- Associated Press - Saturday, February 27, 2016

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - Victims of stalking are robbed of more than just their safety - peace of mind is lost and possibly their life.

“The very definition of stalking states that it is ‘following that puts a person in fear of physical harm,’” Women’s Resource Center Sexual Assault Service Coordinator/Prevention Educator Leslie Mateer said. “The thing about stalking is that it always escalates. They always become violent.

“If you check at homicides in domestic violence, most of them have been stalked when there’s a time of separation. During the separation, they want power over the victim. All forms of violence ultimately center around power and control. I’m so passionate about this issue because stalking victims are more likely to be killed.”

To help combat stalking in Raleigh County, the Beckley Area Foundation recently awarded the Women’s Resource Center a $5,000 grant to make anti-stalking kits, Mateer said.

“We’ve made 300 stalking kits and we’ve given some to law enforcement and we’ve kept some at the shelter. You can just toss them in your car or in your purse so that you have them when you feel like you’re being stalked.”

The kits contain items such as “a stalking incident log” and disposable gloves so that you can pick up anything that the stalker has left you, such as a threatening letter. The kit also includes bags to store the things they leave, along with a whistle and pepper spray.

“The log is especially important because the police are going to ask you questions like, ‘When did they follow you?’ and ‘Where were they?’” Mateer said. “You need to be able to show a pattern and the police need good facts to arrest the person. Stalking is hard to prosecute.

“Judges also want good, clear documentation of stalking in order to give protective orders.”

If you think that you’re being stalked, change your routine, along with providing good documentation, Mateer said.

“If a person knows you leave for work at 8:45, leave earlier,” she said. “Take a different route home. You can’t give them a way to find you. It’s a shame, but a victim has to change their life.”

Stalkers are people of every gender, creed and class, Mateer said.

“You can look at a domestic violence perpetrator and say ‘they have this type of personality,’” she said. “You can’t do that with stalkers. Every class of people stalks. Both genders stalk. It’s complicated.”

Anti-stalking kits are available at local law enforcement agencies and the Women’s Resource Center in Beckley.

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Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com


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