Stalking is a serious, prevalent, and dangerous crime that impacts our community, yet remains frequently misunderstood. Although often romanticized in movies and media, there is nothing romantic about stalking. For those being stalked, life dramatically changes.
One out of every six women and one out of every nineteen men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime. Many times, the stalker is someone the victim knows. Sixty-six percent of stalking victims are stalked by current or former intimate partners, which was the case with stalking survivor Dawn Hillyer.
Hillyer’s horror began in October 2006 when she became the target of her ruthless stalker. In March 2012, her pursuer was finally convicted of two felony counts of stalking and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The years in between were filled with uncertainty and fear, forcing her to live in seclusion. “It is hard to put into words,” Hillyer said, “but being a target of a relentless stalker left me feeling desperate, alone, and scared. Sharing my experiences with friends and authorities wasn’t always well received. The reality of what was happening made ME sound crazy whenever I told someone, including the police. Reality is stranger than fiction.”
Determined to pave the way for others to more easily get the help they need, Hillyer began raising awareness. In December 2013, her story was featured on Investigation Discovery network’s fourth season premiere of “Stalked: Someone’s Watching.” That same month she appeared on Katie Couric’s talk show. “My case went national,” Hillyer said. “I have had the honor of speaking at several domestic violence conferences. I have also been involved in advocacy including tightening up stalking laws and testifying regarding bills at the State level.”
Hillyer offers the following tips if you suspect you are being stalked: “Document, document, document!” She goes on to recommend getting a protection order, report all violations to authorities (even if they become annoyed), and be a squeaky wheel. “Ask for Victim Advocates and a designated detective who can help put all the pieces together,” she continued.
Employers can also take action to keep employees safe. It is recommended to review policies, and to invest in taking the time to fully understand what stalking is, which includes a wide variety of behaviors:
Following the victim or lying in wait for them
Leaving or sending unwanted gifts and parcels to the victim’s home or workplace
Damaging the victim’s property
Threatening harm to the victim or their property, friends, family or pets
Defaming the victim’s character by spreading rumors or filing false complaints with police or the victim’s employer
Lying to the victim’s employer, family or friends in order to obtain more information about the victim
As we approach the end of Stalking Awareness month, YWCA Northeast Indiana would like to thank all the people working hard to keep people safe from stalking, as well as domestic violence. And, kudos to Dawn Hillyer for your bravery and persistence in being an advocate!