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From left: Commission president Kristie Tenney; Alicia Bosely and Addie Helmick with Centers Against Violence; and commissioners Sam Nolte and Terry Cutright.
From left: Commission president Kristie Tenney; Alicia Bosely and Addie Helmick with Centers Against Violence; and commissioners Sam Nolte and Terry Cutright.

Local organization brings awareness to stalking, human trafficking

BUCKHANNNON – A representative from Centers Against Violence said 7.5 million people are stalked every year in the United States.

Addie Helmick presented the January 2021 Stalking Awareness Month proclamation to the Upshur County Commission during their Jan. 14 meeting.

“Stalking is definitely very dangerous, but between January and December, I only had 18 clients that had stalking issues get help or get a protection order,” Helmick said. “Stalking goes along with domestic violence — once that victim leaves their abuser or their partner, they break it off or they go their separate ways, but that other person intends to stop them.”

Helmick believes there are more victims of stalking locally, but the pandemic may have impeded them from seeking help.

“I feel like there were more stalking victims out there, but they just didn’t come forward because of COVID, or maybe they didn’t think that we were open because of everything shutting down,” Helmick said.

Helmick read the proclamation, which notes that most people are stalked by people they know.

“The majority of victims are stalked by someone they know, and three out of four women killed by an intimate partner have been stalked by that partner,” Helmick said. “Many stalking victims lose time from work and experience serious psychological distress and lost productivity at a much higher rate than the general population. Many stalking victims are forced to protect themselves by relocating, changing their identities, changing jobs and obtaining protection orders.”

The proclamation also outlines the importance of training law enforcement to respond appropriately to stalking.

“Criminal justice systems can enhance the responses to stalking by regular training, assertive investigations and prosecution of the crime,” Helmick said. “Law and public policies must continually adapt to keep pace with new tactics used by the stalker. Communities can better combat stalking by adopting multidisciplinary responses by teams and local agencies and organizations.”

Alicia Bosely, sexual assault advocate with Centers Against Violence, presented the commission with a Human Trafficking Awareness Month proclamation.

“Human trafficking erodes personal dignity and destroys the moral fabric of society,” Bosely said. “It’s a threat to humanity that tragically reaches all parts of the world, including Upshur County, where people of every age, gender, race, religion and nationality are devastated by this grave offense. During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we affirm our unwavering commitment to eradicate this horrific injustice.”

The proclamation notes that as many as 24.9 million people are trapped in a form of modern slavery around the world.

“We remain relentless in our resolve to bring perpetrators to justice, to protect survivors and help them heal and to prevent further victimization and destruction of innocent lives,” Bosely said. “The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 criminalized human trafficking at the federal level, and West Virginia amended anti trafficking legislation in 2017, creating a task force against human trafficking.”

According to their website, Centers Against Violence provides “advocacy services to adult and child victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking; emergency shelter; outreach services; legal assistance for domestic violence petitions, custody, and divorce proceedings; prevention education programs within the schools and community organizations; awareness activities; emergency transportation; and healthy relationship and support services for adult victims, teens, and young children.”

The agency covers Upshur, Randolph, Barbour, Tucker, Braxton and Webster counties. Reach the Upshur County office at 304-473-0700 or call their headquarters at 304-636-8433.

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