The Rape Prevention Education Program hosted its final local workshop on sexual assault prevention yesterday in conclusion of National Stalking Awareness Month.
According to a study conducted by the UCSB Women’s Center in 2001, on average one out of every three UCSB students experiences a situation in which they were stalked. ‘Stalking’ is defined by the Women’s Center as unwanted or repeated actions that include physical pursuit and uninvited calls or texts.
Candice Van Sittert, RPEP media outreach and promotions coordinator, said stalking is a graver issue than the student community realizes.
“Stalking affects 3.4 million people each year in the United States alone, with many of these instances occurring amongst the college population,” Van Sittert said. “If we can spread simple ways to decrease the number of incidences, even if it is just by refraining from using phrases that diminish the affects of stalking when they are used as jokes or engaging friends and family in conversations about making a change, we have done our job.”
Although stalking occurs in every community, RPEP Director Melanie Matson said such unwelcome behavior is especially common to college campuses.
“I believe this is important for all students, including those living in I.V. — to know about stalking and to know how they can stop it,” Matson said. “For example, making sure that we are taking stalking seriously by not joking about it, connecting friends to resources if they’re experiencing stalking and stepping in or saying something if we see someone stalking another person.”
Yesterday’s education event addressed the severity and prevalence of stalking. For their educational campaign this month, the RPEP held three separate workshops and made an abundance of information made available through fliers, posters and Facebook.
“We have three educational workshops: ‘It’s Not a Joke, It’s Not Romantic, It’s Not Okay: Stop Stalking,’ ‘Enough: Stalking and Abusive Relationships’ and ‘The Undetected Rapist: Stalking and Sexual Assault,’” Van Sittert said. “These workshops include statistics, movie clips and tips about what to do in stalking scenarios and how to help loved ones who may be experiencing them.”
RPEP is just one of several campus anti-rape programs. Other UCSB organizations geared towards rape prevention are Men Against Rape, Students Stopping Rape and Take Back the Night.
Next month, the Women’s Center will hold the “We Deserve Better” campaign from Feb. 7 to 11 to promote healthy relationships, followed by Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.