By Justin Katz | email@example.com
For more than a year, Cindy Strickland was stalked by a former boyfriend who followed her around while she drove to work, took her kids to school and attended sporting events and church.
The 22-year police veteran sent her letters, sneaked into her house and watched her through windows over the time that he stalked her.
Fortunately for Strickland, the man who did this in now serving five years in prison. However, this was only the beginning. She also faced multiple forms of cyber-stalking.
“He hacked into my personal email account accessing all of my email records, stealing passwords and hacked into my son’s Facebook account,” said Strickland.
Working with the Betty Griffin House, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse in St. Augustine, and the Flagler College women’s service club Phi Alpha Omega, Strickland will share her story on Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. in the Gamache-Koger Theater to raise awareness about the dangers of stalking.
Cyber-stalking is appearing more often, according to Kim Brumfield, community awareness coordinator for Betty Griffin House.
“One in four victims report technology being used in their stalking case,” said Brumfield.
The dangers of stalking associated with social media play a large part in why Strickland chooses to share her story with college students. After her own experiences with being watched via Facebook, she is concerned for the safety of others, as well as her children in particular.
“As a parent, it concerns me how dangerous social networking can be in the hands of the wrong person,” she said. “It’s so important to be certain who that person is that is sending you a friend request.”
Her concerns as a parent were confirmed by the National Center for Victims of Crimes. They reported that individuals aged 18 to 24 have the highest rate of stalking victimization.
Despite the dangers that people face when it comes to physical and cyber-stalking, many incidents go unreported. According to Brumfield, many people either do not realize the seriousness of stalking or they don’t believe the police will take them seriously if they ask for help.
Alerting Flagler College students to these dangers is in part why Taylor Koerner, president of Phi Alpha Omega, along with Taylor Whitsell, social chair, has been working to ensure this event is continued from where it left off last year.
“I want Flagler students, female or male, to understand they have options and resources that can help them in situations they might find unsolvable,” said Koerner.
All three parties want to send a clear message to Flagler students that self defense and stalking are issues that everyone needs to be informed about, regardless of age, gender or profession.
“Don’t ignore the ‘red flags’. If you are being stalked, harassed or abused, get help,” said Strickland. “Don’t think it will go away if you ignore it. It only gets worse.”
If you are think you are being stalked and want assistance, you can call the free Betty Griffin House hotline at 904-824-1555 or visit www.bettygriffinhouse.org