Stalking incidents and how to handle them
By Lauren Perry, PerryL2@Findlay.edu
Students at the University of Findlay may want to be aware of the recent trends in stalking incidents on their college campus.
UF released the Clery Act Report for 2023 that includes detailed information regarding security and safety on campus. According to the report, in 2022, there were a total of five on campus stalking offenses; on top of that, there were also four recorded in 2021 and seven incidents in 2020. The Stalking Prevention, Awareness and Resource Center (SPARC) stated on their website that stalking is not only a violation of student conduct codes and Title IX, but it is also a crime in all 50 states.
New professor in Criminal Justice Paul Pape is a former FBI agent and state trooper. He was not shocked when informed of the Clery Reports statistics.
“It doesn’t surprise me because stalking activities on campus, they’re more prevalent than in the general population,” Pape said. “They’re around you, around each other.”
On a college campus, especially at a smaller university, it’s not uncommon to be in contact with the same people every day, walk by them and be in a lot of the same classes. SPARC also noted that individuals 18-24 years old experience the highest rates of stalking among adults, which fits right into the college age range.
One of the difficulties of this issue is defining what stalking is on a college campus to encompass all aspects of these situations and help victims.
“I think the biggest issue would be identifying when it turns from normal, acceptable activities of dating, trying to date, trying to form a relationship, to unwanted activities that would cause someone to be fearful or have anxiety or those types of things,” Pape said. “That’s that line people cross where at some point somebody says, this is unwanted. I set these boundaries, no more.”
At UF, stalking definitions and information are listed in the Title IX policies, under the categories of sexual harassment. According to SPARC, stalking did not fall into the category of sexual harassment until August of 2020. Within these policies, stalking is defined as “engaging in a course of conduct on the bases of sex directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his/her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”
Stalking can come in many different forms. Now that social media and technology are prevalent in the lives of many, they can play a large role. Many law enforcement professionals believe that social media and technology can be huge enablers for stalking incidents.
There are precautions students can take to protect themselves from being a victim of stalking. For starters, there are places on campus that students can turn to for help, such as the counseling center, campus police, individuals who work in the Title IX department of campus, etc. SPARC also has a website victims, students or professionals at universities can use. Also, a victim always can reach out to law enforcement for help and the next steps to take.
At the University, there are trained officers who can assist stalking victims if they seek help. Two of these officers include William Spraw, chief of police and director of security, and Steven Baum, captain of police and safety. For example, if a student is seeking help, they can file a no contact order through Title IX on campus.
“We get no contact orders all the time through Title IX. They issue it to both parties involved,” Baum said. “These protection orders, however, are just effective on campus, not outside the campus.”
Spraw added that there have been civil protection orders filed through courts as well, outside of the campus that students have sought out. There are also a variety of places students can turn to when they’re ready to seek help, which can be accessed through the UF’s main website. Spraw mentioned the counseling services provides help for victims and also able to report it to the professionals there.
“There’s several ways. One is going through Title IX. We also have a silent witness [report] where they can report it to us, Title IX or the safety office through email,” Baum said. “It’s just getting them to access of utilize those resources.”
The pair agreed that the best thing a student can do is to come forward.
“Do it right away,” Baum said. “That’s the biggest thing; and that’s the biggest thing on anything, not just stalking. Anything that’s happening not right, you got to let somebody know right away.”
The resources provided by UF have seemingly been effective, according to Officers Spraw and Baum.
“Just come to us and we can advise them. Maybe you want to go with Title IX, maybe you want to go our way. So, they can explain the procedures to them,” Spraw said. “If they say they don’t want to do anything, then at least they’ll know their options.”