Ascension Parish law enforcers provide stalking awareness tips

Brandie Richardson @B_Lifestyles

     January is a significant month for many, as it Stalking Awareness Month, a national effort to raise awareness for stalking victims.

     Stalking is a more common act than many realize, as more than seven million people are stalked each year in the United States, the majority of which being individuals from 18 to 24 years old. 

     According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, more than 80 percent of victims are stalked by someone they know, with 61 percent of female and 44 percent of male victims stalked by a current or former intimate partner. 

     Baton Rouge stalking support group Lend Ah Hand founder Daria Vinning, who is also a stalking victim of nearly 10 years, said stalking has a huge impact on victims.

     “It causes anxiety,” Vinning said. “You're afraid to go out by yourself, you seclude yourself because you're afraid. You don't feel safe. You're constantly checking your surroundings. With some victims it gets to the point where you really have to sometimes seek medical help.

     You don't know who to trust because you don't who the assailant is talking to to get information from you. So you think everyone is against you sometimes.” 

      Some ways on how to prevent stalking is to keep your information as confidential as possible, not to leave mail in the car that contains addresses or phone numbers, don’t list phone numbers or addresses online and use a gender neutral email address so that stalkers will not know if you are a male or female, said Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office Chief of Criminal Operations, Lt. Colonel Bobby Webre. 

     He noted that victims should consider taking different routes to places they frequent, a tactic that law enforcement officials sometimes take. 

     “Have an inconsistent schedule that you can't be so predictable about what you do,” Webre said. “Let's not become such a creature of habit that we do everything the same way everyday. It wont take long for a stalker to realize where you will be.”

     Gonzales Chief of Police Sherman Jackson added that stalkers often use technology to contact their victims and that all emails, text messages, pictures and postings on social media should be saved as evidence. A record or log should also be kept containing each time the stalker made contact, as well as any previous police reports. 

     “Trust your instincts,” Jackson said. “Victims of stalking often feel pressured by friends or family to downplay the stalker’s behavior, but stalking poses a real threat of harm. Your safety is paramount.”