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Stalking is the problem lurking on college campuses

Although Oklahoma Christian University’s campus police does not receive many stalking reports, studies find that persons aged 18 to 24 experience the highest rate of stalking, and college campuses cannot avoid this problem.

According to the Stalking Resource Center, 7.5 million people are stalked per year in the U.S., and over 85 percent of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know. Stalking definitions vary by state. Oklahoma punishes the crime of stalking with imprisonment in a county jail for not more than a year, or a fine of not more than $1,000.

“Any person who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or harasses another person in a manner that would cause a reasonable person…to feel frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested; and actually causes the person being followed or harassed to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested,” Oklahoma legislature said.

According to a recent twitter poll, 52 percent of 50 participants in the Oklahoma Christian community said they have been stalked on social media.

According to a follow-up poll, 24 percent of 80 participants said they have been stalked on the Oklahoma Christian campus, while 69 percent said they have never been stalked on campus.

Greg Giltner, the chief of police at Oklahoma Christian, said in the two years he has worked at the university, the only stalking incident he has had was on the Eagle Trail, where two women were tracked down and grabbed.

“Neither one of them knew the assailant,” Giltner said. “One of the assailants was arrested, the other we never found out who it was. They just touched them and ran off. I’ve had a couple phone calls about, ‘Hey, my boyfriend is calling and threatening me, and now I’m on campus.’ I’ve taken that person’s name, but I’ve never had a follow-up. I’ve never had anyone come on campus, and I’ve never had to make an arrest on campus.”

Giltner said he does not get many stalking complaints, whether on campus or through social media. However, he said he had one incident on social media, but it never progressed far enough to involve law enforcement.

“I would like to think that our private campuses would be free from [stalking],” Giltner said. “But I’m sure it’s also that people don’t want to get involved. We have domestic violence, rape incidents, and they just want it to be over—they don’t want to drag it out. I would hope that a private campus is safer.”

Although the stalking reports at Oklahoma Christian are minimal, Giltner said if the campus police received a phone call that someone is being followed, it would be a priority for them to take care of the situation immediately.

“The term ‘stalking’ has to do with a stealthy approach,” Giltner said. “Someone is working in the darkness, waiting at a car, following someone to class and then jumping out or intimidating. It’s up to the faculty, staff, students or civilians if they want to prosecute or pursue that. A lot of times, they just want us to be aware. But we are always going to do a report. Once I do a report, I will turn it in to a detective at Oklahoma City, and they will do a follow-up.”

Senior Haylye Plaster said a person stalked her and her best friend their freshman year at Oklahoma Christian. According to Plaster, this person was someone they were getting very close to and did not realize anything was wrong until it was too late. Plaster said the first red flag was a reckless driving incident.

“We thought it was weird, but we just let it be, like [the person] was just upset,” Plaster said. “We know this person is sometimes depressed. As time started going on, more red flags started showing like that. Just out of the blue, ‘Why didn’t you text me back? It’s been ten minutes, why didn’t you text me back?’ So that was another major red flag for us. But still, we were naïve, and like maybe it’s attachment issues or separation issues or whatever.”

Plaster said the situation progressed to a concerning point. The person’s mom started texting Plaster, blaming medications. Plaster said she was very forgiving, but told the person unless they got back on the medication, they could not be friends.

“That hit really hard for this person and they threatened to kill themselves if we weren’t this person’s friends,” Plaster said. “And then after that, we still had classes together and the person would sit there and just stare at me, or follow me to class, or wait for me in front of my classrooms and all sorts of things. I finally got the point of feeling sick all the time and thinking, ‘When is this person going to pop out of nowhere?’”

According to Plaster, she went to administration, explained the situation, and requested to not have this person in her classes anymore. She said she had to block the person’s number, emails and everything else, but the person still contacted her through new email accounts or a friend’s phone number. Plaster said her junior year they had another class together, and after receiving an apology email, she decided to accept the apology.

“We only stuck to emailing, we didn’t hangout after class,” Plaster said. “I set those boundaries. We didn’t sit next to each other or anything, so that class was okay. And then this semester, I had another class with this person, but I was promised my freshman year he wasn’t going to be in any of my classes ever again. I wasn’t the first girl he had done this to.”

Plaster said the person started sitting right next to her, so she went back to the administrator she had spoken to before and the person was removed from her class again.

“It was hard, because I don’t want to affect someone else’s education,” Plaster said. “But at the same time, every time the person sits by me, or spoke to me in person, or walked behind me, or walked towards me, you get this feeling. They never physically harmed me, but it was an emotional, mental game with this person and it totally messed me up.”

According to Plaster, there are many girls who have filed against this person. She said this affects her education because she is scared to go to class without having someone with her.

“Administration could have said, ‘You can’t live on campus, you have to stay at home,’” Plaster said. “For me and my friend who experienced this before fanfare, and not be the first ones, the kid should’ve been gone three years ago and I’m the one who feels bad. I think you should choose the bigger group over the singular person who’s causing all of these issues.”

Plaster said she never took the issue to campus police, but spoke to several administrators and her professors, who told her that if anything happens to call campus police.

“But when the person’s walking next to me, what am I going to tell the police officer?” Plaster said. “Even though I feel inside that he just defiled me or screwed with me, just because I feel like that, there’s nothing to that. There’s no measurement for mental or emotional pain for me to grasp at legally. I can’t fathom why there would be so many reports against one person and that person still be able to roam and have no repercussions. I have a stalker still on campus, following me to classes or purposefully walking by me because he knows I have this one class. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m a woman on a Christian campus. There’s no words for how frustrating and how much anxiety it gives me.”

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