At Plattsburgh State, statistics on stalking and other violent dating crimes have been relatively low. Although the events are rare at PSUC, those in the age group of 18-24 — the most common age group to populate a college campus — experience the highest rate of stalking and stalking-related crimes throughout the United States, according to the Violence Prevention and Action Center at John Carroll University.
This coincidence is alarming when put into context with other stalking statistics from John Carroll. One-in-6 women and 1-in-19 men are victims of stalking. Roughly 80 percent of stalking victims know their stalker.
According to the Intimate Partner Violence and Stalking Policy part of the campus Student Code of Conduct at PSUC stalking is defined as “a pattern of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment that is intended to cause or does cause a reasonable person to fear or suffer: death; assault; bodily injury; sexual assault; involuntary restraint; damage to property; confinement.”
Stalking does not have to involve solely being followed or harassed. In the policy, stalking is considered to be any of the following acts: “Following someone on foot, or in a car; showing up at the reporting individual’s place of work; repeatedly calling; sending flowers and gifts; contact through emails or letters; breaking into the reporting individual’s home or car; homicide.”
PSUC Student Conduct Director Larry Allen said stalking cases on campus are isolated in terms of frequency but may be a rare component in intimate partner cases.
Allen is responsible for overseeing cases that pertain to students referred to his office for alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct. He is also responsible for meeting with students to discuss their rights, explain charges and listen to the accused’s story.
He said that although most cases sent to his office involve alcohol and marijuana infractions, there are still several measures in fighting intimate partner and dating violence in place.
If a student is found guilty of a lower offense, such as alcohol or marijuana related incidents, Allen may suggest one or a combination of educational sanctions.
“However, when it comes to physically violent and sexually violent cases,” Allen said, “I am less interested in educating a student at that point. I am more interested in preserving the sanctity of our campus and safety of students.”
As a part of the new “Enough is Enough” legislation passed by New York state lawmakers in 2015, those who commit sexually violent crimes, including intimate partner violence, stalking and rape are required to be dismissed from the college. In addition to the dismissal, the student will have the crime noted on his or her transcripts for future colleges or employers to see.
According to New York State’s website, NY.gov, the legislation “requires all colleges to adopt a set of comprehensive procedures and guidelines, including a uniform definition of affirmative consent, a statewide amnesty policy, and expanded access to law enforcement. With this law, we will better protect all of New York’s college students from rape and sexual assault.”
Allen said the legislation “levels the playing field in terms of expectations” among all institutions, public and private across the state.
“SUNY has done a great job being ahead of the curve,” he said.
All SUNY schools have already complied with this new legislation, while colleges statewide have until October to adopt the new regulations.
“This has raised the bar in New York state,” Allen said.
Butterfly Blaise, PSUC’s Title IX coordinator, also agreed that although stalking at PSUC is very rare, it can, and does, happen.
Title IX is most commonly associated with sports and extracurricular activities, but it also aids in student rights and equality. As part of the Education Act of 1964, it sought to promote gender equality in campus and school activities. In 1972, it was expanded to include discrimination and harassment policies. This includes crimes of sexual violence, discrimination, assault and stalking.
As coordinator, Blaise is required to report any violations to the Office for Civil Rights because any violation of Title IX is also a violation of civil rights. She also educates students of their rights at PSUC. Blaise conducts investigations based on reports filed to her office, including dating violence and stalking crimes.
When faced with a stalking incident, Blaise said, “there is never any harm in going to the Title IX office or to University Police.” Even if a student is lacking evidence, they can still report an incident or ask questions or voice concerns.
“Sometimes when someone is experiencing something themselves or had a relationship with an individual, they may not necessarily be seeing it in a way others would,” Blaise said. “Sometimes it’s nice to sit down with someone and get perspective and see whether or not they see that behavior as problematic or unusual.”
She also said the campus enforcement of a 72-hour no-contact order. This can be authorized by University Police or Blaise herself and it gives the proper authorities 72 hours to do a preliminary investigation and file charges if needed, as well as prohibits the accused and the victim from communicating in any way.
In any student conduct case, a victim has three options: They may wish to file criminal charges, which would have to be determined by city police or a higher authority. A victim may also wish to file judicial charges, which is handled on campus with the help of Blaise, Allen and University Police.
Lastly, a victim may choose to do nothing and drop the case entirely. In any situation, both Blaise and Allen agree support and resources are a top priority for victims of any crime at PSUC.
“I would never tell (the victim) what they should do, but I would tell them what they could do and what is available to them,” Blaise said. “There are people on campus who will support you, that will help to keep you safe and are, in fact, obligated to keep you safe.”
“What it comes down to for students is finding someone you are comfortable with and trust and have a comfortable relationship with,” Allen said. “If you have a faculty or staff member you have a great relationship with and want to talk about it with them, then utilize them. That’s what we are all here for — to be resources.”
Email Marissa Russo at firstname.lastname@example.org