January 2020 marks the 16th National Stalking Awareness Month. It is critical to raise the issue of stalking as its own form of violence as well as a crime that frequently predicts and co-occurs with domestic and sexual violence. Stalking impacts over 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men in the United States – yet, despite its prevalence, many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its danger and urgency.
Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. Many victims experience being followed, monitored, and threatened in person and through technology. Victims and survivors often suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression as a result of their victimization. Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right, as well as a predictor of potentially lethal violence: in 85% of cases where an intimate partner (i.e., boyfriend or husband) attempted to murder his female partner, stalking occurred in the year prior to the attack.
Stalking is a crime close to Leadville’s heart; longtime residents will remember the murder of beloved kindergarten teacher Vonnie Flores by her stalker in 2010. Soon after, Vonnie’s family formed local nonprofit Vonnie’s Voice to raise awareness about stalking.
Vonnie’s Voice has done amazing work improving legislation to protect victims of stalking. Its members advocated for the creation of the statewide Vonnie’s Law in 2012 and its expansion in 2015, both of which increased protections afforded to stalking victims upon their stalker’s release from jail. Vonnie’s Voice also recently achieved the adoption of a similar law in Wyoming, where Vonnie was born and where her sister still resides.
The awareness month’s theme — “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” — is a call to action for everyone in Leadville. While police and victim-serving professionals are critical, the reality is that most victims tell friends or family about stalking first.
Vonnie’s Voice has set a great example. Follow its lead, educate yourself about stalking and step up to your role in identifying stalking, intervening when necessary, and supporting victims and survivors.
The Advocates of Lake County is always available to support victims and survivors of stalking. If you or someone you know needs support, call us at our confidential 24-hour hotline, (719) 486-3530.
Cori MacFarland for the Advocates of Lake County