Slowly following a pedestrian on a walk, creeping around the corner of grocery aisles, messaging strangers inappropriate messages on social media or following drivers home: all are forms of stalking, and it is vital that students know what to do if they are being stalked or harassed.
As defined by the Indiana Criminal Code in the most recent book, stalking is knowing or the intentional course of conduct involving repeated and continued harassment or another person that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated or threatened.
“Typically when someone says they are being stalked, it turns out to be harassment: a person with the intent to harass or alarm another person, but with no intent of legitimate communication,” Detective Sargent Jay Arnolds said. “Basically, it’s when someone just wants to mess with someone with no reason at all. Stalking is really hard to prove.”
Sophomore Madisen Schmidt has dealt with someone repeatedly harassing, and potentially stalking her online and in person.
“[He] would say hi to me every day, and I would say hi back,” Schmidt said. “Then, he started following me on social media and would comment on my posts saying, ‘Oh you’re so pretty. I love you. I want to be with you forever,’ and all that stuff. Then on Facebook, he made this wedding invitation saying, ‘Everyone is invited to our wedding.’ And he also says inappropriate stuff about my body. He compared my body parts to a football player. And one time I took a picture with a teacher and right after, he got one too. He took both photos and posted them together in a collage and said, ‘Had a good day with my sister.’ He made the collage his profile picture. And he calls me Maddy-poo. Overall, it makes me feel uncomfortable.”
A stranger contacted freshman Zakary Rasener on Instagram and eventually found out where he lived.
“When I was like 13 and in 7th grade, this older guy, who had to be in his late 50’s or early 60’s, messages me on Instagram because he wanted to meet me because I was cute,” Rasener said. “Nothing really happened for a couple of weeks. Then, he hit me up later saying, ‘I saw you today.’ I kept seeing this guy around my neighborhood that I knew I had seen before but I didn’t know where. But it turns out, that it was this guy who had messaged me because his face was on his Instagram. He found out where I lived somehow. I don’t know if he found my Twitter or something and saw a picture of me at my house. So he figured out where I lived and was watching me from my neighborhood, and that was super weird. That happened for like a week, and I didn’t really think about it because he never came up to me. Then, he sort of just went away, and I’ve never seen him since. I told me parents that there was this guy that kept looking at me and stalking me, and they said, ‘Don’t talk to him.”
When something happens like it did with Rasener, it is vital that students report it.
“With the way social media is today, some kids put themselves in situations they can’t get out of because they feel like they did something wrong,” Officer Arnold said. “If you’re contacted on social media by someone who is creeping you out, go tell your parents. Then, you’re safe, and they can report it. You can never be too careful.”
If senior Kaylynn Riley had not been aware of her surroundings, someone could have potentially followed her home from the gym.
“My friend and I were in the gym (the Gathering Place), and we noticed this older guy kept looking over at us, and he kept watching everyone, which was really creepy,” Riley said. “As soon as we left, he left. So we got really creeped out by that because he kept looking at us during our workout. We were parked in different lots, ours and this guy. I sat in my car for five minutes, because I wasn’t going to leave until he left. So then I sat there for literally five to seven minutes, watching him through my mirror until he left. He finally left and then I left. I saw him again at the gym, but I left as soon as I saw him. It made me feel terrified.”
It is vital that students do not go home and call 911 if they are being followed by a car.
“If a person is following you home, you definitely need to call 911,” Officer Arnold said. “If someone feels like they are being followed in their car, don’t go home. The last thing you want to do is let them know where you live. Our typical response to a call saying someone is being stalked, we’d stop their car and ask what they’re doing, who are they, what’s going on. You’d never get in trouble for calling 911 for a legitimate reason.”