Drawing the LINE

Photo illustration by Jenny Rohl/The NewsPhoto illustration by Jenny Rohl/The News

As college-aged people remain the most common victims of stalking, the nation, Kentucky and Murray State seek ways to end it.

Story by Mikayla Marshall, Staff writer

Photo illustration by Jenny Rohl/The News

Photo illustration by Jenny Rohl/The News

January is National Stalking Awareness Month and this January marks the implementation of House Bill 8 of Kentucky Legislature, which provides protection for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Murray State’s Women’s Center has taken action toward raising awareness pertaining to stalking and sexual assault.

Their use of social media has spread information about the dangers of potential stalkers and steps to reporting stalking. According to the Murray State crime log, the last reported case of stalking on Murray’s campus was back in November during the Fall 2015 term. There have been no reports of stalking in the spring term, but the same can’t be said for sexual assaults.

House Bill 8 states that new sections allow persons to petition for interpersonal protective orders when the person has been the victim of domestic violence and abuse, dating violence and abuse, sexual assault and stalking.

The bill was introduced after Kentucky was found to have the largest number of stalking victims in the nation. Before this law, only married couples, cohabitants and individuals with a child in common could gain emergency protection orders. This bill was designed to help all victims, including minors, in their search for protection against their attackers.

“Stalking is a crime that has significant impacts on those who experience it, yet it is not as often talked about as other crimes,” said Abigail French, Director of the Women’s Center. “Many people do not know what to do if they believe they are being stalked and often discount or downplay stalking behavior when they do experience it.”

She said it’s important to educate students, so they know what resources are available to them.  Of women, 13 percent will report experiences regarding stalking while at college. Most of these will occur between individuals who were or are dating, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.

“I think stalking can be an issue on college campuses, but Murray does a pretty good job with safety,” said Elizabeth Cribbs, junior from Carmi, Illinois, “The campus is well lit and Racer Patrol is right there.”

The campus also has emergency posts located every few yards.

The Women’s Center is also working with the Residential Directors to arrange programs in the residential colleges to share information and steps to take if one believes they are being stalked.

French said the center saw an increase in activity on social media pages as people viewed the information shared regularly. The residential college programs will be held in February.

Free and confidential services are provided for anyone who needs information regarding stalking. They help individuals develop safety plans, answer questions about legal system procedures and initiate the process for filing a petition for a protective order.

“I experienced stalking in high school, but never in college,” said Taylor Rogier,  freshman from Highland, Illinois. “I can only imagine it gets worse.”

She said that even though Murray State is a small school compared to the larger universities, it still has the capability to have these incidents. Stalking can often lead to more unwanted attention by the predator, it is in the victim’s best interest to seek help immediately.