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Stalking Awareness Month: How stalking is defined at UNC

A person is in distress with their head on their knees. Text reads, "January is Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking: Know it. Name it. Stop it." Image colors are sunburst yellow and black.

In recognition of National Stalking Awareness Month, the Equal Opportunity and Compliance (EOC) Office and Violence Prevention & Advocacy Services (VPAS) are raising awareness about how UNC-Chapel Hill defines stalking, how to recognize stalking, and the resources available to the Carolina community to help support victims of stalking.

Stalking is prohibited by the University’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Misconduct (PPDHRM) and the Policy on Prohibited Sexual Harassment under Title IX. These policies define stalking as “ course of conduct . . . directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person . . . to fear for their safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”

Stalking can take many forms. It is not always based on a current, previous, or desired romantic relationship. Stalking can happen between people who know each other or who are strangers. It can happen through direct or indirect contact or through other people by any action, method, device, or means to follow, monitor, observe, surveil, threaten, or communicate to or about another person.  People often associate stalking with following, lurking, and spying. These are forms of stalking, but stalking can also be carried out through technology, including social media.

Stalking behaviors can include:

  • Sending repeated, unwanted calls, texts, emails, letters, and/or social media messages
  • Creating fake social media accounts or profiles to communicate, monitor, and/or impersonate
  • Using multiple social media platforms to engage in unwanted contact, monitoring, information gathering, and/or communication
  • Repeatedly showing up at someone’s home, workplace, class, or social gathering space
  • Leaving unwanted gifts or letters
  • Damaging property
  • Monitoring or tracking of someone’s location
  • Using information obtained at work to engage in unwanted personal communication, tracking, monitoring, and/or contact

Individuals who are experiencing stalking may try to negotiate the situation in various ways. Some people feel able to directly state the attention is unwanted. Although this direct communication may be ideal to clearly indicate something is unwanted, some people may worry this could instigate or escalate the situation and result in physical harm. Individuals are encouraged to document both unwanted contact or behaviors and the ways they directly or indirectly indicate conduct is unwanted, as this may be helpful evidence if they decide to report to the EOC or UNC Police.

Healthy relationships require all parties to recognize and respect boundaries. This includes recognizing when communication is unwanted or not reciprocated. For example, blocking someone on one social media platform is not an invitation to access that person on a different platform. Leaving a message “read” with no response may be an indication the message was unwanted. If you are unsure whether your communication is welcomed, you should ask. Be sure to respect the response, especially if it is not the answer you hoped to receive.

There are various University resources available to individuals experiencing stalking. These resources may also be helpful if someone is concerned about their own behavior and/or the behavior of friends or peers.

For more information and resources for those who are experiencing stalking or other prohibited conduct, please visit our support and services section.

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