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Ponnada: Get serious about stalking

BY SRI PONNADA | NOVEMBER 07, 2012 6:30 AM

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I always thought I would have to be famous to be stalked. I mean, who would want to follow around an average Jane like me around campus every day?

Wrong.

Thirteen percent of women on college campuses across the nation reported to have been stalked in a six- to nine-month period, according to the most recent National Sexual Victimization of College Women Survey. That’s one-in-eight college women.

These types of incidents could never occur at the University of Iowa — could they? Indeed they can.

Monique DiCarlo, the University of Iowa sexual misconduct response coordinator, received 156 complaints in fiscal 2012. Ten of them were stalking cases.

In an effort to protect UI students, DiCarlo, along with representatives from the Dean of Students Office, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the Women’s Resource and Action Center, the General Counsel’s Office and the Johnson County County Attorney’s Office, have formed a committee to review the university’s stalking policies.

“The group organized to meet a project goal established through the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women-funded Campus Program Grant,” DiCarlo said. “The grant was received in 2011 and is a three-year project.”

This is fantastic.

Take a minute and think about it: How easy it is for someone to stalk you when you’re at school? The very aspects of campus life increase the risk of stalking, according to a report published by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Most campuses are open and inviting to students. Even when you don’t live in the dorms, it is relatively easy to get inside. I live off campus, and I’ve been into Currier and used its amenities many times before. A lot of students stick to schedules —eating lunch and going to classes via the same routes every day. And for those of us who have never lived alone, mommy and daddy aren’t here to protect us anymore.

It’s not that hard at all.

In addition to the existing endangering factors, there’s Facebook and Twitter, which only give harassers a wider window of opportunity.

It’s rare to see a stalking complaint that doesn’t involve some use of social media or technology, DiCarlo said.

“Social media and technology greatly affect both the problem and the potential ways in which to prevent or respond to stalking,” she said. “Like many things, resources and tools can be misused.”

A key fact to keep in mind is that these “windows” can also be used to provide evidence that supports a victim’s complaint; however, resources are often misused.

Movies such as All About Steve, and even shows on Disney Channel aimed at tweens and teens, such as “Jessie,” continue to drastically reduce the creepy quotient of stalking.

The stalking review committee, DiCarlo believes, is an example of the way in which the university is taking the issue of stalking seriously, which is comforting, because stalking is certainly not comical at all.


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