January is National Stalker Awareness month. More than seven million people are stalked every year in the United States, and victims are usually age 18-24.   The majority of stalkers are someone the victim knows, often a former boyfriend or girlfriend who stalks the victim via the internet, phone calls or in person.Since 2012,  authorities and victims come together annually in a roundtable discussion in order to find the best solution to this problem.  Only 37% of all stalking victims report it to authorities. In light of the recent #metoo movement and deluge of sexual misconduct allegations, this issue is more important than ever.

One way that we can protect ourselves in our daily lives is to try to be more mindful of what we share online. Some examples of this include monitoring our social media privacy settings.  As much as we love to 'share' photos of ourselves online it is important to be mindful of who can view them. By tweaking your privacy settings you can get a better idea of who, and who can't view your profile and posts. Once you have your post completed sit back and think "do I really want everyone to see this?"

Another way to be safe online is to constantly use different secure passwords. By using complex passwords our accounts are less likely to end up in the wrong hands.

If you suspect you are being stalked, develop a safety plans, which includes changing your routine arranging a place to stay, and having a friend or relative go places with you. Also, decide in advance what to do if the stalker shows up at your home, work, school, or somewhere else. Tell security staff at your work or school and ask them to watch out for the stalker.

Finally, save evidence of the stalking. When the stalker follows you or contacts you, write down the time, date, and place. Keep emails, text messages, phone messages, letters, or notes.

In 2009 the website www.stalkingawrenessmonth.org, the official website of National Stalker Awareness month, was launched in order to provide information and awareness.

If you need immediate assistance, the Victim Connect Helpline provides information and referrals for victims of all crime and can be reached at 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846).

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