Winona County hosts discussion against stalking
Cheney Mason / Winonan
More than a dozen students from Winona State University and members of the Winona community gathered at the Winona County History Center for a National Crime Victims’ Rights Week event.
Jane Straub, victim assistant specialist from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center in Minneapolis, talked to the group about stalking.
“I think it’s a crime that’s very minimized in our society,” Straub said. “But when we start to add it up and see the big picture, it starts to look like a crime.”
Straub talked about the importance of coming together in these situations and being there for the victims to see the crime, stalking, as a bigger deal than what it seems.
“Coming around people who understand can be helpful,” Straub said. “It’s the constant wear and tear and worry that stresses victims out.”
Straub told the group about signs of a potential stalker and how dangerous and upsetting this crime can be for a victim.
Some of the statistics mentioned how about 7.5 million people are stalked per year in the U.S. alone. Throughout their lifetimes, 15 percent of females and six percent of men will experience stalking.
Straub also explained many people do not feel as though stalking is as big of a deal as it really is because the stalking starts out small with phone calls, notes and messages, but it can be scary how quickly things can escalate into a harmful situation.
“Things easily can escalate,” Straub said. “Context is key and something [that] may be frightening to the victim, might not be to you.”
Straub said 18-to-24-year-olds are the most likely age group to be stalked because this is the age most people are in immature relationships.
“It tends to be somebody we know,” Straub said. “We see the stalking happen post-relationship or post-breakup.”
Straub added how this age group is also common for stalking crimes to occur because it is when most people are in college, and everyone lives in close quarters to one another.
“You know where people are always,” Straub said. “It’s close proximity in a college town.”
Victims of stalking also experience mental and physical health impacts, social life and school impact, and work impact, Straub said.
“It becomes a huge part of your life and you become the ‘stalking victim’ instead of doing everything else you want to be doing,” Straub said. “Stalkers are good at what they do and they don’t just do it once.”
Straub expressed the importance on how anyone can be stalked in their lifetime, and the victim should report the abuse and get help immediately after they feel something is wrong with a situation or they feel uncomfortable with someone’s actions.
Straub explained through social media and the technology in today’s society, so much more is
possible. She added there are so many ways to have evidence of stalking for a police report.
“Please report to law enforcement,” Straub said. “Trust your gut, and if something doesn’t feel right, something’s going on.”
Straub said the community as well as the authorities must work harder to support victims dealing with a stalker and to catch the criminal doing the stalking and charge them for the crime.
“Sometimes victims feel shame, so they don’t want to tell other people,” Straub said. “Going after someone until you scare them is not a relationship, it’s abuse.”
Another speaker at the event, Assistant Winona County Attorney Stephanie Nuttall, spoke about domestic violence victims and what her role is in Winona County.
“I would love to be out of a job one day because we stopped domestic violence,” Nuttall said. “We all work very hard to ensure all victims’ rights are met.”
Nuttall spoke about the rights victims have when it comes to the courtroom regarding domestic violence and how victims are treated in a courtroom.
The event closed with a candlelight vigil honoring victims in the room or people who knew someone who was a victim, whether it be a family member or a friend, and there was a moment of silence for the victims to pay respect.
Everyone in the room held up glow sticks or fake candles to show support for everyone affected by this.
“I like to be an advocate because I like to be a fighter,” Straub said. “I won’t stop fighting.”
By Cheney Mason