It’s 3 in the morning, and a girl is walking quickly down the street alone. Her makeup is smudged, she has sweat dried on her skin and she’s pretty sure she stepped in puke on the way out of the club.

All she wants to do is go home, strip and wash the night off.

She was going to, until a man stepped out of a side street and started following her. She tried to hide her suspicion as she glanced over her shoulder.

The man grinned at her through the darkness. Fear and panic gripped her, and she started walking faster. The man kept pace, never falling behind, but gaining no ground.

This isn’t the beginning of a horror movie. This is something that happens to 7.5 million women over the age of 18 every year in the United States alone.

According to the National Violence Against Women Prevention Center, 1-in-12 women will be stalked, and most of them will know the
stalker.

It turns out walking home at night only to find a mysterious, lurking figure behind you isn’t as common as horror movies would lead us to believe.
Only 10 percent of all stalking victims reported it was a stranger.

And still, in the first two weeks of this semester, there have been a couple chilling stories about strangers following people.

Three girls held hands and walked quickly toward Margaret Street where it’s crowded late at night to shake the man following them.

A call was made to University Police after watching a girl turn and shout ‘I don’t want to be followed!’ at a man behind her.

Those are just some of the stories that have reached me. Doubtless there are others or even cases where a girl wasn’t sure she was being followed and did nothing.

According to research done by Mindy Mechanic, of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, a majority of stalkers act because of an actual or perceived rejection from their victim.

They can get hostile, and sometimes if it is an aggravated case, they’ll obsessively follow the girl for weeks or sometimes even years.

Stalking, in definitive terms, is the willful, malicious and/or repeated following and harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety.

All states and the federal government all have laws against stalking, and yet, according to the Stalking Resource Center Fact Sheet, reported cases of stalking have jumped from 3.4 million a year in June of 2009, to 7.5 million a year in January of this year.

Its hopeful to think this is because girls are becoming more aware, and recognizing stalkers more quickly, but the fact that it occurs more often is still a possibility.

Stalking is mostly male-dominated, and the reports of victims who know their stalkers are nearly half-male. While women make up 61 percent of the victims, men make up the other 39 percent.

It is just as important to take care of stalkers for women as it is for men. As a culture we have this
unfortunate idea that men will always be aggressive or want “it” whenever they can get it.

We also often place the blame on women for acts of aggression, saying they were asking for it.

No one is asking for it and shouldn’t feel emasculated or called a slut because of their behavior, or the behaviors of others’.

It’s about respecting boundaries and treating one others not like men or women, but as humans.

Email Amanda Little at amanda.little@cardinalpointsonline.com

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<a href="http://cardinalpointsonline.com/byline/amanda-little/" rel="tag">Amanda Little</a>