“Can We Just Talk?” raises stalking awareness

BY CORIE LYNN
PHOTOS BY DALSY TURNER

As customers settled into Breathe last Friday evening for chats with friends and cups of coffee, a group of students and community members gathered in the basement of the shop to discuss a serious topic.

Part of the “Can We Just Talk?” partnership the coffee shop hosts, Isaac Harold and Journey Elder of Options Domestic and Sexual Assault Services lead a presentation and conversation on stalking.

“When a community talks about this more and they’re more open,” Elder said, “we find that people are able to connect through stories, and then once they see that this isn’t just an isolated problem, this is big, this is something that deserves our attention, and that’s how change happens.”

Because of this, she and Harold shared videos with the group, describing the forms stalking can take, what to do if one is being stalked and personal stories of stalking survivors.

According to Harold, stalking can occur alongside domestic violence, but can come from strangers as well. In this case, it can be difficult to prove a case of stalking. For this reason, he, Elder and the videoes outlined the importance of victims documenting evidence such as keeping screenshots or a notebook of occurrences.

After hearing firsthand accounts as well as statistics, attendees discussed why technology isn’t the culprit in cases of online stalking, the importance of how communities treat cases of stalking and why a victim might not go to the police.

During this discussion, participants emphasized that stalking is never the fault of the victim. This makes up an important part of stalking awareness, but so is knowing that it can occur anywhere and to anyone. Attendee and former Options Advocate Derek Ingalls noted that it can present itself even on the FHSU campus.

“I see people who don’t have any freedom from their partners, who feel like they have to lie about where they are or who they’re with just to see friends or family. And I’ve just seen a lot of lives destroyed by people who aren’t respecting other people’s boundaries,” Ingalls said.

Throughout the discussion, Harold and Elder emphasized the importance of getting help in instances of stalking, both from the police and services such as Options. Elder, too, hopes that the greatest take away from the evening is the importance of community awareness plays in helping victims.

“We’re really trying to change that [lack of community support], but it takes more than just us. It takes people stepping up and saying, ‘Yeah, I believe you,’” she said.

For those seeking assistance with stalking or other forms of abuse, help through Options is available on their website or over phone at (785) 625-4202.

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