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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

DCDV looks to raise awareness about stalking during January

By Kyle Vuille

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

“Stalkers Aren’t Always Strangers” is the Dawson County’s Domestic Violence slogan for this month’s campaign they are leading because January is national stalking awareness month.

“We’re focusing on intimate relationship stalking,” DCDV advocate Lacy McCullugh said. “People always think stalking involves a stranger or an acquittance.”

According to McCullugh,  the majority of stalking situations involve current or former intimate partners and the abuser usually exhibits the behaviors and habits of a stalker during the relationship. 

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime through the Department of Justice, 61 percent of female victims and 44 percent of male victims, are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. The DOJ also reported 25 percent of female victims and 32 percent of male victims are stalked by an acquaintance. 

With the DCDV reporting just six stalking cases for the year, McCullugh said stalking crimes are often unreported so the numbers are low on paper. However, she did say DCDV has provided their services to 131 people affected by domestic violence cases.

“There’s a stalking element in a lot of the cases and we want to realize it because it is relevant,” McCullugh said.

The DCDV office’s stalking awareness campaign will take place in the three counties the office serves: Prairie, Wibaux and Dawson and  posters will be hung in and around towns falling in those counties.

As McCullugh explained, a lot of DCDV’s clients are walk-ins and when faced with a stalking situation, they offer steps and services  based on the situation.

She said it starts with one of the office’s advocates finding out what the situation exactly is and what services are necessary for the given situation.

She said the most used tactic is coming with a safety plan, which can cover different aspects of the client’s life.

She said advocates look at safety plans such as “safety in my own residence” and she highlighted “technology safety planning” because of modern technology plays a major roles in stalking situations.

“Because in this day and age, everyone has a smartphone and social media,” McCullugh said. “Spyware is a big one because smartphones have apps where people can track you and see where you’re at.”

According to a Department of Justice informational pamphlet, 17.9 percent of U.S. high school students reported being electronically stalked and 41 percent of cyber stalking victims tend to be females between the ages of 18-29.

McCullugh said her biggest advice to those facing a stalker is to turn off the location on their phone.

Other strategies in the technology safety planning include creating a new email account, changing password and pin numbers, using a safer computer such as a computer in a public setting like the library, minimizing the use of cordless phones or baby monitors and finding ways to have a private mailbox without a physical address attached to it. 

Another tactic she suggests to her clients is to fill out a stalking incident log because it is a way to track the behaviors of the perpetrator.

“The reason this is a good thing to do is a way to track and build a case in order for a safety order protection,” McCullugh said.

McCullugh added printing out emails, screenshoting messages, taking photos of unwanted gifts or incidents like a perpetrator slashing car tires need to be documented for proof at a court hearing.

Another useful tool available to those put in a stalking situation is filling out a stalking notice. The notice is a document that clearly states the Montana statue on stalking and the victim clearly does not want any form of contact from the perpetrator.

The notice is then handed over to the local police and given to the perpetrator by the proper authorities.

“It’s another good idea before an order protection is put into place,” McCullugh said.

If the stalking situation is escalated or continued after the stalking notice, a safety protection order petition can be filled out along with all evidence of previous incidents involving the perpetrator.

According to McCullugh, there is a 20 day period before there is a court hearing where the victim can state their case and be issued a temporary protection order based on the severity of the situation.

“Normally around there, the orders can be from 6 months to a year,” McCullugh said.

She added the temporary order can become permanent if the situation continues.

McCullugh mentioned the Dawson County office offers a Women’s and Children’s support group every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. that is open to victims of all domestic violence, stalking and sexual abuse. The group always provides a light meal for those who attend and a safe place for those affected.

“We encourage peer to peer support here,” McCullugh said. “We don’t want them to feel alone.”

She added the DCDV office not only provides services for primary members, but also secondary members like family or friends of victims.

For more information on stalking and other domestic violence crimes, please http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov or contact the Dawson County Domestic Violence office line at (406) 377-6477 or the crisis line at (406) 989-1318. The office’s physical address is 122 W. Bell St. Glendive, MT 59330.

Reach Kyle Vuille at
news@rangerreview.com.

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