Awareness of stalking and its dangers isn’t enough. Law enforcement needs to act on reports.
To better help with public safety, writes Lucca Wang, law enforcement needs to be trained and understand what stalking is and looks like. (Getty Images)
The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Lucca Wang is a professional communicator who worked at the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
This month is National Stalking Awareness Month. In June 2017, I started a statewide communications role, providing a voice for victim advocacy and educating the public in Kansas on domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking for nearly four years.
What I did not anticipate was becoming a victim myself, one year into the work.
We usually hear about stalking of major public figures, such as Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooks Nader, who was tracked by a stalker via an Apple AirTag earlier this month. But if we type “stalking” into Google, endless news reports of men stalking women who aren’t famous pop up. Stalkers don’t all use the same methods, but they do all typically follow and monitor their victim in some way.
To better help with public safety, law enforcement — from patrol officers to all staff and attorneys in district attorney’s offices — needs to be trained and understand what stalking is and looks like. They need to be familiar with the complex dynamics and what can be used as evidence in court, per experts’ research on the subject. This system intervention can prevent harm and even death for victims.
Without standard internal stalking response policies and a stalking risk or lethality assessment, the criminal justice system seems to miss the mark on identifying stalking incidents by perpetrators. It lacks the knowledge and motivation to string the victim’s other calls together while also misrepresenting the service of public safety — the main reason these institutions of government are still around.
With 4,201 protection from stalking order petitions filed by victims with their respective county clerks in Kansas in 2020, but only 630 offenses tallied by Kansas law enforcement in the same year, most Kansans seeking help didn’t see their stalkers held accountable with even a local law enforcement stalking offense. – Lucca Wang
With 4,201 protection from stalking order petitions filed by victims with their respective county clerks in Kansas in 2020, but only 630 offenses tallied by Kansas law enforcement in the same year, most Kansans seeking help didn’t see their stalkers held accountable with even a local law enforcement stalking offense.
– Lucca Wang
With 4,201 protection from stalking order petitions filed by victims with their respective county clerks in Kansas in 2020, but only 630 offenses tallied by Kansas law enforcement in the same year, most Kansans seeking help didn’t see their stalkers held accountable with even a local law enforcement stalking offense. Per the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, those 630 generally represent the number of reports by victims to law enforcement that the responding patrol officer decided to categorize as stalking. The number of these offenses processed by district attorney’s offices isn’t available.
A new district attorney on year two of the stalking by my former intimate partner told me, “My hope is that he just starts to leave you alone.” Kris Mohandie, a clinical police and forensic psychologist, says this doesn’t work with stalkers, who are already violating the boundaries of normal behavior and making their target feel unsafe.
Nationally, 54% of women who were killed had reported stalking to police in the year prior to them being killed by their stalkers. So, we can understand from this statistic that not only is the fear stalking victims feel valid since this statistic points to the entitlement of stalkers to go as far as to actually kill their victims but also that stalking is a dangerous and lethal crime that needs to be taken very seriously.
On year three, this month, a local law enforcement officer told me, “You will never have to hear his name again” when I told him I relocated for fear of my own safety. I’ve wanted peace for three years, and what would enable that is law enforcement intervening and enforcing stalking laws so that I did not have to go as far as to move for some peace of mind. One in seven stalking victims move because of the stalking, but what if law enforcement intervened to stop the stalker instead of leaving victims to fend for themselves?
Experts know the numbers for this kind of violent crime are widely underreported. But given that many stalking victims might not even get the help they need from law enforcement, it’s no wonder that less than 40% of stalking victims make a report to law enforcement.
Personally, I called local law enforcement 26 times over three years. The responding patrol officers usually did not retrieve video footage, never did a stalking risk assessment, and hardly checked in with the stalker to see where he was or what he was doing. Only two stalking offenses were pushed to a district attorney’s office, which declined to make any charges to the offender.
Why do we expect people to use the criminal justice system for help regarding public safety if community members calling for help are not actually adequately helped — with tools law enforcement possesses but for some reason doesn’t use?
Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.