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    February 2011

    Stalking Prevention and Response

    Stalking and related violence against students is a growing concern on many college campuses. According to a recent U.S. Department of Justice study, 14 out of every 1,000 people age 18 or older are victims of stalking every year. The study found that two-thirds of victims received unwanted phone calls and messages, and approximately one-third of victims also received unwanted letters or emails, were the target of rumors, were followed or spied upon, or found the stalker showing up unexpectedly or waiting for him or her.

    Despite its prevalence, stalking is infrequently reported to campus or local police. An earlier federal study on the Sexual Victimization of College Women indicated that 83 percent of female students who reported being stalked chose not to contact the police. Common reasons given for not reporting were fear of hostile treatment or not being taken seriously by police, not knowing the behavior is a crime, and not knowing how to report it.

    Campuses use a variety of approaches to ensure that students understand what constitutes stalking, how to protect themselves, and where to go for help.

    Awareness and Prevention

    Wellness and counseling centers and other student life offices often lead the design and implementation of programs, either as separate initiatives or as part of broader assault or violence prevention education.

    Most programs start by establishing a common definition of stalking. The Justice Department defines it as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” While a perpetrator’s individual behaviors may not violate the law, various behaviors taken together may cause the victim to fear for his or her safety. It is important to work with local authorities to understand distinctions specific to your area.

    Educational programming teaches students the warning signs and how to respond if they are being stalked. “Bystander intervention” training is also gaining popularity, providing onlookers with effective options for diffusing or reporting acts of intimate partner violence. The University of Arizona’s STEP UP! Be a Leader, Make a Difference is an example of such a program.

    Proposed federal legislation, the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, would require colleges and universities to incorporate the described practices and other improvements into preventive education programs and to notify the victim of his or her rights during the reporting process. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women offers grants to establish programs that reduce stalking, domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault on campus.


    Developing standardized reporting and follow-up procedures can also help prevent stalking and provide support to victims. Train responders in public safety and stalking resource centers to follow protocols for any stalking report to ensure they all are taken seriously. All victims should be apprised of how the campus will treat the information and the extent to which his or her identity will be protected. The campus response should include an explanation of the victim’s legal options; an offer of assistance in reporting to the local police; a description of accommodations available in academic, living, transportation, or work arrangements; and contact information for on-campus and community resources.

    In addition to physical violence, stalking can result in emotional distress ranging from loss of self-esteem to depression. Support groups can offer victims valuable emotional support. For information about creating successful stalking support groups, see The National Center for Victims of Crime’s guide,“How to Start and Facilitate a Support Group for Victims of Stalking.”


    The National Center for Victims of Crime
    Stalking Resource Center

    Specialized Training Services
    Educational Products

    National Sexual Violence Resource Center
    Bystander Intervention Resources

    Security on Campus
    Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act) Summary

    Campus Programs

    University of Southern California
    Center for Women and Men

    Hood College
    Campus Safety
    Stalking and Cyberstalking

    California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA)
    Map of CALCASA/OVW Campus Grantees

    George Mason University
    Sexual Assault Services

    University of Texas
    Counseling and Mental Health Center
    Voices Against Violence


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