New to the movement of domestic and sexual violence prevention, I am still learning new things every day. Something new that I have learned is that January is stalking awareness month. Just recently there was a case in Lawrence County of a man being sentenced to 20 years in prison due to his offenses of stalking. This was also combined with a history of domestic violence and continual violation of his protection order since 2020. As mentioned in the article Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upholds Lawrence County man’s stalking conviction this is “one of the most severe imposed for aggravated stalking in the state.” This is probably because many do not take stalking seriously.

As a domestic and sexual violence organization we hear all kinds of horror stories that our clients have experienced. Stalking is usually a part of them. It is also usually something that was ignored or brushed under the rug. 40% of all stalking offenders are current or former intimate partners and it usually occurs over a 2 year period. The highest rates of stalking usually proceed the ending of a relationships. As we’ve looked at before 1 in 3 female homicides occur from a current or former intimate partner and 85% of attempted and 76% of completed female homicides were preceded by stalking the prior year, according to SPARC.

Similarly to these statistics there is also a high correlation between sexual assault and stalking. 48% of all sexual assault survivors between the ages 18-24 experienced stalking. Nearly 1 in 3 women who were stalked by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted by the same partner. Women who were stalked after obtaining a protective order were 9x more likely to experience sexual assault than women with protective orders who were not stalked.

The statistics show this is not something to brush off or explain away as romance, pursuit, or persistence. Let us learn the difference and speak up when we feel followed, threatened, or fearful of another person because of patterns of stalking. We have to call it what it is and hope that the criminal justice system will punish this offense justly and continue to fight for the safety of our community.

If you or someone you know has experienced stalking, intimate partner violence, or sexual assault call our crisis line (205) 669-7233 to speak to a trained advocate who will assist you in finding the help and resources you want and need.