Tuesday, 08 January 2019 07:58

OCO’s SAF Program Launches Cell Phone Donation Drive for Stalking Awareness Month

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Seated above are SAF Community Response Coordinator Stacie France (l) and SAF Advocate Courtney Donaldson. Standing are SAF Advocates Katie Petro (l) and Isabella Winklestine (r). Seated above are SAF Community Response Coordinator Stacie France (l) and SAF Advocate Courtney Donaldson. Standing are SAF Advocates Katie Petro (l) and Isabella Winklestine (r). Submitted photo

January 2019 marks the 15th anniversary of National Stalking Awareness Month, an annual call to action to recognize and respond to the serious crime of stalking.

Stalking is prevalent, dangerous, and a crime in all 50 states. Though millions of men and women are stalked every year in the United States, it is often misunderstood, minimized, and ignored.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, stalking affects 7.5 million people every year in the United States. Estimates are 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men in the United States will experience stalking. About half of all victims of stalking are under the age of 25. Additionally, most victims and survivors are stalked by someone they know, such as a current or former dating partner or spouse.

Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) Services to Aid Families (SAF) program has been serving victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking for 40 years. Last year, SAF served more than 500 victims and survivors and answered more than 3,700 calls on its Crisis Hotline from those individuals.

“Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear,” said SAF Community Response Coordinator Stacie France. “Many stalking victims experience being followed, approached, and threatened. Stalkers often use technology, such as cell phones, global positioning systems (GPS), cameras, and spyware to monitor and track their victims. Many stalking victims lose time from work and experience serious psychological distress and lost productivity at a much higher rate than the general population.”

There is a real and frighteningly significant connection between stalking and intimate partner violence. Many abusers use stalking to intimidate and control their victims. Stalking is also a predictor of serious violence. According to the Stalking Prevention and Resource Center, in 85% of cases where an intimate partner attempted to murder his partner, stalking preceded the attack.

This January, SAF is asking the community to once again pledge their support in helping to raise awareness. SAF has cellphone donation boxes located at its Midtown Plaza office, 75 East First Street in Oswego, the OCO Main Office, 230 Oneida Street in Fulton, and other locations throughout the county, including at the Department of Social Services in Mexico and local businesses. Community members are encouraged to donate their old cell phones with chargers and pre-paid minute cards. Donated cell phones are given to survivors as part of a safety plan so that they always have a way to contact law enforcement. Pre-paid minute cards are also donated to survivors.

SAF is also asking community members to help raise awareness of the crime of stalking. “Victims may be told to just ignore the behavior in hopes that it will eventually go away. In reality, most stalkers rarely just stop and confronting the stalker can put a victim in more danger,” said France. “If someone you know is being stalked, you can help. Listen and show support. Don’t blame the victim for the crime. Remember that every situation is different, and allow the person being stalked to make choices about how to handle it.”

“Victims and survivors are encouraged to keep evidence of the stalking and document any contact, continued France. “When the stalker follows you, write down the date, time, and place. Keep emails, text messages, phone messages, letters, notes, and messages sent over social media. Photograph anything of yours the stalker damages and any injuries the stalker causes. And remember, victims are never to blame for a stalker’s behavior.”

If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence or stalking, please call the SAF Crisis Hotline at 315-342-1600. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and is free and confidential. SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for 40 years.

OCO is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 100 separate locations. For more information, visit www.oco.org. Did you know? It’s OCO!

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