HONESDALE -- Wayne County District Attorney and Chair of the Wayne County Anti-Violence Task Force, Patrick Robinson recognized January as National Stalking Awareness Month and National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. Many stalking victims experience being followed, approached and/or threatened – including through technology. Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right as well as a predictor of serious violence. In 85% of cases where an intimate partner (i.e., boyfriend or husband) attempted to murder his partner, stalking preceded the attack.
“I took it as he just loved me so much and I just drove him to the point – I took his intensity as love instead of something just dark.” Sophia Putney-Wilcox, age 14, survivor of a murder attempt from her stalker and former boyfriend.
Of the millions of men and women stalked every year in the United States, over half report being stalked before the age of 25 and over 15% report it first happened before the age of 18. Despite the reality that young people experience stalking, this crime is often misunderstood, minimized and/or ignored.
Human Trafficking involves both men and women, adults and children, US citizens and foreign nationals who are induced into commercial sex acts or labor of services through force, fraud or coercion. There have been over 127 reported cases of Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania in 2018.
Victims of Human Trafficking often do not immediately seek help due to a variety of factors including lack of trust, self-blame, instructions from the Trafficker on how to behave when speaking with law enforcement or social services or fear of the Trafficker.
In Pennsylvania, Stalking is currently graded as a 1st degree Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. A subsequent violation can constitute a felony offense. Human Trafficking is a Felony of the Second degree, punishable by up to 10 years incarceration. The Wayne County Anti-Violence Task Force, through the STOP Domestic Violence Grant has recently hosted two trainings addressing both “traditional” and digital stalking as well as a 2017 training on Human Trafficking to educate law enforcement, victims’ services and others who may come in contact with victims of this crime.
Robinson said, "We all have a role to play in identifying stalking and supporting victims and survivors. Learn more about stalking and human trafficking and how you can help stop it.
District Attorney Robinson urged anyone who fears that they are a victim of stalking, human trafficking or any type of domestic violence to contact the Police, Victim’s Intervention Program (570) 253-4401 or their local domestic violence shelter.