Depictions of stalking in the media bring attention to the real-life threats on campuses

Jan. 29, 2020: A previous version of this article stated that the GEC offered counseling services when they actually offer support services and can recommend counseling. This version has been updated to reflect that. 

At the beginning of the Netflix series, “You,” the main character, Joe Goldberg, a troubled bookstore employee, becomes infatuated with a woman who visits his New York shop. Soon, Goldberg becomes aggressive and begins observing his love interest until his behavior veers unmistakably into stalking.

After the first season was released in 2018, “You” gained traction for bringing the average person into the mind of a fictionalized stalker and, eventually, murderer. Being stuck inside Goldberg’s twisted mind shocked and horrified most, but some also created a romanticized view of the leading man despite his alarming and all-too-real behavior. 

Kim Camacho, the violence prevention support coordinator for the Gender Equity Center (GEC), has witnessed people online become enthralled with the concept the show presents.

“I think there’s a lot of socialization and media that romanticize some of those behaviors,” Camacho said. “When people experience those things in real life, it’s actually very scary.”

Stalking can happen anywhere at any time to anyone. College students experience high rates of stalking, partially due to the hyper-localized community that college campuses offer. The resources available to Boise State students can aid in the processes that come with filing claims, receiving support and feeling safe again. 

Understanding the data

For average college students, their lives revolve around a typically repetitive schedule with classes and outside activities. This factor contributes to the ease at which stalkers can track their victims. 

Whether traditional or virtual, the law’s consensus on stalking remains the same. The federal definition of stalking is defined as engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety, or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.

A study conducted in 2014 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that an estimated 15% of women and 7% of men experience stalking in their lifetime. In another study done by the Crime Victim’s Institute of Sam Houston State University in 2014, the numbers say that one in four college students experience virtual stalking in their life, while 29.7% of college students experience traditional stalking, compared to 19.5% for the general public.

According to the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, three out of four stalkers are known by their victim.

At Boise State, three reports of stalking are documented in the 2019 Campus Crime Logs — six reports in 2018 and 2017 and 22 reported cases in 2016

Camacho has worked with students in the past who have needed emotional support for different forms of harassment and threats. She believes that stalking is being underreported due to other factors that go hand-in-hand with stalking such as harassment, vandalism and trespassing.

“Oftentimes, someone that is experiencing stalking may talk about it in a way that doesn’t signal to the person that they’re sharing that information with that, ‘Oh, maybe this is stalking,’ and all the definitions you see will say something about it causing somebody fear,” Camacho said.

According to Boise State’s Annual Crime Reports, in Idaho, there are three different types of Orders of Protection: Criminal No Contact Orders, Civil Protection Orders (including Tribal Protection Orders) and University-Based No Contact Orders.

“For folks across campus, they do have the right to report stalking behaviors like sexual assault or other kinds of forms of violence to our Title IX office and who’s responsible for investigating those concerns,” Camacho said. “The option is sometimes not available to folks. If the perpetrator is not affiliated with Boise State, there are some limitations around what they can do and how they can respond.”

Laws in the State of Idaho for stalking differ in whether it is first-degree, a person violating their court orders or parole or second-degree stalking, knowingly and maliciously engaging in a course of conduct that is threatening to a person. The law also states there needs to be more than one incident of stalking behavior for it to be considered an actual crime. 

Danielle Swerin is a criminal justice professor at Boise State and works for the Women and Children’s Alliance, where she aids victims in going through the process of filing a protection order. 

“It’s usually someone the victim knows, whether it’s a neighbor, a co-worker, intimate partner or former dating partner type thing,” Swerin said. “That could also be somewhat skewed because it’s difficult to file a protection order against the stranger because you need the name of the person.”

The process of filing a report for students can be challenging as not every location they are stalked in is a campus-affiliated area. This means that students, faculty or staff would have to file a report with the Boise Police Department. However, students are encouraged, regardless of the location, to report stalking to Boise State’s Title IX office.

Following the legal processes

Boise State’s Title IX works with the Dean of Students to handle codes of conduct and utilizes the counseling services on campus to make sure complainants and respondents are both being served as fairly as possible.

When a complainant, or victim, decides to file a complaint against the respondent they must go through different channels including meeting with Title IX, investigators and deciding whether pursuing the case would be in their best interest. Alicia Estey, Boise State’s chief of staff and chief of compliance, has worked with hundreds of cases over the years, ranging from sexual assault to stalking. 

The process for filing a complaint under the Title IX process is handled under Policy 1065 which covers sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking at Boise State. 

“Because every case is fact and circumstance-specific, we recommend that individuals who believe they are being stalked contact Institution Compliance or Public Safety for assistance,” Estey wrote in an email. “These campus departments will assist stalking victims to document incidents of stalking and provide information regarding options for filing a complaint with the University and/or law enforcement.”

A drawing of faces over buildings.
Graphic by Maddie Ciglecki

The Dean of Students (DOS) has two branches in their department. One that works with Title IX and receives cases that deal with misconduct if a respondent is found guilty and another branch that helps students, both complainants and respondents, by providing support and resources.

Anna Moreshead is the Assistant Dean of Students and she feels that it is important to validate where the students are at based on the things they share with her and provide as much guidance as possible.

“If you have somebody that is being stalked or has a fear of being stalked, that experience in and of itself is traumatic so my goal is to really meet that student where they’re at,” Moreshead said. “And if I don’t, I don’t think they are going to hear anything I have to say because its not relevant to where they’re at.”

With the guidance Moreshead and her team provides, she also gives students other resources available to them on campus. If students need additional help that the DOS is unable to offer, Moreshead will often reach out to Health Services counseling center or the GEC to aid the student in need.

Receiving community support

January is  National Stalking Awareness month and has shined a light on the threat that stalking brings into people’s lives. There are several resources on Boise State’s campus to ensure students are able to reach out for support.

Laura Campbell is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has met with students to conduct clinical work and has done outreach to inform students that Boise State’s Health Services counseling is a resource.

“What I think is great about our campus though, is that we really have a “no wrong door” avenue to services,” Campbell wrote in an email. “So whether a student comes to us first or Dean of Students or files a CARE report for themselves, they will be supported to get to the services that will be helpful in their situation.”

The GEC is another resource available to students with their own support services, which differs from professional counseling, as well as connecting them with the right outlets if they wish to file a report. Something Camacho focuses on with stalking victims is how to best document the incidents of stalking as not every behavior is solely related to stalking.

Outreach available within the Boise community includes Faces of Hope, which provides victims with free services, including changing locks on people’s doors and involving law enforcement if they wish to report. If a victim is fleeing a stalker, they can provide gas and food cards as well. 

The Women and Children’s Alliance also has support available for those being assaulted or threatened. One of the free resources available is a one-on-one meeting with someone from the WCA to help safety plan with a trained advocate who can help the victim. 

“They do safety planning with technology, so they can provide information on resources and give people ideas and strategies on things that they can do to try to be safer,” Serwin said. “Or try to put up some walls to make it more difficult for the person to be able to track them that way.”

Although there are resources available and an entire month dedicated to bringing awareness to stalking, it is still a prevalent danger. With the current media spotlight on the topic displayed through shows, videos, movies and even podcasts, the issue is not being ignored. The different outlets available to victims shows that people are not going to sweep the issue under the rug and support is available for those who need it.

“I think that adds a level, hopefully, of faith in the people here and the process too,” Moreshead said. “That [it]gives the student a little bit more faith that we genuinely have their best interest in mind because I hope that’s what we’re providing, and that we want them to get support and that we believe them and this is serious.”

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