Loyola officials believe the increase in stalking is due to students feeling more comfortable reporting incidents.
The Clery Act Annual Bulletin lists all crimes and hate offenses, arrests and disciplinary referrals on all of Loyola’s campuses and reported 16 stalking incidents on the Lake Shore Campus (LSC) in 2016. Seven of these incidences occurred in on-campus student housing facilities. This was higher than the LSC’s 2014 and 2015 stalking reports, which totaled eight for the two years combined.
“In the past several years, reporting of all types of gender-based misconduct (including stalking) has increased,” Jessica Landis, deputy Title IX coordinator — respondent to student reports of Title IX offenses — said in an email to The Phoenix.
Title IX offenses include sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating and domestic violence and stalking.
Landis said the increased reports were a positive because it means there’s more awareness about the issue and available resources.
“I think it is completely understandable to feel alarmed. However, there does not appear to be information that suggests that more incidents are happening, but that more students are choosing to report such incidents,” Landis said.
Loyola defines stalking in the university’s Community Standards as “unwanted course of conduct (two or more acts) directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear for their safety or the safety of others or to suffer substantial emotional distress.”
Stalking acts include, but are not limited to, non-consensual communication in person or online, following someone, gathering information about an individual from others and threatening harm to self or others.
Students who experience stalking usually report it to Campus Safety first, and once it’s determined to be stalking the case is referred to Title IX.
Tim Cunningham, command sergeant of Campus Safety, said in an email to The Phoenix that he can’t provide information on last year’s stalking reports other than they met the university’s definition. Cunningham attributed the increased number of reports to students “recognizing that what they are experiencing is stalking” and being more comfortable making the reports.
“This can be attributed to the university’s commitment to raising awareness of these crimes,” Cunningham said.
Landis, however, said students may not be reporting incidents.
“The reported incidents do not necessarily have to involve students: it is any report of stalking that occurs on campus,” Landis said.
Loyola’s crime report also indicated one stalking incident each at the university’s Rome and Beijing centers. Students abroad are given the same rights and resources they have at the Chicago campuses, according to Landis.
Landis said students can report a stalking incident to the university by sharing their experience with any university employee, who must notify Landis of the information through Title IX. Students can also contact Landis or Campus Safety directly, or anonymously file an ethics report through a third-party hotline.
If students want to report that another student is stalking them, they can choose to initiate a Grievance Process, which investigates whether the information the student presented about the stalking incident proves a student violated the stalking policy in the Community Standards, according to Landis.
“Regardless of whether or not a student chooses to initiate the Grievance Process, they still have a right to resources and support,” Landis said.
Mira Krivoshey, assistant director of the Wellness Center, agreed with Landis that only the number of reports are increasing. Still, she said stalking incidents are difficult for the university to handle due to their subjectivity.
“Stalking is subjective because there is this element of fear in the definition. What would cause me to feel fear or be afraid may be different than what may cause you to be afraid,” Krivoshey said. “It makes stalking much more complicated.”
The Wellness Center is one of the confidential resources, along with Loyola Sexual Assault Advocates and pastoral counselors, students have that doesn’t determine the accuracy of the stalking incident.
“[The Wellness Center’s] role is to believe students, to make sure they are getting the right support. It’s not our job to define stalking for that student,” Krivoshey said.
Among other challenges, Krivoshey said there’s a lack of awareness about the severity of stalking.
“[Stalking is] the type of violation that is still trivialized at great lengths,” Krivoshey said. “We talk about Facebook stalking … or that stalking is just unrequited love and it’s romanticized when in truth it’s a very dangerous crime … There needs to be more awareness.”
Loyola’s crime report defines stalking under the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) and its Community Standards labels it under “gender-based misconduct.” But Krivoshey said that doesn’t mean it’s an issue that only women face.
“The reason we call it gender-based is because being female identified is a risk factor for experiencing these types of violations,” Krivoshey said. “That isn’t to discount that people of other gender identities can’t experience [violations]… That’s not to discount that men can’t be experiencing these as well. It’s just not at the same rate.”
Some students, such as first-year student Sarah Alshamary, didn’t know there was an increase in reports of stalking and other types of gender-based misconduct in the past several years.
“I would have expected stalking outside of campus, but not here,” the 19-year-old biology major said.
Others, such as Claire Gardone, a junior studying marketing and management, questioned how Campus Safety deals with stalking reports.
“I’m just confused on what Campus Safety does [about stalking]. How do they handle the stalking, what do they do about it?” Gardone said.
In response to this, Cunningham said Campus Safety provides Loyola affiliates who want to make a report with all their options regardless of the incident.
“If a student is in danger or in fear of danger, they should immediately call Campus Safety … or the Chicago Police … It does not matter what the issue is. Call us,” Cunningham said.