For some University of Oregon students, stalking is not a plot in a Netflix movie that goes away when you shut off the TV.
UO’s Title IX Annual Report for 2016 reported 44 disclosed cases of stalking for the calendar year. Oregon’s Department of Human Services reported that sexual and domestic violence programs had 106 stalking-specific calls made to their programs in Lane County in 2016.
Stalking is characterized by someone’s obsession with another person through following them or contacting them, even if the person has requested that they stop. Through the years, it has come to include social media and text messaging, often called ‘telephonic’ stalking.
Each year, the UOPD and the Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services office work with students through cases of stalking on campus.
Renae DeSautel, the interim assistant dean of students for Crisis Response and Prevention, meets with students about situations that they might not consider stalking.
“There’s a few different types of stalking,” DeSautel said. “Most people think of an unknown person who finds someone and starts stalking them. But really, oftentimes it’s an ex-partner or someone who is known to the person, and they’re receiving ongoing contact that is unwanted.”
The idea of being stalked is something that goes under the radar of many college students, but it’s more than just following a student to class and it doesn’t just happen when they’ve recently ended a relationship. It now occurs often through social media, according to DeSautel.
“Maybe they matched on Tinder and suddenly now find all of your information and start contacting you,” DeSautel said. “Maybe you sent them one message, and now they’re flooding your inbox or contacting you with other things. So it’s not always relationship based.”
At the forefront of the issue is making sure the student is safe, says Kasia Mlynski, UO staff attorney. Mlynski has worked with students to navigate their legal rights in stalking situations.
When the stalking situation is between two students, the route often taken is a mutual no contact order, according to Mlynski.
“Any student can go to the Office of Student Conduct or can work through my office or any of the advocates we have on campus to request a mutual no contact order,” said Mlynski. “It’s a two-way order that tells both people, ‘Hey, if you see the other person, you’re required to walk away.’ If you violate the university’s no contact order, then the university can sanction you under the student conduct code.”
UOPD detective Kathy Flynn has a few tips to ensure that if a student finds themselves in a stalking situation, they can remain safe — including making sure their phone is charged and walking in well-lit areas.
“We always tell people not to scare them but take threats seriously,” Flynn said. “If you’re in a situation and you feel alarmed and you try to talk yourself out of it, don’t. Trust your instincts. It’s better to overreact. It’s better to have the police come and get you somewhere safe at any time of day than to take any risk.”
Follow Erin Carey on Twitter: @elcarey