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Jan 06, 2015 10:09 AM EST

Stalking Awareness Month 2015: Schools Must Record Incidents for Clery Act


January is National Stalking Awareness Month and certain schools are raising awareness on campus for the act that has been known to sometimes escalate to violence.

According to USA Today, stalking only became recognized by the Clery Act in 2013 because of the Obama Administration's reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. About one in five women in college experience sexual assault and stalking is considered a form of harassment, albeit one that is shrouded in gray.

"Stalking can be hard to prove," Emilie McLarnan, assistant director for Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse (ATVP), told USA Today. "The stalker could have a million excuses as to why they're doing what they're doing."

The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to disclose all reported crimes on campus, which did not always include stalking. The University of Idaho (UI) and Washington State University (WSU) are among U.S. schools that are disclosing instances of stalking in their Clery Reports.

"That was a new change to the law," Matt Dorschel, public safety and security executive director at UI, told USA Today. "The Clery Act was amended by the Violence Against Women Act that included a few categories that we are required to report on."

Investigating complaints of stalking can be complicated in several ways, as it is easier for the perpetrator to leave little or no evidence. Unlike school police forces, local law enforcement is not required by a federal mandate to differentiate between stalking and other forms of harassment.

Stalking has also been expanded to the Internet, with individuals' presence on the web stretched across numerous social media platforms. Stalking is most often defined as when someone is intentionally or unintentionally threatened and/or repeatedly followed or harassed.

"People are getting an awareness of how easy technology makes it." McLarnan said.  "People are starting to realize just how easy it is for a stalker to be really, really effective."

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