January is National Stalking Month, as an e-mail sent out by Public Safety in the last week detailed. Many departments on Olivet’s campus are involved in promoting awareness about the issue, including Public Safety, Counseling Services, and the Department of Residential Life.
“It lets students know what it is, and it also lets them see and start to realize, ‘this could be happening to me,’” Assistant Director of Public Safety Darren Blair said..
Director of Counseling and Health Services Dr. Lisa Vander Veer, explains that the rise of social media has also given rise to new methods of stalking.
“I feel like nationally, there’s been more conversation about stalking, domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault. It is a lot easier to stalk people in different ways, and it maybe doesn’t look like how people would think of it in a movie,” Vander Veer said. It can be an especially big problem for college students, who live in a more contained environment with less access to outside support from their parents and usual support network.
As a result, it’s important for students to be carefully watching for any suspicious or discomforting behaviors.
“If someone’s noticing that someone’s always liking their stuff or always following them on different social media platforms, and there’s not really a relationship there, I think that could raise some red flags,” Vander Veer said.
If that is the case, Vander Veer said that the best thing to do is document the incidents in the event that you decide to go to Public Safety or the police with your concerns.
However, in some cases, the person doing the stalking does not realize that their behavior is unsettling to the other person.
“We do encourage them to at least have that conversation first, before it comes to us. Sometimes we’ll bring somebody in who’ll be totally shocked by it,” Dean for Residential Life at Olivet Phil Steward said.
Sometimes, that conversation will be the end of the issue. But if not, then it’s time to take action.
The Department of Residential Life also gets involved in the event of a stalking crisis, issuing a no-contact order that forbids either of the involved parties from contacting each other.
While this order is in place, Vander Veer recommends that the victim report any infractions by their stalker.
“Sometimes people don’t want to report it to Public Safety or Res Life because they don’t want to get the person in trouble. But if a boundary’s been put in place, you need to uphold that boundary,” Vander Veer said.
Steward assures students that the Department will act accordingly in these types of situations.
“We don’t want it to just continue, where the person thinks ‘oh, I can get away with it,’” Steward said.
Most importantly, school officials want students to have confidence in their on-campus support network and feel protected every step of the way.
“You make a different network of people that are supporting you and kind of looking out for you.” Blair said.
For more information on National Stalking Month, visit StalkingAwarenessMonth.org, and keep safe this semester.
Feature Photo from StalkingAwarenessMonth.org