Preventing & Responding to a Stalker on Church Grounds
Do You Know Who’s Watching?
Stalking is something that is rarely talked about openly in our society, but it is a scary reality for over 7 million people in the United States. Stalking is not just what we see in movies or on the television, it is a concern for both men and women and can interfere with all aspects of life. Stalking is a growing concern for all, but especially those under 25 years of age and can be cause for concern in your place of worship. Without proper policies, stalking can lead to grave consequences for not only the victim, but those around as well. We have some ways to help you mitigate risk of a stalker at your place of worship.
According to The National Center for Victims of Crimes, “Persons aged 18-24 years experience the highest rate of stalking.” With this in mind, and knowing that youth and young adults make up a percentage of place of worship attendance, it is important to open a conversation and dialogue about stalking. Hold a class or a seminar for them to attend which lays out how technology is used in stalking, some ways to cope, options to end it, and resources within the community to look to for help.
Those being stalked will probably not blatantly say it, but their mannerisms may give indication of someone stalking them being present. It is important to have a trusting relationship with your church members. Having that positive relationship may help them to confide in you, which gives you an opportunity to provide them with resources to help. Relationships however go further than just your church members, as someone with power in your place of worship, connect and build relationships in your community with organizations that can help those struggling with a stalker. By having these relationships, you can confidently recommend a place where victims can go to for comfort, guidance and safety.
We are huge advocates of training because training reduces safety concerns and helps build security barriers while giving staff and volunteers the confidence to respond to incidents. The National Center for Victims of Crime hosts many training’s throughout the year via webinars and twitter chats, but you can also request a training for your individual facility, or watch past webinars. Training from your local law enforcement agency can prove invaluable if a stalker shows up to one of your services. Work with public safety officials to learn how you can get the victim to safety, who should call law enforcement, and how to deal with the stalker until they arrive. Train safety team members on how to both verbally and non-verbally diffuse hostile situations and how to deescalate a situation, this training is useful for more than just stalker scenarios at your church.
Stalking is unfortunately a scenario that must be planned for in our society, even places of worship. Opening a dialogue with young people about what to look for and where to get help can be beneficial, as can creating a relationship with community partners and offering support to those who confide in you as a church leader. Training for safety team members and those who hold office will help to mitigate risk and alleviate pressure if faced with a stalker scenario. Has your place of worship held stalker training or having stalker protocol set up as an emergency response? If not, you may want to consider it.