Safer, Lumina Alliance, Cal Poly Police Department and the Civil Rights & Compliance Office at Cal Poly defined what each of their groups consider to be stalking during a Jan. 20 Safer community panel for Stalking Action Month.
“I am surprised that we have so many available resources for students and yet there still are so many occurrences of stalking, sexual violence, dating violence, etc.,” food science sophomore Tommy Zamencik said after the panel concluded.
Safer and Lumina Alliance are confidential resources students can contact if they think they may be a victim of stalking. Title IV and the Cal Poly Police Department are non-confidential resources, but are also available.
Safer and Lumina Alliance shared a broader term of stalking at the panel. Any pattern of behavior that’s directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel a fear for their safety or for the safety of others or is causing some level of significant emotional distress is the definition Assistant Director of Wellbeing Kara Samaniego, who directs the Safer program, provided.
“We create it as broad as possible so that as many people as possible may see themselves in that experience and know that Safer is a safe and confidential place to come and seek support with an advocate and with a professional staff member,” Samaniego said.
“We understand that stalking can also affect the family and friends of the victim that’s being stalked even though they’re not directly being stalked,” Lumina Alliance representative Esther Salzman said. “We want to make sure that we also provide services for friends and family.”
The Civil Rights & Compliance Office is tasked with responding to complaints related to discrimination, harassment and retaliation and coordinating with Title IV.
The definition the Civil Rights & Compliance Office uses to define stalking is set forth in Executive Order 1097 from the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office and is drafted to be in compliance with state and federal laws.
Stalking is engaging in a repeated course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the safety of themselves or the safety of others or to suffer substantial emotional distress according to Executive Order 1097.
“Folks outside of this work might not hear those words all the time, meaning everything is analyzed on a case by case basis,” Assistant Director for the Civil Rights & Compliance Office Kaitlyn Blakey said.
A “course of conduct” in this context includes but is not limited to acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly or through third parties, follows, monitors, observes, serveils, threatens or communicates to or about a person or interferes with a person’s property, according to Blakey.
A “reasonable person” means a person under similar circumstances and with the same protected statuses of the complainant. “Substantial emotional distress” is defined as significant mental suffering or anguish that may but does not necessarily require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.
The Cal Poly Police Department uses the criminal definition of stalking: any person who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family.
This definition of stalking differs from others because a credible threat, one that puts someone in sustained fear, must be proven for criminal law to define an act as stalking, Cal Poly Police representative Jeffrey Lewis said.
The Cal Poly Police Department works with several aspects on campus in relation to stalking, according to Lewis, but their main focus is working with the District Attorney’s Office on reported cases.
“With Safer, I feel like I understand now more what they’re capable of,” Zamencik said. “I knew that this is essentially what they work with and what they do, but not that they were there for you before it happens, while it happens and after it happens.”
Zamencik said he thinks that students on Cal Poly’s campus experience stalking more often than they might realize.
“You know, somebody just maybe sees them more often than they would expect or somebody is texting them more often than what they want and it just makes them a little uncomfortable, but they don’t put two and two together that it might be stalking,” Zamencik said. “I think it happens everyday to almost everybody, but you don’t recognize the threat until it becomes much more prominent.”