TOPEKA, Kan. - During the month of January, communities across the country will observe National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affects 1.4 million victims each year. The Office on Violence Against Women of the U.S. Department of Justice reports that one in 12 women and one in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime, for an average duration of almost two years.
Stalking is a serious crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Unlike other crimes, stalking is a series of acts - a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear. Victims may experience psychological trauma, financial hardship and even death.
Stalking can take many forms, from unwanted cards, calls, gifts or visits, to assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary and animal abuse. Stalkers may use a range of devices to track their victims' daily activities, and many stalkers have followed their victims from one jurisdiction to another.
Stalking has close ties to domestic and sexual violence. Nationally, 81 percent of women stalked by an intimate partner were also physically assaulted by that partner, 31 percent of women stalked by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted by that partner, and 76 percent of female homicide victims were stalked prior to their death.
"Whether stalking is committed by an intimate partner or a stranger, stalking has a devastating impact on the victim," said Sandy Barnett, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
"By learning more about stalking, communities can support victims, hold offenders accountable, and prevent future tragedies," Barnett said. The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence offers information about stalking and how to obtain a Protection from Stalking Order on its website, www.kcsdv.org.
In 2008, the Kansas Legislature amended the state's stalking statute, making it easier to charge and prosecute stalkers. The statute also recognizes stalkers who may pose the most danger by imposing an additional penalty for perpetrators who violate a protection order or have a prior conviction for stalking.
Kansas Attorney General Steve Six's Criminal Litigation and Victim Services Divisions, in partnership with the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center and the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, will be offering a series of training opportunities for law enforcement officers across the state. The training will focus on the new stalking law requirements and the dynamics involved with stalking.
"Stalking behavior is often a complex series of crimes that can occur in multiple jurisdictions. In order to protect victims of stalking, we must work together to provide a cohesive statewide response," said Dorthy Stucky Halley, director of the Victim Services Division for Attorney General Six's Office.
Law Enforcement Officer Trainings will be January 12, 13, 15, 26, 27 and 30. For more information on trainings, please contact Mark Damitio, deputy assistant director of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center at (620) 694-1400, or Dorthy Stucky Halley or Kevin Graham, assistant attorney general, at (785) 296-2215.