The Daily Gamecock

Student Health spreads stalking awareness

Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention informs students of crime

The month of January is not only the start of a new year; it’s also National Stalking Awareness month.

The Student Health Services Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention (SA/VIP) held a stalking awareness fair Wednesday afternoon on the second floor lobby of the Russell House to inform students about the dangers of stalking and to inform them about the proper actions to take if they think they’ve been a victim of stalking.

Students were able to stop by the stalking awareness table for cookies and an assortment of colorful, informational pamphlets.

“A lot of people don’t realize they are being stalked until it is too late,” said Michelle Eichelberger, the interpersonal violence program coordinator. “Most people don’t realize the elements of stalking; stalking is not just someone following you. Cyberbullying and identity theft can be forms of stalking as well.”

Thirteen percent of college women are stalked each academic year, and 30.3 percent of stalking incidents go unreported, according to The National Center for Victims of Crime-Stalking Resource Center.

“The earlier you establish a pattern, the better,” Eichelberger said. “Making a document with SAVIP can be the first step.”

It takes two separate documented incidents to file for a restraining order, but victims don’t have to go to the police to take the first step — SAVIP is available for students 24 hours a day and can assist a student in taking the proper steps to stop stalking. The office can also help students with risk reduction steps.

“The Student Health Services Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention Office offers advocacy services for students that have been victims of relationship violence or stalking and harassment. We have campaigns, support, information and resources available to students about all forms of violence,” SAVIP Assistant Director Stephanie Hinton said.

Her office has teamed up with the USC Department of Law Enforcement and Safety to offer students a free four-hour long self-defense class. The next available classes will be held on Jan. 27, March 30 and April 9, but classes are limited to 15 participants, so registering beforehand with Student Health Services is required.

Other programs that assist students with relationship violence are the Sexual Health Awareness and Rape Education (SHARE) peer educators, which helps increase community knowledge about sexual assault and other issues.

Another, Changing Carolina, is a group of male students that seek to end interpersonal violence.

“The stalking awareness fair is all part of Stand Up Carolina; we want students to stand up and speak out against all forms of violence,” Hinton said. “It doesn’t require much, it could just mean checking on someone.”