MISHAWAKA--According to the Centers for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/prevent-stalking/index.html, one in six women and one in 17 men have experienced stalking in their lifetime. Furthermore, this is often happening to college-aged individuals, with 54% of female victims and 41% of male victims reporting having experienced stalking before the age of 25. These statistics make this a topic that college community members should be aware of - including Bethel's. In recognition of National Stalking Awareness month, Director of Campus Safety Paul Neel spoke with the Beacon about what stalking is and how students should respond if they feel they are being stalked.
“Anything that seems or feels unwanted, whether it’s repetitious or topically, sometimes folks will start talking about topics that don’t make you feel comfortable or other things like that,” Neel said. “Usually, the biggest indicator is once you’ve asked someone to . . . stop contacting you and they continue to do it, that obviously becomes harassment and stalking-type behavior.”
Neel encourages students to discuss uncomfortable situations with resident assistants, resident directors, individuals in the Student Life Office, the Wellness Center or directly with Campus Safety.
“The biggest thing to do is to be open and talk about it,” Neel said. “It’s not an indication of shame or anything like that to talk about a situation like that. Use the resources at hand.”
Neel said it is also important to have conversations with friends about it to see if they’re noticing the behavior as well.
“Often, we find that the friends often notice even before the individual does,” he said. “Be honest with one another and be open to talk about it.”
Neel said if a stalking situation were to escalate and there was any concern or fear of danger, students should call Campus Safety or 911. He also discussed a couple of preventative measures, which included exercising caution online and setting clear boundaries in personal relationships, romantic or otherwise.
“Set those personal boundaries and stick to them,” he said. “That keeps things from escalating to putting you in a position that you don’t want to be in.”
Neel, who has also served as Bethel’s interim Title IX coordinator when needed, said it is important for the school to abide by those Title IX guidelines, not just because of federal requirements, but also because it is the right thing to do for the Bethel community. Stalking would be a clear Title IX violation, according to the policy’s purpose.
“The best general definition [of Title IX] is: to ensure that folks do not have their educational process unduly interrupted or interfered with because of actions that may have happened on or off campus by another individual, whether they’re associated with the institution or not,” Neel said.
Bethel’s current Title IX coordinator is the newly hired Director of Human Resources, Lisa Cutting. According to Bethel’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, students should call 574.807.7215 to make formal complaints about anyone not complying with Title IX policies.
Neel concluded by encouraging students to always be safe rather than sorry.
“If you see something, say something,” Neel said. “Anything that feels suspicious is reportable. And that’s in your relationships . . . that’s on or around campus, we want people to always feel comfortable reaching out to Campus Safety or someone in Student Life [if something] just seems a little off.”