Jacksonville Stalking Experts: Be Careful Online, 'Trust Your Gut'
Stalking is a crime is all 50 states, and this month is National Stalking Awareness Month.
Florida State College at Jacksonville helped spread awareness Thursday morning with a panel discussion of anti-stalking advocates.
Graber works with the rape recovery team at the Women’s Center. He says stalking can take many forms.
“It can be them showing up at certain places, following you in the car, but it can also be sending you Facebook messages, creating multiple profiles to friend you if you block them,” he says.
He says it’s important for people to recognize when another person’s advances make them uncomfortable or scared and ask for help. Often, he says, people don't get help because they’re not being physically abused.
Panelist Roisin Kanupp gave the example of a stalker leaving a single yellow rose on the victim’s car. She says, to others, it might look sweet, but it sends a very different message to the victim.
FSCJ Security Sergeant Jesse Gines sat in on the the discussion. He says it’s key for victims to file reports documenting every incident, even if an arrest isn’t being made.
“They should keep a report so that in the future if something does happen, they have a track record of what’s been going on,” he says. “Everybody wants evidence.”
And panelists agreed, saying documentation may be required for an injunction against the stalker.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, most stalkers know their victims. Psychotherapist Linda Wilson says it’s an act of control, and the obsessive stalking behavior might gradually appear.
FSCJ student Bailey Reno says she experienced just that when trying to end a relationship.
“He made me feel worthless, so that caused me to stay with him, and it was a very manipulative situation,” she says. “Tons of phone calls. I’d wake up with 30 voicemails, 50 phone calls, 20 text messages.”
Graber with the Women’s Center says these days, stalkers are using new technology to follow their victims. He says his group's seen an increase in technology-aided harassment.
“Some of the easiest ways that people get access to it that people don’t think of is they will look up their account and just log in to their Verizon or AT&T, and they can see when you were texting and the number you were texting,” he says.
“But also, if they have ever had access to the phone, they can install malware or spyware, and that shows them every text. They can listen to every phone call, they can delete texts on the phone, they can delete phone messages," he says.
Graber says people should be aware of their privacy settings and whether they’re sharing their location on social media. He says often it’s up to the user to put those barriers in place.
Panelists said when a victim reaches out to an organization like Hubbard House, they can get as little or as much help as they need for free.
The panelists agree: If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and report it.