Associate Attorney General Perrelli Hosts Town Hall Commemorating National Stalking Awareness Month

Jan 11, 2010, 13:02 ET from U.S. Department of Justice

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As part of the Justice Department's year-long commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli today hosted an event with survivors, advocates, law enforcement and judicial officials, and victim service providers to explore stalking behavior, the use of technology in stalking and the intersection between stalking and other crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and homicide. A panel and town hall discussion was moderated by Paula Zahn, producer and host of Investigation Discovery's On the Case With Paula Zahn, in honor of National Stalking Awareness Month, held each January.

"This year cannot just be an anniversary -- it must be a call to action. The Department is marking this year with our renewed dedication and a recommitment to ending violence against women," said Associate Attorney General Perrelli. "We must recognize the changing nature of these crimes and develop new strategies for addressing them. This is particularly important with stalking, in which the use of technology by stalkers has become a common practice. We in law enforcement, and our partners in the judiciary, need to adapt in order to stop those who stalk and provide help to victims of stalking."

"I am honored to help the Department of Justice bring awareness to the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act and, specifically stalking awareness," said Paula Zahn. "I have covered the issue of violence against women extensively over my more than 30 years in journalism and I know that it's critically important that we commemorate how far we've come and explore how we can work together to do even more. I am proud to be a voice for this initiative."

Today's event was presented by the Department's Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) with the assistance of the National Stalking Resource Center, an OVW grantee. In addition to remarks by Associate Attorney General Perrelli and OVW Acting Director Catherine Pierce, the audience also heard from former Washington Post reporter George Lardner Jr. about the 1992 stalking and murder of his youngest daughter, Kristin, an experience he subsequently wrote about in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series.

Expert panelists included Michelle Garcia, Director of the National Stalking Resource Center; Cindy Southworth, Director of Safety Net: The National Safe and Strategic Technology Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence; Linda Major, Executive Director of Domestic Violence Affairs for the Marion County, Indiana prosecutor's office; and Mark Wynn, former Nashville police officer and national trainer on stalking protocol and procedures.

Each year, approximately 3.4 million Americans are victims of stalking, a crime that is pervasive, dangerous and -- far too often -- lethal. Nearly three in four stalking victims know their offender in some capacity, and 30 percent of victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. While both men and women can be victims of stalking, women are nearly three times more likely to be stalked.

In the past decade, the use of technology by stalkers has become commonplace. According to National Stalking Resource Center, among the most common stalking behaviors that victims experience are unwanted phone calls and messages (66 percent) and unwanted e-mails and letters (31 percent). More than one in four victims report that stalkers have used technology, such as e-mail or instant messaging, to follow and harass them, and one in 13 says stalkers use electronic devices to intrude on their lives.

Today's event is another installment in the Justice Department's mission to raise public awareness on issues around violence against women, to build and renew coalitions among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and victim services communities, and to end stalking, sexual assault, domestic and dating violence for men, women and children across the country. As part of this public awareness initiative, the Department has encouraged the more than 100 celebrity allies, including Paula Zahn, who have lent their names in support of the Department's "Join the List" initiative to raise awareness with their fans, through Web and fan sites, and social networking profiles.

The Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics 2009 report, Stalking Victimization in the United States, is available for download at:

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice