I’ve been driving for almost 20 years.  In my near 20 years of experience, I have developed two pet peeves:  people who don’t use their blinker, and the constant conundrum that, apparently, every intersection presents.  Just this morning I sat at a green arrow waiting for my equivalent across the street to decide what to do.  After several seconds of hesitation and no active response, I went on my way, having felt like I fulfilled, on my end, the appropriate traffic law. 

Why do intersections make us second guess our actions?  Even when we know the rules, we still hesitate and get hung up on how to respond.  I’d like to think it’s because at every intersecting situation we’re assessing safety scenarios and prioritizing what to do.  West Virginia law states that “the driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle which has entered the intersection from a different highway.”  People who are victims of stalking often obey these laws, too.

Stalking, generally defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear, is a repeated behavior such as following someone around, monitoring someone’s phone or computer use, or using technology to track someone.  Just like I have several years of driving experience, 11% of stalking victims have been stalked by someone for 5 years or more, according to the Stalking Resource Center.  And, contrary to stranger danger, 85% of stalking victims are stalked by someone that they know, and about half the time they are stalked by a current or former dating partner.  So why is stalking so underreported? One reason is because victims of stalking find themselves, too, at an intersection.

Stalking often overlaps with other kinds of crimes, specifically domestic violence and sexual assault.  Eighty-nine percent of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted had also been stalked in the 12 months before their murder, according to the Stalking Resource Center.  Thirty-one percent of women who are being stalked by an intimate partner have also been sexually assaulted by that partner, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.  When someone finds themselves at the intersection of multiple victimizations, it’s hard to know what to do, and just like the intersection driving law says, victims, often yield reporting the stalking and focus on and give right-of-way to the other crimes coming at them – domestic violence and sexual assault. 

Just like we prioritize our safety when driving, so do victims of stalking prioritize their safety, so when we see them hesitating or unsure of which way to turn, we can kindly remind them and others that there are stalking laws that should be followed.  We can support their experiences, so the options aren’t broken down into right, left, or straight, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, by recognizing that these crimes often co-occur.  We can create an environment where victims don’t have to pick and choose which crimes to report but can feel safe and believed sharing their whole truth.  

The Stalking Resource Center is an initiative of the National Center for Victims of Crime, with initial funding from the Violence Against Women Office of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) is a leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence.