Stalking Facts For Students
Stalking is a crime that is occurring on college campuses at an alarming rate. It is a crime that happens to men and women of all races, religions, ages, and sexual orientations. It is a crime that affects every aspect of a victim's life.
Stalking often begins with phone calls and letters and sometimes ends in violence. It is important for both women and men to have information in order to protect themselves against this crime.
- One out of 20 adults will be stalked in their lifetime.
- One-third of women in domestic violence shelters are victims of stalking.
- If stalking is occurring on-campus, call University Police at (814) 863-1111 or 911.
- If stalking is occurring off-campus, call State College Police at (814) 234-7150 or 911.
- Save gifts unused.
- Save letters.
- Date and store answering machine tapes. [do not delete voicemails]
- Document any visit or conversation with the stalker, including the date, the time, any witnesses, and how it made you feel.
Source: National Victim Center, 1995
What is Stalking?
According to Pennsylvania law, stalking is defined as: "engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person without proper authority, under circumstances which demonstrate either of the following: an intent to place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury, or an intent to cause substantial emotional distress to the person." Course of conduct is defined as "a pattern of actions composed of more than one act over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of conduct."
Stalking is a first degree misdemeanor for the first offense. A second or subsequent stalking conviction is graded as a third degree felony. Penalties range from imprisonment for up to five years and a maximum of $10,000 in fines for a first degree misdemeanor to imprisonment for up to seven years and fines up to $15,000 for a third degree felony conviction. The victim may also sue the stalker for damages through a civil lawsuit.
Profile of a Stalker
A stalker could be a man or a woman of any race or sexual orientation - but most tend to be men who have been rejected by women. Therefore, "stalker" will be referred to with the male pronoun. Some are upset by the end of a relationship and others develop an intense devotion to a stranger with only a glimpse of that person. Usually, the stalker gathers information about his target and seeks contact through letters, phone calls, gifts, and visits. A stalker may also badger friends and relatives of the victim for information about her. Some break into homes, read mail, and can become violent.
What to Do if You Are Being Stalked
Remember, you neither wanted nor deserved to be stalked. You are the victim not the criminal. Suggestions of what to do if you are stalked are listed below. Every situation is different, so there are no set guidelines. Use your own judgment as to what action to take.
Take swift action: notify the authorities as soon as possible.
Help is available through the legal system. The Penn State Victim Resource Office can provide information about legal options. They are located in the Eisenhower Parking Deck or can be reached at 865-1864.
Notify the Police immediately.
If the stalker is a student, you can file a complaint with the Office of Student Conduct.
Options include an administrative directive - a directive enforceable by the University in order to insure that a student will not have contact with another student.
Write down what you know.
Use the Documentation PDF to help you record basic identifying information (e.g., license plate number, make of car, personal appearance).
Keep your distance.
Do not agree to meet the stalker for any reason. The victim should tell the stalker that she is not interested. Do not try to "talk sense" into the stalker or plead with him. The victim should not come to the aid of the stalker if he fakes a crisis in order to make her feel guilty. He needs psychological help and the victim cannot provide that.
The Office of Residence Life can offer several helpful alternatives depending on the individual situation. Some options include emergency room switches and removing your name from public areas in the building.
You can obtain a "Call Block" which allows a person to block calls from up to six numbers listed with the phone company. The phone will not ring and the caller will simply hear a message that you are not accepting calls from that number. The telephone company also has several other services which can be of help to stalking victims. Contact your local service provider for more information.
If you are receiving harassing messages over e-mail you have several options. Save the letters on your computer and then print off a copy with the header information included. If the letters are being sent by another Penn State student you may report it to Computer Accounts at (814) 865-4772. They will send a letter of warning to the person who can lose his computer account if he continues to harass you. If the mail is being sent from off-campus, contact the Post Master at the site it is coming from or Police Services.
You may need emotional support to help you handle the stress of the situation. Contact the Counseling and Psychological Services, 501 Student Health Center, (814) 863-0395, for an appointment.