GVSU hosts discussion for Stalking Awareness Month

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Samantha Przybylski (center) holds a sign behind the Its On Us social media stand on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015 inside the Kirhof Center.

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Samantha Przybylski (center) holds a sign behind the “It’s On Us” social media stand on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015 inside the Kirhof Center.

Tasman Mattox

January is Stalking Awareness Month, and the Grand Valley State University Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity decided to help make GVSU students aware of this with a presentation held Tuesday, Jan. 16. The hour-long presentation informed a small group of Lakers about the dangers of stalking and resources available on campus. 

According to the presentation, about 7.5 million people report incidents of stalking per year, and most people know the perpetrator.

“The most surprising facts I have taken with me from this event have got to be the statistics on stalking,” said Sandy Nguyen, a GVSU student who attended the event. 

Nguyen found the event eye-opening.

“I have always had a bit of knowledge on the seriousness of stalking, but I was not aware of how downplayed stalking is portrayed and communicated through social media,” she said. 

This downplaying of stalking was shown at the event through examples of memes, jokes and the like that people share online. 

Another group on campus working to combat campus violence is the “It’s on Us As Lakers” team. 

“We strive to educate and spread awareness about sexual assault, consent and bystander intervention through a variety of ways, like social activities, social movements and professional speakers,” said Michelle Roldan, the campus organizer who started the chapter in October 2017. 

The organization fulfills a need Roldan thought had to be addressed on campus. 

“It is such a taboo subject that somehow society isn’t willing to transparently teach,” she said. “What exactly is consent? What isn’t? What about when drugs and alcohol are thrown into the mix? Should I say something if this person at the party doesn’t look okay with what’s going on? What do I say?”

The group has a team of nine members, but Roldan is excited for more people to get involved. Interested Lakers can contact the group through their email, [email protected], or via the group’s Facebook page.

As part of the event,  attendees practiced repeating phrases to say to a possible stalker in order to get more comfortable saying them. 

“These awareness events really make you leave feeling educated and united knowing you don’t stand alone,” Nyugen said. 

If you or someone you know is being stalked, the Center for Women and Gender Equity also has resources. If there is a current emergency, call 911. For support, resources and advocacy, contact the center at 616-331-2748. To report incidents of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and/or sexual misconduct, contact the Title IX coordinator at 616-331-9530.