January is National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking is a crime, and the most stalked group of people is Native Americans.
The National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center at the University of Missouri at St. Louis defines stalking as "the willful, malicious, and repeated following and harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety."
Acts of stalking include: telephone harassment, being followed, receiving unwanted gifts, and other similar forms of intrusive behavior. All states and the Federal Government have passed anti-stalking legislation.
Statistics established by the 1998 National Violence Against Women Survey reflect that 17% of American Indian and Alaska Native women are likely to be stalked in their lifetime, compared to 8.2 percent of white women, 6.5 percent of African-American women, and 4.5 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander women.
Dr. Ann Dapice, a member of the Menominee and Lenape tribes, founded T.K. Wolf, Inc. in 1998 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma as a nonprofit organization. It was first created to help Native Americans with addiction problems.
“We started out with addiction and mental health. Little did we realize that stalking would turn out to be one of the addictions that we'd have to deal with in Indian Country,” Dapice said. “Although, in this case, it's not addiction of the Indians, it's addiction on the part of the non-Indians who are predominantly the stalkers of Indians.”
“In general, there's 6.6 million victims annually, as of a couple of years ago. And that is important to understand. That’s a greater numbers than for heart attacks, stroke, and breast cancer combined,” Dapice said.
Dapice said that majority of stalkers are former intimate partners and that’s why it sometime gets confused with domestic violence. “But it's very separate,” Dapice said. “We are stalked at twice the rate of any other group.”
“The first thing when people come to us, who are being stalked, we listen to them. And I can't say that enough. Too often they're told what they should do, they're told to get protective orders, but most often they're not believed,” Dapice said.
“Stalking is such a bizarre crime. The kinds of things that are done to them are not believable. I have to listen to stories all the time and I have to sort out, ‘Can I really believe this? Could this possibly be true?’ because the crimes are so bizarre.”
“So, the first thing we do is listen to them. And if we're not sure about what they're telling us, we get as much information as possible so we can document it.”
“We tend not to have them file for protective orders immediately even though that's what they're told they have to do. All of us read in the paper every day about someone who got a protective order and then was killed. And stalkers, according to Dr. J. Reid Meloy, the national expert on stalking, stalkers are predators for a long period of time, they plan what they do,” Dapice said.
Dapice goes with the school of thought that getting protective orders can spur the stalker into violence. She does recommend to document as much as possible and get others to bear witness because often the victim will not be believed.
“T.K. Wolf has people email and send pictures to us all the time of what's happened to them because their computers may be trashed, or because of the stalking, they may have to move suddenly, so we literally have files in the cloud for victims,” Dapice said.
Although Dr. Dapice didn’t recommend getting protection orders, Officer Shane Roddy of the University of Oklahoma’s Police Department did. Roddy said a protection order is a mechanism that helps the police to be able to take action against a stalker.
The theme for National Stalking Awareness month is “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.”
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