Stalking at RIT

Illustration by Jess Edwards

Content Warning: This editorial contains language that may be triggering for those closely associated with stalking.

Growing up I’ve always heard stories about stalkers.

I convinced myself that they only existed in fiction. However, stalkers are real and all too common, especially on college campuses.

A few years ago, I had a cyberstalker. Luckily, we were able to find out who the person was and deal with it while also keeping me safe.

Years later, once again, stalking is a prevalent factor in my life in a different way. Someone close to me was being stalked on RIT's own campus. It caused them so much stress to the point where they reconsidered being on campus.

Stalking On RIT Campus

Stacy DeRooy, who works for Title IX which deals with numerous harassment cases said that "reports happen often, usually during the school year, daily."

Stalking is a prevalent problem at RIT with numerous cases being reported every year.

Mark Koehler, an investigator for Public Safety, expanded on this.

"In 2018 there were 30 incidents reported, with 13 of them taking place in the residential facilities," Koehler said.

"In 2018 there were 30 incidents reported, with 13 of them taking place in the residential facilities."

Though these cases fluctuate, it's common enough on campus where there's a common saying: “How do you know you’re a woman at RIT? When it’s the first week of classes and you already have a stalker.”

The fact that this is so common, shows how much of a problem stalking is on campus.

A Stalking Experience

An anonymous source described how they met their stalker — they worked on campus, and would often strike up conversations with customers to be friendly.

One customer frequently visited their line at work. During one of the conversations between the two, they had exchanged Snapchat usernames. The source said, at first, the person seemed nice enough, maybe even a potential friend.

But then the stalker began appearing at their workplace constantly.

Often, they would interrupt the victim and subsequent customers by starting conversations during work, or sending unwanted flirtatious messages.

The source made it clear to this person that they were only interested in being friends and already had a partner, and for a time, the stalker withdrew. Until the source broke up with their partner.

The stalking grew worse. There were more messages and more visits to their workplace. Their stalker would even wait outside close for them when their shift was over, no matter the time.

As the semester was ending, the source blocked their stalker since they knew they wouldn't have to see them in person and be bombarded with questions on why the blocking happened.

“Just Block Them”

In this situation, whenever flirting occurred and the victim would tell their stalker that they were not interested, the stalker would flip the narrative by saying they misinterpreted the conversation. This is gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a tactic used with the intent to manipulate a situation to make the victim believe that what they're experiencing isn't happening, or the victim is misinterpreting the perpetrator. Innocuous comments like “you're overreacting” can become gaslighting when the abuser tries to convince the victim that what they see and feel isn't true, and that the abuser is right, always.

Even more, victims can receive similar comments from their peers, making the victim doubt themselves further.

The source described an experience of being sexually harassed, but instead of getting the help they needed, they were told that they took things the wrong way.

Experiences like this are some of the reasons why victims don't seek help from authorities. A lot of times it could do more harm than good.

Victims are often told to just "block" the perpetrator if the platform is online. This does not stop the stalking most of the time. Stalkers are relentless — they will go to great lengths to stay in contact with their victim.

Blocking becomes even more of an issue when you see this person in your everyday life.

The source explained how they held off with blocking their stalker because they were too scared that their stalker would cause a scene or get angry.

There are so many factors to account for stalking victims. Sometimes blocking can make things worse and cause stalkers to become more aggressive. In some cases, it could lead to direct harm to victims, rather than keeping them safe.

“Victim blaming” is another problem that happens to victims of harassment.

Oftentimes, we will hear people blame the victim, whether it be for what they are wearing or just being friendly. However, being a victim has nothing to do with clothing or being nice to people.

Normalization of Stalking and Improvements

DeRooy explained that a lot of reports are on people who have expressed a romantic interest in the victim.

"Most stalking reports, someone has a romantic interest in someone else and ... don't know how to convey their interest and then the recipient doesn't know how to decline or doesn't feel comfortable doing so," DeRooy said.

Many complaints are towards people who are part of Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, a heavily male-dominated program that focuses on technology and computers. RIT assigned a Title IX depute investigator into areas like these to help them be “in the know” where cases like harassment are more likely to happen.

"We see the trend, we know the trend. We try to pay attention to where these complaints are coming from,” DeRooy added.

"We see the trend, we know the trend. We try to pay attention to where these complaints are coming from.”

Title IX is aware of complaints from students and is actively working to access these situations so they can come up with the best solution for the problem.

DeRooy explained that they are working closely with the first-year office to try and incorporate more safety guidelines into the first-year program.

“We’re trying to build more training, we’re trying to make students feel more empowered. Not to victim blame, but to give tools and strategies to confront these situations,” DeRooy said.

To victims of stalking: you are not alone.

While professionals are the ones who can make significant changes, it is also important to recognize the ways we can make our community safer. Don't be a bystander, and advocate for people who can't. If we leave it alone, it will not go away.