LETTERS: Don't be silent if you are a stalking victim

January is a time every year when many individuals begin with New Year's resolutions and a positive outlook on the year ahead. However, victims of stalking do not have that luxury because they are always looking back over their shoulder in pure fear. Since January is observed as National Stalking Awareness Month, I wanted to take a moment to encourage people to educate themselves about the seriousness of this deadly crime.

Stalking generally refers to harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person's property. While the federal government and all 50 states have enacted criminal laws to address stalking, it is still a crime that is not taken as seriously as is warranted. The general public's perception of stalking is of an individual obsessed with a celebrity. However, that type of stalker accounts for a very small percentage of stalking offenders.

Stalking between intimate partners is the most widespread type of stalking and often ends with the death of the victim. The intimate partner stalker can create more fear and cause more damage to a victim simply by possessing detailed and personal knowledge of the victim's life. These stalkers know how to "push the buttons" of the victim, as well as the best time to attack. The severity of family violence stalking is evident as it accounts for approximately 90 percent of all stalking homicides. The family violence stalker's mantra is, "If I can't have her, then nobody will."

I ask all residents to take a moment to educate themselves about the dynamics of stalking, specifically family violence stalking. You can learn more by going to www.rockdaleaware.org and following the links. In the event you know a victim, please listen to them, support them in reporting the crime, and more importantly, believe them. If you are a victim, please reach out for help. No one deserves this abuse, so help us to "Break the Silence and Stop Family Violence."

-- Nancy N. Bills

Judge, State Court of Rockdale County