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Victims of Stalking

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"Be Strong, Be Safe and Be Heard!"SM
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National Stalking Awareness Month

National Stalking Awareness Month

A Tragic Murder:
A Powerful Force to Improve the Nation’s Response to Stalking

National Center for Victims of Crime • Networks • Summer 2003

In late February 2003, Debbie Riddle contacted the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime seeking help.  Peggy Klinke, Debbie’s sister, had been brutally murdered two months earlier by a former boyfriend who had stalked her before killing her and then himself.  Debbie wanted to translate her family’s painful tragedy into a force for positive change. In particular, she wanted to find ways to improve law enforcement’s response to stalking.  She wanted to help save lives.

Debbie Riddle’s call set into motion a series of remarkable events that within four
months resulted in a Congressional briefing, a concurrent Congressional resolution, and a national television program featuring Peggy’s story.  On July 8, 2003, the National Center for Victims of Crime, in partnership with Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Lifetime Television, brought Peggy’s story to the attention of Congress at a briefing on Capitol Hill. 

Debbie Riddle and Mark Sparks (Peggy Klinke’s boyfriend at the time of her murder) described the terror of Peggy’s last months.  They shared how Peggy worked with the police, obtained restraining orders, and even succeeded in having the case set for trial.  Yet six days before the trial date, Peggy was killed.

The briefing highlighted ways law enforcement can strengthen its response to stalking. Speakers included Erin Brockovich, host of Lifetime’s Final Justice; Diane Stuart, director of the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice; Tracy Bahm, director of the Stalking Resource Center, National Center for Victims of Crime; and Mark Wynn, former police officer and stalking expert.  Susan Herman, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, moderated the briefing.

That same day, Representative Wilson—sponsor of the briefing—introduced a resolution to support National Stalking Awareness Month, which will focus a national spotlight on stalking every January.  (A copy of the resolution and more information about National Stalking Awareness Month are available at www.ncvc.org/src

Through their powerful statements, Debbie Riddle and Mark Sparks urged both increased awareness and immediate action to help save lives.  And Mark Wynn outlined steps law enforcement can take to prevent more tragedies like Peggy Klinke’s death.  Lifetime, which aired the Peggy Klinke story on Erin Brockovich's "Final Justice" show, has also producing a 15-minute training video called "Stalking: Real Fear, Real Crime."  The videotape is being distributed free to police departments around the country.


Strengthening Law Enforcement’s Response to Stalking

According to Mark Wynn, former lieutenant of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department and a nationally recognized stalking expert, all responsible elements in the criminal justice system — law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, probation, parole, corrections — should take responsibility to ensure that the law keeps its promise to victims of stalking and domestic violence. During the Congressional briefing, he outlined a series of concrete recommendations for improving law enforcement’s stalking response:

All stalking cases should be pursued vigorously
The law has to be the same for everyone in this country, not just someone of means or standing, such as a celebrity or politician. 

Every domestic violence case should be looked at as a potential stalking case
When dating Peggy Klinke, Patrick Kennedy had shown the kind of aggressive, controlling behavior that is typical of stalkers. Years of study show that there are common signs before a violent attack, a hostage situation, a murder. And stalking is at the top of that list of signs.

Safety planning should become a top priority before and after an arrest.

Stalking victims don’t report because they are afraid of the consequences of the report itself and what will happen to them. Every stalking victim in this country who walks into a police station, a sheriff’s office, or a prosecutor’s office should walk out with a safety plan or have contact with someone in that office who can work with the victim to develop a safety plan.

Victims should be active participants in safety planning
Stalking victims deal with an incredible amount of anxiety.  Their active participation will help increase their trust in law enforcement.

Violators of orders of protection should be aggressively pursued
Protective order violations are strong pre-incident indicators before murder.  Protective orders should be available to all stalking victims, not just in domestic violence cases, and weapons prohibitions must be enforced. 

Police officers, prosecutors, and judges should receive training on how to identify stalking cases and the different types of stalkers

As with sex offenders, there are many different types of stalkers.  All are potentially dangerous.  All must get the message that their stalking behavior will not be tolerated.

Police officers should be trained in gathering evidence
Lack of evidence makes prosecuting stalkers very difficult.  Stalking evidence is usually available, but officers are frequently not familiar with how to collect and integrate those pieces for prosecution.

Stalking protocols should be developed and implemented.

Law enforcement agencies should implement stalking protocols, like those for high-speed pursuit, use of deadly force, and domestic violence.  Stalking protocols should require timely and responsive incident investigations and include counter-stalking strategies. There is no margin of error, no time to wait when someone is being stalked.

Interagency agreements should be established between jurisdictions. 

Stalkers frequently cross state and county lines, and even international borders, to reach their victims. Stalkers need to know that law enforcement agencies won’t stop at jurisdictional lines, that they will be pursued wherever they go, wherever they repeat their stalking behavior. Police officers must be trained on violations of the federal stalking law, which makes it a federal offense to stalk someone across state lines or on tribal or federal lands. Federal prosecutors also must be involved in this educational effort.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2003
by the National Center for Victims of Crime. 

This information may be freely distributed, provided that it is distributed free
of charge, in its entirety and includes this copyright notice.


Feel Safe Again, Inc. is honored to have Debbie Riddle, Peggy Klinke's sister, on our board of directors.  We have supported Debbie's mission to help others survive by proposing local legislation.  We are pleased to say, we have successfully had Stalking Awareness Month passed in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and have recently contacted a representative from Maine and Vermont.  We encourage other individuals/organizations to contact their legislator to do the same.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month.
Start planning your events now

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