A Letter to the Editor: Using the Term Stalking is Problematic


Hi Bottom Line staffers!

I appreciate the well-written articles and was excited to see that you’ll now be printing weekly.

I also wanted to let you know some concerns I had about this article, Who Needs Match.com in the Age of Facebook. Stalking is something very serious, and I’m concerned that by stating, “…Facebook as a place for people like my grandma to stalk me,” “I do a bit of stalking myself…,” and “Stalking my mother…” that stalking is being minimized. Stalking is a pattern of unwanted behaviors that cause fear. Behaviors can include the following, unwanted texts/calls/facebook posts, misusing technology such as GPS and Facebook to monitor and contact a person in a threatening way, and physical and sexual assault. Is this what the author meant? Oftentimes the term stalking is used, when words such as “tracking” would be much more accurate.

This can feel very frightening, and when we misuse the term stalking, it can make someone who has or is experiencing stalking feel re-traumatized. In fact, just last year, a student who experienced stalking told me that everytime someone joked about Facebook stalking, she felt like a wound was being re-opened. Also, if we misuse the term stalking, and then someone says that they are experiencing stalking when they really are being threatened and contacted in ways that are scaring them, people are less likely to understand the seriousness of the situation. Stalking can escalate into physical and sexual assault, and even murder.

Thank you for re-considering your use of the term stalking. I appreciate you taking this issue seriously as you continue to provide information to the campus community.

Melanie O. Matson, MA
Director, Rape Prevention
Education Program, UCSB