Throughout the year, U Care, Inc. works to keep victims of domestic violence safe from harm and intimidation tactics. Stalking is one of them.
Executive Director Pamela Gonzalez knows firsthand about the trauma that effects 7.5 million people throughout the United States.
“Stalking is one of the offenses that abusers commit, but has the least charges,” Gonzalez said while reflecting on her experiences. “My abuser stalked me. He would sit across from the house and watch our son in the yard playing. I would call the cops and they say ‘you can’t do anything.’”
To help educate the public about the dangerous situation, U Care is spreading awareness about the dangerous matter through National Stalking Awareness Month. They are currently doing so via social media outlets such as Facebook. The organization is also encouraging everyone to visit www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org, which was developed by the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Data shows that many victims of murders or domestic violence were also victims of stalking. The majority of victims are stalked by someone they know and about half of all victims indicated that they were stalked before 25. Fourteen percent of female victims and 16 percent of male victims experienced stalking between the ages 11 and 17. When Gonzalez began working at U Care it didn’t stop for her. Her abuser would drive by the domestic violence shelter on College Street, which is a public road.
“As they become a more skilled abuser, each time they’re arrested, they learn a little bit more about what to do, to not get arrested. They’ll be just below the law.”
In the past, Gonzalez said committing stalking came with just a slap on the wrist, but over the year it’s been taking more seriously with criminal charges.
Elwood McPhail, community educator for U Care, Inc. said steps are taking to help victims at the shelter. It’s something he’s often encountered when trying to help.
“The stalking is all part of that dynamic,” he said about the mindset of the abuser. “It’s all about power and control, ‘you can’t hide from me and no matter what you do, you’re going to be with me.’”
Stalking goes beyond the home and abusers may pop up a locations such as stores to add stress to the situation. To combat stalking, McPhail encourages victims to document occurrence and not go off memory, for court and law purposes.
“If I go to court, I have the proof,” McPhail said about the mindset a victim should have.
McPhail also advises to let neighbors know about the issue as a backup and to another view from someone outside of the previous relationship.
“If I’m in the house and he calling and saying these things, then I’m going to get someone to listen to what he’s saying so it’s just not my word against his word,” McPhail said. “It’s me and my witness who heard every word he said.
“You got to prepare yourself because it’s their job to prove him guilty,” McPhail said. “All he has to go to court and deny it all.”
When it comes to technology, McPhail also made a suggestion for victims to purchase a new TracFone, which may help the victim to have less contact with the abuser. Gonzalez also brought up matters with teenagers and social media apps, which allows them to locate a boyfriend or girlfriend.
“They’re just kids. It’s cute and it’s alright now, but they get the mentality in their heads that it’s OK,” Gonzalez said.
Down the road, Gonzalez and McPhail believe it may become a problem during breakups or when they become adults, if not used properly.
Gov. Pat McCrory recently signed a proclamation declaring January as Stalking Awareness Month in North Carolina during a ceremony at the Executive Mansion. He was joined by representatives of the North Carolina Council for Women, public safety officials and other stalking awareness advocates. According to his office, he is the first governor in the nation o the sign the proclamation and join a national effort to raise awareness of the dangers.
The proclamation is one step taken by McCrory to stop the problem. One of the actions include expanding the cyberstalking statute to include using a GPS device to track or determine the position and movement of another person. McCrory also secured $1.6 million in the latest budget for HERO grants to promote hiring veterans to use technology and data analysis to find and rescue children at risk of exploitation, an issue connected with stalking.
“Protecting the safety and security of all our citizens is a top priority of our administration,” McCrory said in a news release. “While we have made great progress to address stalking, we need to continue working together in our communities and on the state level to raise awareness and combat this serious issue.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.