Know It. Name It. Stop It.March 07, 2011
It is amazing the level of terror that one can inflict on another. But I didn’t want my only identity to be a victim; I don’t just want to be that “girl.” When I was younger, I didn’t know [about stalking]; I couldn’t name it and couldn’t stop it. But now, I have stopped living my life as a victim and started living my life.
— Stalking survivor
Sitting in our campus ballroom, surrounded by University of California, Irvine, staff and students, AAUW members, and community members, I listened intently to these emotional words spoken by a stalking survivor.
As a student at UC Irvine, I hear the word stalking thrown around loosely. People use the term without thinking about what it is or means. Stalking is a crime faced by more than 32 million Americans annually, and it is most likely to occur among youth 14–22 years old, which is my age group. Knowing that the students around me are at a higher risk of becoming victims of stalking, it is important that we arm them with knowledge and resources about how to better maintain a safe environment for ourselves and our friends.
With stalking taking place at such a high rate among college students, it was a priority for UC Irvine to define and address the idea of stalking on our campus. The Campus Assault Resources and Education office and its peer-education groups Right to Know and Challenging All Men to Prevent Sexism hosted a stalking awareness walk-through display and a talk during the month of January. They were both funded through an AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Campus Outreach Grant and the Gloria Weston Campus Outreach Fund.
Both events featured wall displays that provided photos of different types of stalking behaviors along with resources available to victims. With students hurrying to classes, the photos on the display boards left a lasting impression on even the fastest-moving passerby. Sometimes the definition of stalking is minimized in student language, but with the display boards, our photos educated the public on different forms of stalking through the process of showing rather than telling.
At the anti-stalking talk, the UC Irvine community listened to Chancellor Michael Drake articulate his dedication to creating an environment of safety for students on campus. We learned about street harassment and AAUW’s work to address stalking from LAF Program Manager Holly Kearl, the author of Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Spaces Safe and Welcoming for Women. And after we listened to the testimony of a survivor, the audience no longer saw stalking as just a statistic.
Hearing from a survivor, I realized how crucial our project was in providing help to even just one student so that they could once again live their lives free from fear or harassment. The survivor concluded her talk by saying, “You don’t have to change the world, just change the place that you are in.” This survivor is an inspiration to me. Because of stories like hers, I will continue to engage and educate my peers with the dream that someday I will be defining stalking as a behavior that became known, was named, and has now been stopped.
This post was written by University of California, Irvine, student Carly Lanning.