January is Stalking Awareness Month

January 11, 2012

Many Texans associate stalking with news stories concerning a celebrity.  But stalking also has frightening links to violent crime against ordinary citizens, often in dating relationships.  Nearly one-third of female murder victims were first stalked by their killers. More than 40% of victims report that domestic violence had preceded their stalking.  This act is the number one predictor of future violence against a victim.

I chair the Senate's Committee on Health and Human Services and have supported several revisions to our state's stalking laws.  With the help of the Texas Council on Family Violence, last session I authored a bill that takes several steps to protect victims.  It clarifies that stalking could include actions against a victim's current dating partner and gives victims the right to offer crucial testimony in court.  Further, the law makes clear that stalking does not always including behaviors like following, which are common in the most well-publicized stalking cases.

We were also able to pass legislation creating a protective order for stalking victims.  Access to this legal tool can provide critical safety for survivors against their stalker.  Finally, I co-authored a measure extending the maximum two-year time limit of certain protective orders to last a lifetime in some serious, violent cases.

We need to work together to empower victims of stalking.  Law enforcement agencies, our court system, and individuals must understand that this issue is not limited to the stories we read about celebrity stalkers.  For victims, it is so much more.  The Legislature unanimously passed these stalking laws last session, sending a powerful message that this crime will not be tolerated in our state.