Logo for non-profit organization Jodi’s Voice.
Nineteen-year-old Jodi Sanderholm, then a student at Cowley College in Arkansas City, Kan., left dance rehearsal one afternoon in 2007 and was abducted in broad daylight, taken into the woods and repeatedly assaulted and eventually murdered by a man who, it was later discovered, had been stalking her for nearly 10 years.
Her murderer is one of nine capital punishment inmates currently incarcerated in the state of Kansas.
The memory of Jodi lives on in 2013 in the form of a non-profit organization bearing her name, which is committed to increasing awareness while changing laws and perceptions related to stalking.
Jodi’s Voice, founded by Angela Daffron, a friend of the late Sanderholm, has succeeded in seeing “Jodi’s Law” passed in Kansas and New Mexico — a law that broadens the definition of stalking and allows it to more easily prosecuted.
Daffron hopes to change more attitudes about stalking, while helping raise awareness.
“Stalking is one of the only crimes that I know of where you can turn on TV and see sitcoms that openly make fun of it,” Daffron said.
One of the ways Jodi’s Voice accomplishes its goals is through a strong online presence, including a website and social media accounts. Daffron’s personal Twitter account often blasts tips and facts with the #fightstalking hashtag.
And with stalking rates highest among those age 18-24, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice, Daffron is focusing much of her energy on educating those in college.
With set class schedules, predictable social patterns and frequent use of social media, college students can be easy targets for stalkers, Daffron said.
A survey conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found that 13% of college women reported being stalked in a school year, and in just under 20% of those cases, the victims didn’t previously know their stalker.
Women aren’t the only victims, either. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 19 men report being stalked in their lifetime.
But these statistics don’t always matter when considering the many men and women who never report stalking incidents, according to Daffron.
“Statistics could always be a little misleading,” Daffron said. “It doesn’t matter what the statistic is. It matters what your case is.”
To avoid victimization, Daffron and Jodi’s Voice encourage a few steps to increase safety:
“Never check-in [on social media] at home,” said Daffron, explaining that even checking-in while living in a highly populated residence hall provides a potential stalker with a direct map to your bedroom.
Daffron also encourages vigilance, especially noting if an unrecognized person unexplainably frequents the same places as you.
And finally, reporting is key.
“Go with your gut,” Daffron said. “if there are behaviors that are inappropriate and you’ve asked someone to stop… call the police and let them decide if it stalking or not.”
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