January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that has affected hundreds of thousands of victims. The theme – “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.”– challenges the nation to fight this dangerous crime by learning more about it.

Stalking occurs through continuous actions that place a person in fear for their safety. It can consist of the following: harassing, calling on the telephone, watching another’s house, sending unwanted mail; simply put they are repeated and unwanted contacts that frighten another.

Stalkers desire to control their victims’ actions and feelings. They want to maintain some type of connection with them through manipulation and control. Stalkers will frequently threaten and harass, and it can easily progress to physical violence.

An estimated 6.6 million people are stalked in the United States on a yearly basis. Out of these, most will never report being stalked. It is estimated that 75 percent of all victims of stalking are familiar with their stalkers. The evidence shows that ignoring a stalker will not get the individual to leave you alone.

If you or your family members are living in fear because of the actions of another, there are resources available. You do not have to simply ignore it in hopes that it will stop. There are laws and resources available that can help you take control of the situation.

All U.S. states have stalking laws. In Oregon, there is a precise legal definition:

(a) Knowingly alarming or coercing another person or their family members by engaging in repeated and unwanted contact with the other person;

(b) It is objectively reasonable for the other person to have been alarmed or coerced by the contact; and

(c) The repeated and unwanted contact causes the victim reasonable apprehension for their personal safety.

Oregon allows an individual to petition for a stalking protective order against another person who has been stalking them. Stalking is a class A misdemeanor in Oregon. However, it becomes a class C felony if the person has a prior conviction for stalking or if the person has previously violated a court’s stalking protective order.

If you have questions about stalking, or are interested in filing a stalking protective order, contact the Grant County Victim Assistance Program at 541-575-4026.

Jeremy Dietrich is the deputy district attorney for Grant County.

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