there's more way it can turn into a potentially deadly situation.

"Someone is trying to exert a little too much control and power over another person and it can be very telling of other troubling things to come," said Roach.

The woman who was victimized says 12 years later it still affects her.

"I do have a little paranoia. I still am very careful about men and who I choose. It's pretty bad that I do a background check on the sexual registry of who I date. It's just they way I am," she said.

Although she joined the many victims who don't report the crime, she has advise for anyone who goes through it.

She said, "Definitely speaking up right away is the best thing. If you have an issue with a stalker or anybody, you should say something right away. Even if it's to that person. If you get the help right away, you're going to be able to get that person off the street."

For more details on stalking, click the link below to the Stalking Awareness Month website.