Putting a Spotlight on Dating Violence, Stalking

Illustration of a stop sign with the word Abuse on it.

A Victimology class at Sam Houston State University developed brochures to help fellow students learn about stalking and dating violence. The brochures will be distributed through the University’s counseling center.

“College students are at a comparatively higher risk for being victims of stalking and intimate partner violence,” said Dr. Kate Fox, a professor in the College of Criminal Justice. “It can be difficult to recognize the signs of stalking and dating violence, and many students are unsure about what to do if they are victims. We hope these brochures will make it easier for students to learn about their options and get help if they or their friends become involved in an abusive relationship or stalked.”

The brochures were part of a Masters’ class project in “Controversies in Victimology” during the Fall semester. The eight students in the class wanted to raise public awareness among college students about these important issues and thought a brochure might help.

“We were grateful that Dr. Fox and her students were willing to help bring attention to such important issues,” said Dr. Andrew Miller, Executive Director of the Counseling and Health Services Area at Sam Houston State University. “Both dating violence and stalking can be so subtle in their earlier phases that many people don't realize they're in a difficult situation until it's too late. This is particularly true on college campuses where you have a large population of individuals who might not have a lot of dating and relationship experience to begin with. Any information to get them thinking about the health of their relationships is critical.”

Dating violence is physical, sexual and or emotional or verbal abuse by a partner in a dating relationship. It could include physical violence, such as punches, slaps, shoves, kicks or hits; sexual violence, such as forced sexual act; emotional/verbal abuse, such as name calling; accusations of lying; excessive texts/calls; or spreading rumors. It may cause short term or long term effects for the victims.

Some of the signs of dating violence include control, dependence, dishonesty, disrespect, hostility and intimidation. The brochures offer suggestion for victims, including contacting someone who can assist, creating a safety plan and preparing to leave an abuser. It also provides resources for victims to contact for assistance. “It may not seem serious until it happens to you,” the brochures stress.

Stalking is repetitive, unwanted, harassing, frightening or threatening behavior. It can include watching or following; sending unwanted gifts; showing up in places where the victim is; calling, texting or posting unwanted messages online; damaging property; or threatening the victim or their family. It also can include cyberstalking, which uses the internet, text messages Facebook or other electronic means to stalk or harass. It too can have short or long-term consequences.

According to “Stalking in Texas,” a report generated by the Crime Victims’ Institute at Sam Houston State University, it has been estimated that one in 12 women and one in 45 men in this country will be stalked at least once in their lifetimes. Based on a survey of Texas residents, more than 18 percent said they have experienced stalking behaviors over the last two years. Stalking is now a crime in every state in the country.

The brochures provides tips to protect yourself from stalkers, including staying alert, changing your routine, keeping your information safe, not sharing personnel information and not posting personal information online. For victims, it provides information on how to report and document harassment and resources on where to go for help.

According to the brochure, if you are being stalked, you should file a police report; keep letters, e-mails, texts, online posts, messages, call logs and gifts; write a diary with dates, times and methods of contacts; get a protective order and tell friends and family.

Member of The Texas State University System