Story by Alicia Steele, Assistant News Editor
January is National Stalking Awareness Month and the office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) has planned three events to inform the campus community of the national campaign.
Darryl Lockett, deputy Title IX coordinator and investigator, said the National Center for Victims of Crime launched National Stalking Awareness month in January 2004 to increase public understanding of the crime of stalking.
“This year the office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Access really wanted to take the issue of stalking by its horns and engage in more interactive programming that would really afford the office the opportunity to more effectively engage with Murray State students,” Lockett said.
Lockett came up with the idea to hold a “Stocking Awareness Series,” including stalking and cyberstalking. However, Camisha Duffy, executive director of IDEA, asked him to also encompass a third program focused on cyber safety and personal branding.
“Each year 7.5 million people are stalked and, among other things, about 50 percent of all stalking victims reported being stalked before the age of 25,” Lockett said. “When juxtaposed against the backdrop of a college campus replete with thousands of 18 to 25 year olds, the reality of the seriousness of stalking becomes even more resolute and sobering.”
Lockett said most stalking victims are stalked by a previous acquaintance or intimate partner. Although reported incidents at Murray State are low, he said he believes students and the community should still be aware that anyone can become a victim of stalking.
According to the 2015 Murray State Annual Security Report (ASR), four reports of stalking were filed on campus in 2013, five reports were filed on campus in 2014 and seven reports were filed on campus in 2015.
James Herring, Chief of Police for Murray State’s Public Safety and Emergency Management, said only one report was filed on campus in 2016 that met the definition of stalking under the Clery Act and Kentucky Law.
He said in order for a report of stalking to be considered a crime it must meet “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”
Stalking in the first degree, stalking in the second degree, menacing, terroristic threatening in the third degree and harassing communication could all meet the definition of stalking under the Kentucky Revised Statutes.
Herring said Public Safety’s response to reports of stalking vary depending on the relationship between the suspect and victim, location and the nature of the stalking.
“In some cases we contact the suspect and tell them to stop or face criminal charges,” Herring said. “We can also assist the victim in obtaining a Protective Order or university no contact order.”
He said if the act constitutes as a crime Public Safety can also help obtain an arrest warrant for the suspect.
“The most important thing for students to remember is that they can contact the Murray State Police to get guidance and assistance when stalking occurs,” Herring said. “We can work with them to find a solution that is best for them.”
He said if a victim doesn’t feel comfortable coming to the police, they can report the crime to any Campus Security Authority; a full list can be found on Murray State’s website.
This list includes, but is not limited to, President Davies, the provost and assistant provost, any dean or assistant dean, all Murray State Police employees and any other Murray State personnel.
In an effort to raise awareness of stalking on campus, the IDEA office planned three events to be held in the month of January.
- Tuesday, Jan. 18: Talking About Stalking at 7 p.m. in Elizabeth Residential College.
- Tuesday, Jan. 24: Talking About Cyberstalking at 7 p.m. in Elizabeth Residential College.
- Thursday, Jan. 26: Staying Safe in Cyberspace at 7 p.m. in Elizabeth Residential College.