WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and Director of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Susan B. Carbon today opened an event focused on the complexities and impact of stalking crimes. The program featured a panel of speakers who shared their involvement in one family’s experience as victims of stalking, and their work to investigate and identify stalking behavior, and make changes to a state law to protect victims.
The event, which commemorated National Stalking Awareness Month, welcomed an audience of victim advocates, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, congressional staffers, and representatives from national organizations and federal agencies.
"Commemorating National Stalking Awareness Month today allows the department to underscore our commitment and efforts to prevent violence against women, to empower victims, and to hold perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice," said Attorney General Holder. "By providing a model for how a potential tragedy can be turned into opportunity, today’s guests also inspire our efforts in meeting the goals and responsibilities that we share."
Today’s event, presented by OVW, focused on the story of a young girl, Hannah Perryman, who was stalked and faced a criminal justice system that was, at the time, ill-equipped to provide the assistance she needed. With extraordinary community collaboration, particularly from law enforcement, she was able to successfully persuade the Illinois General Assembly to pass new legislation on behalf of victims of stalking.
"Stalking is a crime that affects families, work colleagues, and entire communities," said Associate Attorney General Perrelli. "Therefore, when we help communities recognize stalking behavior as criminal and provide tools to help them deal with this crime, we support victims and take a step towards ending violence against women."
"Stalking, a complex and often dangerous crime, is sometimes difficult to recognize. Providing appropriate responses can also be challenging for communities that do not understand what stalking is," said Carbon, the Director of OVW. "This national observance of Stalking Awareness Month is intended to provide information about the crime and support to victims and to those who work to prevent and end behaviors associated with stalking."
In addition to Department officials, expert presenters included Rebecca Dreke, Senior Program Associate with the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime and Cindy Southworth, Director of Safety Net: the National Safe and Strategic Technology Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
According to a report by the Office of Justice Program’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, during a 12-month period, an estimated 3.4 million persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking. The study measured behaviors such as unwanted phone calls, sending unsolicited or unwanted letters or e-mails, following or spying on the victim, showing up at places without a legitimate reason, waiting at places for the victim, leaving unwanted items, presents or flowers and posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth. Additional findings included that approximately one in four stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83 percent) and nearly three in four stalking victims knew the offender in some capacity.
Resources and information related to stalking awareness month are located on OVW’s website at www.ovw.usdoj.gov and the Stalking Resource Center’s National Stalking Awareness Month website at www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org.
OVW is a component of the Department of Justice. In recognition of the severity of the crimes associated with domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 (VAWA) as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Created in 1995, OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities around the country to facilitate the creation of programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Since its inception, OVW has awarded more than $4 billion in grants and cooperative agreements, and has launched a multifaceted approach to implementing VAWA. By forging state, local, federal and tribal partnerships among police, prosecutors, victim advocates, health care providers, and community leaders, OVW grant programs help provide victims with the protection and services they need to pursue safe and healthy lives, while simultaneously enabling communities to hold offenders accountable.