Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Fourteen stalking incidents reported to Public Safety since Welcome Week




stalking

AU Public Safety recorded the 14th stalking incident since Welcome Week during the week of Jan. 13.

Stalking is “repeated, unwanted contact with any person, including contact by electronic means or proxy, or the credible threat of repeated contact with the intent to place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family or close acquaintances,” according to the University Student Code of Conduct.

More simply put: stalking is a pattern of behaviors intended to create fear, Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator Daniel Rappaport said. A stalker is usually not someone hiding in the bushes. A stalker may be a friend, an ex-partner or a family member.

“It absolutely is an issue here like it would be anywhere else,” he added. “The biggest obstacle to people knowing it here is just knowing what constitutes stalking and how to get resources.”

Know the signs of stalking

An individual may try to control a victim by:

• Putting and keeping a GPS on a phone, even if the relationship ends
• Using passwords to upload a key tracker
• Sending hundreds of e-mails
• Showing up somewhere with the sole purpose of making their presence known to the victim

The behaviors of stalking are not inherently illegal, Rappaport said. It may take a while for a victim of stalking to realize he or she is being stalked.

For example, if a student was to leave flowers, the recipient may believe it was a romantic gesture and no crime would be reported, Rappaport explained. But if the student woke up the next day and felt fear, then it would be considered a crime.

During the fall 2014 semester, the campus was alerted through the University’s Crime Alert system three times about stalking incidents that occurred on or near campus. Two of the incidents occurred eight days apart in November.

The crime alerts were sent out in compliance with the Clery Act, which requires alerts to be released if there is an on-going threat on campus, according to Rappaport.

The incidents that prompted AU Public Safety to release the three crime alerts during the fall of 2014 occurred near the field on 45th Street on Oct. 31, near Fletcher Gate on Nov. 11 and near Nebraska Avenue on Nov. 19 to early Nov. 20.

These three events were not the only reported stalking incidents. According to the daily crime log, several other students reported stalking incidents in buildings on campus, including:

  • School of International Service building as part of trespassing on Oct. 8 that resulted in a barring issued
  • Centennial Hall on Nov. 9 that was closed by arrest by Metropolitan Police Department
  • Sports Center on Nov. 14 that was referred to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services
  • Inside Mary Graydon Center on Nov. 18 resulting in Public Safety barring the accused person from campus
  • Anderson Hall on Nov. 24 and on Oct. 19, both reported on Dec. 3, with no criminal complaints filed. It is unclear if the incidents are related.
  • Nebraska Hall on Jan. 11 that was referred to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services
  • On an undisclosed location on main campus as part of dating violence on Jan. 13, with no criminal complaints filed.

Three incidents also occurred off-campus to AU students at the Tenley Metro Station on Sept. 17, on Upton Road, Northwest on Nov. 1 and in Georgetown on Nov. 23, according to the daily crime log.

“None in the past year have resulted in conduct charges or in any findings of responsibility or sanctions,” said Associate Dean of Students and Interim Director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services Michelle Espinosa.

Each year 6.6 million people are stalked in the United States with one in six women and one in 19 men stalked in their lifetime, according to the Stalking Resource Center.

If a student believes they are being stalked, there are several options available, Rappaport said. The student can write down individual behaviors into a stalking log and talk to a victims’ advocate in the Wellness Center about safety planning.

Several resources are offered to survivors of stalking, including:

  • ASPIRE app, a “newspaper” that details resources for victims
  • Break the Cycle, a non-profit that works to prevent dating abuse and provides legal advice
  • My Sister’s Place, a domestic violence shelter with a 24-hour support hotline
  • Circle of Six, an application that sends out one’s location or a message to six pre-programmed numbers when the user presses an icon

Because stalking is a Title IX violation, the University must investigate before the case goes through student conduct, Espinosa said. If the student chooses to not continue through student conduct process, the University may enact interim measures.

These measures include changing housing arrangements and issuing a no-contact order which prevents both parties from contacting the other, particularly in designated places written in the order, Rappaport said.

If a student decides to enter the on-campus judicial process, the alleged stalker may be removed from housing, suspended or expelled, according to Rappaport. Non-student stalkers can be barred from campus, he said.

Even after the on-campus judicial process, the stalking may not end, so the student could prosecute through the outside criminal justice process, Rappaport added.

If the accused stalker is a non-student, the University will work with the student to file a report with the Metropolitan Police Department if he or she chooses to, Espinosa said.

If a student is accused of stalking a non-student, the University could investigate and charge the student through the code of conduct, according to Espinosa. If the accuser is unsatisfied with the result of those proceedings, the University will help him or her take the case to MPD, Rappaport added.

“If any student feels uncomfortable, we want to make sure they know that it’s not acceptable on our campus,” Espinosa said. “If they want to take legal action, we have a definition in place that allows them to do that.”

For National Stalking Awareness Month, Rappaport and PEERS Educators will be tabling in the Mary Graydon Center about changing the language surrounding “Facebook stalking,” as well as offering information on resources for stalking survivors.

“How is someone supposed to take something that they are experiencing seriously if the world around them isn’t taking it seriously?” Rappaport said.

acohen@theeagleonline.com