Thursday, April 18, 2013

New protections enacted for stalking victims

Stalking is a crime that affects approximately 3.4 million Americans each year. These perpetrators know no economic, racial, or societal bounds. Some stalkers are former spouses or boyfriends who are angry about child custody battles or embittered by breakups. But they can also be total strangers to the victim.

Stalking can destroy lives. They sit outside homes for hours. They follow victims to work, to the gym, and out with friends. They call dozens of times a day and make constant threats.

Stalking may go on for years and can end in murder or suicide. Victims of stranger stalking in Washington state have virtually no tools to stop these actions. Under current law, the only protection these victims can receive is an anti-harassment order. Anti-harassment orders are what neighbors file against each other over barking dogs or fence disputes. Law enforcement places very low priority on anti-harassment orders.

Fortunately, HB 1383 sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) will help save lives. It will create a new a stalking protection order, similar to sexual assault and domestic violence protection orders. This will give law enforcement better tools to stop stalkers, more protections for victims, and harsher penalties for perpetrators.

HB 1383 passed the House and Senate unanimously. It was renamed the "Jennifer Paulson Stalking Protection Order" in memory of a Tacoma special education teacher who was murdered by her stalker three years ago. The bill now heads to the Governor's office for his signature.

More information:
•    End Stalking In America, Inc.
•    What other states are doing about stalking
•    Jennifer Paulson’s story

Photo credit: Salvatore Vuono/