SRVSS advocates for sexual assault awareness

Cameron Hoover

January is almost over, but that’s not stopping Kent State’s Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services from trying to raise awareness of an important issue on college campuses: stalking.

In honor of Stalking Awareness Month, SRVSS has taken the opportunity to inform students of what stalking is and what their options are if they feel they’re being stalked.

“Statistically, stalking impacts about 13 percent of college students in a given year,” Director of SRVSS Jennifer O’Connell said. “That is higher than sexual assault and intimate partner violence. However, it is often minimized or overlooked because stalkers can do a good job of being creative in their way to track and learn about what someone is doing.”

To raise awareness about the subtleties and realities of stalking, interns at SRVSS made signs to place around campus. These signs contain common quotes heard from stalking cases such as, “I called you 20 times, why didn’t you pick up?” or “I left a present at your apartment. I found your address online.”

Lauren Raymond, one of the interns who helped to make the signs, said she wanted students and other passersby to see the signs and know how often the warning signs of stalking appear, even if they go unnoticed.

“This project was particularly interesting because I think a lot of people don’t notice that something someone is saying to them could be stalking,” said Raymond, a senior human development and family studies major. “There’s a difference between when a friend tells you, ‘Hey, I see you! Turn around!’ and when someone you’re not particularly fond of does it. That can become stalking.”

Raymond said she wanted to place the signs in strategic locations around campus to maximize the amount of people that would see them.

“So if people were paying attention, the signs would kind of startle you if you walked by,” Raymond said. “And if people recognized from the signs that they might have that sort of problem, we wanted to have the SRVSS information closeby so they could reach out to us.”

Support Services Coordinator for SRVSS Stephanie Orwick said she believes one of the biggest challenges in raising stalking awareness is the definition of the word “stalking” is evolving due to social media use.

“Sometimes it makes it easier to stalk,” Orwick said. “A lot of times there is information out there that wasn’t previously available. It’s no longer about the creepy guy following you in the bushes. They can follow you digitally now as well.”

Todd Kamenash, the director of student conduct, said even though there are more possibilities for stalking, the behaviors remain the same.

“I think there certainly have been some definitional changes,” Kamenash said, “but the concept has always been the same: a person attempting to exert power over another person by repeatedly doing something to annoy, harass, or intimidate that person.”

One of the main goals of the SRVSS and the Office of Student Conduct is to make clear to students, who feel like they might be being stalked, that there are resources they can utilize on campus.

“People tend to wait until things progress and escalate, and they don’t have to wait that long,” Orwick said. “We can talk over options. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want. If you just want to come talk over what your reporting options are, you choose what to do. If you’re not sure it’s stalking, come talk it out. This is a no-pressure space.”

Cameron Hoover is a general assignment reporter, contact him at [email protected]