After agreeing to meet a couple of times, I started feeling uneasy by her constant presence in my life. It started out with an ample number of unwanted text messages. I then began to bump into her every day at the places I normally visited—worsening my uneasiness.
I made it clear through text messages and during her other attempts to initiate conversations I needed more space from her. Her troubling behavior persisted.
It took some time before it dawned on me: I was being stalked.
Then the blame game started. I would blame her for not respecting my space, while feeling victim to her lack of common sense. Worse yet, I would blame myself for not seeing the red flags in her behaviors before all this started. The emotional turmoil I was under would sometimes bring me to tears.
One day, an added dimension of fear led me to take refuge in Mississippi State University’s Counseling Services for advice and comfort. This visit led to the processing of a no-contact order within MSU’s campus boundaries.
Based on this order, she and I were not supposed to initiate or respond to any sort of contact—be it face to face or through any electronic platforms. The perpetrator would face consequences such as academic probation or even expulsion from school if this order was violated.
For the first few days, I felt very thankful and thought the situation was finally being handled. Little did I know it was only a matter of time before my feeling of guilt would become worse.
Each time I had to report she had broken the no-contact order by attempting to converse with me, my guilt would build. Though I was troubled by her constant attempts to talk with me, I did not want things to end in a way that caused possible disruptions in her future.
The amount of emotional pain I was going through made me imagine myself in her place. Once I did this, I found she must be in more emotional pain than I was. I thought to myself, 'How could she not be in pain? How can anyone be at peace while risking their own education and future just to talk with another person?'
This revelation served as a catharsis. The feeling of guilt and suffocation gave way to sympathy and understanding. After this, I no longer had emotional pain about my situation. I felt neither guilt nor based my identity on my victimization.
I visited Counseling Services again to seek advice on how my stalker could be helped. I suggested we have a joint-counseling session, so we would be able to talk while a professional counselor was present to advise us. I thought this could give both of us more space for peace and understanding.
The suggested counseling session never became a reality. My counselor told me because of the no-contact order, there is no way within the boundaries of their work regulations to hold a joint-session. I understood but wished it could be different.
My stalker continued to try to speak with me a couple more times. Even though I did not indulge these attempts, I wished the university would have helped her more, instead of merely legally separating us.
Recently, I learned of a less legal approach is gathering momentum throughout the nation: Promoting Restorative Initiatives for Sexual Misconduct on college campuses, also known as the Campus PRISM Project.
PRISM offers a way to help support survivors of sexual misconduct to heal from the trauma of victimization, while simultaneously creating a space for offenders to be accountable for their actions and take steps to reduce their risk of reoffending.
PRISM promotes healing for both sides.
Like my counselor’s response to my suggestion, regulations are the main barriers blocking the way to healing on both sides of sexual misconduct.
At the end of the day, the easiest way a government or a school can deal with sexual misconduct is to find someone guilty and punish the perpetrator. In my experience, and the experience of volunteers in PRISM, finding blame does not necessarily help anyone who is hurting or suffering from sexual misconduct. This usually just leads to more pain.
The alternative is to bring the focus from making it a blame-game to an attempt at helping everyone who is involved. This approach is definitely more difficult for school administrators to maintain. Even if maintaining the law while trying to accommodate each individual is accomplished, facing the critiques of such initiatives might prove draining.
Much of the argument against PRISM comes from the viewpoint of it being too soft of an approach toward the offenders.
While I understand how this perspective is assumed with the purpose of discouraging such behaviors, I believe it is the best way to help our campus and the community heal.
I believe a more affective approach is to consider sexual misconduct cases as cries for help, not cases for punishment. By acknowledging the fact sexual misconduct offenders need help, and by taking steps towards their recovery, I believe this will reduce the risk of reoffenders.
It is important to know PRISM creates a place where offenders are responsible for their actions. The program does not undervalue the importance of holding offenders accountable but promotes the creation of a supportive space to better reintegrate offenders.
I wish PRISM had found its way to our campus when I was faced with my stalker. While I understand promoting such initiatives will require much legal consideration, it is one of my deepest fears that any MSU student has to go through the mentally draining legal procedure if a sexual misconduct happens to them. It is also my highest hope that Counseling Services and the Office of Compliance and Integrity will collaborate, so MSU can join the momentum of PRISM.