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Courtesy of Laura L. Rogers, Principal Deputy Director, Office on Violence Against Women

Stalking is one of the four pillars of the Violence Against Women Act, the law that created the Office on Violence Against Women and has led to more than $9 billion in federal funding dedicated to the fight against domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

January is Stalking Awareness Month to raise awareness about the crime of stalking. We have long known that many sexual assaults don’t just spontaneously occur when the sexual assault happens --but rather stalking of the victim by the offender is a frequent precursor of the sexual assault. It is vital for every person to know the myriad ways a person can be stalked (e.g. phone calls, e-mails, social media, following victims to work/school/home, unwanted gifts, spreading rumors or posting information), recognize the numerous signs of stalking, and the importance of the value of taking action to prevent stalking and ultimately a possible sexual assault.

When a victim of stalking turns their intuition into action, law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts have the necessary tools to intervene. Stalking laws are in place and our criminal justice system is designed to give stalking victims a voice. When a victim feels afraid of the behavior of a stalker, the interaction becomes a crime. Fear by the victim is one of the key legal elements of stalking.  The ability to successfully prosecute a stalking case may prevent future sexual assaults either through incarceration or issuance of a protective or stay away order against the offender.

Friends and family can support victims who are being stalked. Please take some time to become aware of this issue and please widely share the information that is available so that we can keep people safe from domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

Also, I want to share a podcast episode we recorded on stalking. In this episode, I discuss how I was stalked as a young professional, and I share information about how OVW works to help law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and victim advocates in their efforts to prevent violent crime. I hope you find the podcast helpful.

If we work together, we can put a stop to stalking and help reduce sexual assault and other violent crimes.

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