Stalking can wreak havoc on the lives of victims, but there is a way out

The Center for Family Justice's headquarters is located at 753 Fairfield Ave. in Bridgeport.

Editor’s Note: Debra A. Greenwood is president and CEO of The Center for Family Justice, a nonprofit organization assisting victims and survivors of domestic violence, child and sexual abuse. The center serves the communities of Monroe, Trumbull, Easton, Stratford, Fairfield and Bridgeport.

A gift left on a person’s front porch or a voicemail left on someone’s phone may appear harmless, but to a victim of stalking, both of these scenarios can trigger an overwhelming amount of fear and anxiety.

During the month of January – Stalking Awareness Month – we are informing both men and women about the dangers of this serious crime and what you can do if you think are you being stalked.

Stalking can happen at one’s home, on a college campus or at the workplace.

Statistics show that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experience stalking at some point.

At The Center for Family Justice, we help those dealing with this sort of constant harassment. Unfortunately, stalking has far-reaching impacts, both physical and mental, for the person on the receiving end of these destructive behaviors.

What is stalking?

The act of stalking – defined by state law – occurs when someone, “… recklessly causes another person to reasonably fear for his/her physical safety by willfully and repeatedly following or lying in wait for such other person.”

These individuals have reported having packages left for them, threatening notes, texts and voicemails. Victims are left to feel constantly on edge — always looking over their shoulders.

Impacts of stalking

According to the Stalking Prevention Awareness Resource Center, 1 out of 7 stalking victims move as a result, while 1 in 8 actually lose time from work.

When compared to the general population, stalking victims have higher rates of depression, anxiety and insomnia, according to SPARC.

Left unchecked, these behaviors can escalate to a perpetrator hurting, or even killing, the victim. SPARC reports a staggering 76 percent of intimate partner femicides were preceded by stalking in the previous year.

It’s extremely important for someone who is being stalked to report what is happening and to get help. Our advocates will help their clients come up with safety plans and encourage them to keep a stalking incident log.

These records can be logged by local police.

How CJF can help

We once had a client come to us, a mother of an infant, who fled from another state due to her significant other’s abuse and threats. He followed her to Connecticut, going to the homes of her relatives leaving packages on their doorsteps.

The threats continued. One of our advocates helped the client work on a safety plan and also helped her with filling out a stalking incident log, which she was able to file with the police. That woman has since moved to another state.

Our campus advocates are also ready to help any students who think they are in this situation. Stalking isn’t just a crime; it is a violation of the student code of conduct and Title IX.

Our campus advocates hold office hours at the University of Bridgeport, Fairfield University, Housatonic Community College and Sacred Heart University. Students can also message them on Instagram @cfjcampusadvocacy.

We would advise anyone who is being stalked or thinks they are being stalked to reach out to our advocates by calling 203-334-6154.

The first step is getting help and finding support.

No one should have to go through this alone.

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