Oco News

OCO’s SAF Program Promotes Annual Stalking Awareness Month Campaign

Two women with posters about stalking.

January 2022 marks the 18th annual National Stalking Awareness Month and offers an opportunity to support those affected by the crime. Every year, more than six million people are stalked, usually by someone they know. Despite such high incidence, stalking continues to be underreported, and many of us still underestimate the danger and urgency of the situation.

Stalking refers to a pattern of behavior directed toward a specific person, causing them to fear for their safety. According to the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center, the crime impacts over 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men in the United States. Many stalkers use technology, like cell phones, GPS equipment, cameras, computer spyware, and social media to monitor their targets. As a result, stalking victims often lose time from work and face the challenges of relocating, changing jobs, and seeking protection through the court system. Now more than ever, the Covid-19 pandemic can limit survivor’s access to resources and contribute to their isolation. Stalkers may even exploit health concerns and social distancing escalate their behaviors.

Oswego County Opportunities, Inc. (OCO) Services to Aid Families (SAF) program has been serving victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking for 50 years. In 2021, SAF served more than 560 individuals and families, and answered more than 3500 calls on its Crisis Hotline.

“About half of all stalking cases are related to intimate partner violence,” said SAF Coordinator of Client Services, Stacie France. “Even when stalking is not of this nature, the response is typically provided by domestic violence or rape crisis services. Abusers often use stalking to intimidate and control their victims, by following or watching them. This abuse can also manifest as spreading rumors or showing up announced- any actions which threatens, or otherwise scares the victim, before during or after a relationship.”

Throughout National Stalking Awareness Month, SAF asks the community to pledge their support in helping to raise awareness. While police and victim service professionals are critical resources for survivors, the vast majority of victims initially disclose what they are experiencing to friends or family.

“When we believe survivors, we create the opportunity to connect them to local resources,” said France. “What makes a victim fearful may not necessarily seem concerning to an outsider, which is why we can show our support through listening and trusting their experiences.”

Victims and survivors are encouraged to hold on to any evidence of the stalking and document any contact, including the date, time, and place. Save any digital or physical forms of communication and photograph any property damaged or injury inflicted by the stalker. And remember, victims are never to blame for a stalker’s behavior.

Community members who want to assist victims and survivors can consider donating pre-paid minute cards to the SAF Program. Many of the individuals served through the program may not have safe access to their current phone because their abuser is using it to monitor or track them. Donations of pre-paid minute cards or pre-paid cell phones can have a crucial impact on the safety of victims and survivors accessing services.

If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence or stalking, please call OCO’s Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day. Calls regarding donations should also be directed to the Crisis Hotline to be coordinated with an advocate. SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for more 50 years.

OCO, Inc is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 100 separate locations.  For more information, visit www.oco.org. Did you know? It’s OCO!

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