FORT SILL, Okla. -- January is "Stalking Prevention Month." This two-part series focuses on patterns of abusive behavior and what can be done to stop this crime. Part 2 will run in next week's Cannoneer (Jan. 26).

There is a famous poem that says "We all know that a rose is just a rose." And receiving a bouquet of flowers may seem to be a sweet and sincere gesture to most people. But for a few people who receive roses, it can mean something very frightening. It could mean they are being stalked.

Stalking is defined as "a pattern of actions or behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel a high level of fear." Stalking is against the law in all 50 U.S. states and its territories. Also, Article 120a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits stalking. However, it is hard for some people to know that they are, in fact, being stalked.

"Our popular media hypes an image of stalking that typically portrays the 'unknown stalker' or the 'masked stranger' but that usually is not true," said Leslie Watts, Abuse Prevention Specialist for Fort Sill's Family Advocacy Program.

In fact, statistics from the National Center for Victims of Crime show that 3.4 million adults over the age of 18 are stalked annually in the United States, and that 3 out of 4 victims know their stalker.

Thirty percent of victims are stalked by their current or former intimate partner but many victims, and criminal justice professionals underestimate the seriousness and impact of stalking.

"One of the things that concerns me is that we all know that stalking is a crime, and there are laws out there to protect the victims," Watts stated. She added that because many victims of stalking know their stalker, most of them won't report it as a crime and therefore the statistics on stalking may appear lower than is really being experienced in society.

January is "Stalking Prevention Month" at Fort Sill. "When the Army endorsed January as 'Stalking Awareness Month' our local committee said why should we just make people aware of it? We want to prevent it. So at Fort Sill we're going to call it 'Stalking Prevention Month' to begin reducing the crime," said Lisa Jansen-Rees Family Advocacy Program manager.

"For the most part Fort Sill looks like a microcosm of the United States when it comes to domestic abuse," Jansen-Rees said. "So the issues we see in larger society, we are going to see in the military as well. We are fortunate at Fort Sill that our domestic abuse rates are currently below the Armywide level."

She went on to explain that commanders at Fort Sill, from the unit level all the way to the garrison commander take charges of stalking and domestic violence seriously.

"Stalking in intimate partner relationships is a portion of domestic abuse, as the Army defines it. With the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' the Army no longer defines intimate partner relationships as being between a man and a woman. Domestic abuse and stalking are crimes in same gender relationships, just as they are in heterosexual relationships," Jansen-Rees said.

Part 2 of this story will address the issues of recognizing stalking and find out what victims can do to stop this crime if they are being stalked.

Page last updated Thu January 19th, 2012 at 00:00