Monday, 23 January 2023 15:50

OCO’s SAF Program Promotes Stalking Awareness Month Campaign

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Above from left are SAF Specialist Sage Chase, Victim Advocate Katelyn Davidson, and SAF Program Manager of Quality and Education Sara Carmichael. Above from left are SAF Specialist Sage Chase, Victim Advocate Katelyn Davidson, and SAF Program Manager of Quality and Education Sara Carmichael. Submitted photo

January 2023 marks the nineteenth annual National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM), an annual call to action to recognize and respond to this prevalent, traumatic, and dangerous crime.

Stalking is a dangerous and devastating victimization and often intersects with physical violence, sexual violence, and homicide. Yet, too often, stalking is trivialized, minimized, and goes unrecognized and unaddressed.

Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear or emotional distress. As fear is highly personal, so is stalking; stalkers often engage in behaviors that seem benign to outsiders but are terrifying in context. For example, receiving a surprise flower delivery is generally a welcome experience, but when a victim has quietly relocated to escape a stalker, that flower delivery can be a terrifying and threatening message that the offender has found them. Stalkers often follow, monitor, and wait for their victims, as well as leave them unwanted gifts, spread rumors about them, and repeatedly call, text, and message them. Most stalking victims experience both in-person and technology-facilitated stalking. Some of the most common behaviors are making unwanted calls and messages, spreading rumors, following, and spying. Most stalkers use multiple strategies to scare and intimidate victims.

Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) Services to Aid Families (SAF) program has been serving victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking for over 40 years. Last year, SAF served more than 600 victims and survivors and answered more than 6,000 calls on its Crisis Hotline from those individuals. “The National Stalking Awareness Month theme of ‘Know It, Name It, Stop It’ is a call to action for everyone in our community,” said SAF Client Services Coordinator Stacie France. “Most victims tell friends or family about their situation first, and how we respond influences whether they seek further help or not.”

According to the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC), stalking impacts nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in the United States. Despite its high prevalence and impact, many victims, families, service providers, criminal and civil justice professionals, and the general public underestimate its danger and urgency. “Stalkers are often presented in the media as attractive strangers or secret admirers with good intentions,” said France. “In reality, stalkers are usually known to the victim, intend to cause fear, and are likely to become threatening and/or violent. Stalking can impact every aspect of a survivor’s life. Survivors can suffer from anxiety, depression, and many lose time from work or have to relocate.”

SAF will be posting information and material on social media during the month of January to promote awareness and educate the public on stalking. Community members are encouraged to follow SAF on Facebook and Instagram and share this information to help raise awareness and show their support for survivors. Community members who want to assist survivors can also donate pre-paid minute cards or pre-paid cell phones to the SAF program. “Some victims and survivors we serve may not have access to a phone or it may not be safe for them to use their phone because it is being monitored or tracked” said France. “These donations are incredibly generous and very much appreciated by the survivors we serve, and can have a positive impact on their safety.”

If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking, please call our Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and is free and confidential. Individuals looking to donate to the SAF program should also contact us through the Crisis Hotline. SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for more than 40 years.

OCO, Inc. is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. OCO helps lift people out of poverty through more than 50 human service programs that serve over 15,000 people each year. For more information, visit www.oco.org.

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