Stalking prevention and sexual violence were the focus of a panel discussion called “Stamp out Stalking” hosted by The Well on Monday night in the Student Commons.
The Sexual Assault and Violence Education by Students organization hosted the event. Eighteen students listened to the panel discussion by speakers Tammi Slovinsky, the coordinator of sexual assault and domestic violence services, VCU police officer Tricia Mozingo, the victims coordinator of the VCUPD, David Graham, director of computer forensics for the Office of the Attorney General, and Dan Han, a VCU information technologies specialist. Other representatives from the police department were also present.
The Well defines stalking as when a person repeatedly watches, follows or harasses an individual causing them to feel afraid or unsafe. A stalker can be an acquaintance, former partner or stranger. The panelists each spoke briefly on the various forms that stalking, including harassment online or via smartphone.
“Be mindful that when you’re plugged into the electronic world you are putting yourself out there whether you realize it or not,” Graham said.
Graham and Han touched on the dangers of unprotected social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, revenge porn and how apps such as Snapchat were originally intended for nude photos and that the photos are in fact stored even after the app has “deleted” them.
Mozingo said she works with victims to document anything suspicious as well as walking the individual through the court process and filing of administrative reports. She stressed that documentation is key in stalking cases and that even if an incident only occurs once, it is best to report it in case a second incident takes place.
“Stalking, domestic violence, sexual assault and dating violence are really important topics to us at VCU. We have some video projects in the works because we want the words coming out of your mouths over our mouths, because that has a tremendous impact on your peers,” said John Venuti, the VCU chief of police.
“I think it’s important to stress that we’re not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do — we’re not going to prosecute unless you want to, the handcuffs won’t be clinking unless you want them to,” Venuti said.
The panel concluded with questions from the students in attendance. SAVES will also host the “Take Back the Night” event in April to empower survivors of sexual or domestic violence.
“I was really impressed with the turnout, it shows that stalking is on the minds of our students and that they’re paying attention to this important issue,” Slovinsky said.