Oklahoma groups SPARC-ing awareness for stalking, prevention services

Wulf James-Roby
The Daily Ardmoreite
The Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma is bringing awareness to stalking during National Stalking Awareness Month.

According to SPARC (Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center), more than 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men will be stalked in their lifetimes. Each year in January, national organizations like SPARc and local agencies like the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma, host awareness and prevention activities to highlight the prevalence and the dangers of stalking.  

“It can feel like there’s nothing you can do,” said Stacey Rose, a victim advocate with the Family Shelter. Rose said when a stalking victim requests services, physical and emotional safety are paramount.  

“Planning for physical safety involves things like offering shelter or relocation to remove the victim from the situation, or when a victim is unwilling or unable to relocate, we provide safety tips like being aware of surroundings, changing routines, documenting each incident and reporting those to the authorities,” Rose said. “Another possibility is requesting a protective order.”  

Rose said planning for emotional safety includes assisting victims in developing a support system. “It’s important for the victim to know who they can contact if things feel overwhelming.” Encouraging victims to seek any needed medical or mental health services, or assistance from other agencies, also comes into play.  

In addition to advocacy and support services, victim advocates at the Family Shelter host an education group, which is currently being held via Zoom. The 26 week program provides in depth information and support around various aspects of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and related issues.  

Other services provided via the Shelter include those for friends and family members of victims, who may experience secondary victim issues and related trauma. Rose said those supports can include safety planning with those adjacent to the victim, as sometimes a stalker will go after a victim’s family and friends when they are unable to get to their victim or target. In addition to the safety planning for physical and emotional safety for victims, this could include tips like developing code words and planning frequent check ins.  

January is Stalking Prevention and Awareness Month. “Bringing attention to stalking and recognizing the seriousness of it is important,” Rose said. “A lot of people don’t realize that the majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know, like a current or former partner or an acquaintance – and the majority of those murdered by an intimate partner were stalked prior to their murder.” Rose said something else that many don’t consider is that stalking doesn’t always mean literally following someone around. It can include unwanted phone calls, texts, emails or social media interactions, unwanted visits, or unwanted gifts.  

For those who are or may be victims of stalking, Rose says to “trust your instincts.” Seeking services, talking through potential issues with an advocate, and giving yourself or a family member peace of mind could save a life.  

If you or someone you know is in need of services, the Family Shelter operates a 24/7 crisis line. Call 580-226-6424.