Conference focuses on stopping stalkers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2006

It doesn’t just happen to celebrities.

Anyone can become the victim of stalking, a criminal activity in which the perpetrators can range from harmless, but emotionally troubled, human beings, to sociopaths, highly capable of committing kidnapping, rape or murder.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. On Jan. 26 several victims’ rights groups will join together to host a conference on stalking at the AUM Conference Center in Montgomery.

“From high profile celebrities cases to the young woman down the street, people continue to be the victim of stalking,” said Karen Sellers, executive director for the Family Sunshine Center. “The topic of this conference is very important to the staff and clients of the Family Sunshine Center. There is a strong link between stalking and other forms of intimate violence. In fact, 81 percent of women who were stalked by an intimate partner were also physically abused.”

And today’s stalkers, technologically savvy and willing to use any means available to keep tabs on their prey, are more dangerous than ever before.

Devices like GPS (Global Position Satellite) and miniature video cameras make stalking a potential victim even easier and the Internet allows a stalker quick access to telephone numbers, home addresses and places of employment.

Cyber-stalking, in which the stalker harasses their victims through e-mails and on-line chat rooms, has also grown over the past few years as more and more people gain daily access to the Internet.

According to the Stalking Resource Center, a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, victims of stalking suffer the effects of psychological trauma 24 hours a day, seven-days a week, which can include anxiety, depression, insomnia and an eventual loss of employment.

The conference on stalking will address the issues of cyber-stalking, as well as GPS monitoring. Other topics include: Case Development and Stalking Laws, Digital Case Files and Victim Services.

The one-day conference is specifically targeted to law enforcement officers, members of the judicial system and government officials. Cost for the conference is $20 per person. For more information or to register, call 334-244-3305.