UCO’s Project SPEAK Hosts Stalker Anthems Panel

UCO’s Project SPEAK Hosts Stalker Anthems Panel

UCO's Project SPEAK recently held an informational panel for Stalker Awareness Month.

Rachele Eskridge of the YWCA speaks to students about stalking during the Project SPEAK Stalker Anthems Panel on Jan. 18, 2017 in the Cherokee Room in the Nigh University Center. The panel was intended to raise awareness about songs in pop culture that promote stalking. (Cara Johnson/ The Vista). 

The University of Central Oklahoma’s Project SPEAK, (Support, Promote, Educate, Advocate for Knowledge) held an event for Stalker Awareness Month called the Stalker Anthems Panel.

Project SPEAK is an organization dedicated to informing and assisting those who have experienced sexual assault or some form of violence, for free with complete confidence.

This organization also educates students and faculty about preventing violence and promoting healthy relationships.

Michelle Stansel, prevention and advocacy coordinator for Project SPEAK, said that SPEAK educators wanted an event that was less like a lecture.

“Our SPEAK educators came to us with the idea of a more interactive event,” Stansel said.

The event, which took place Wednesday, Jan. 17, was successful at being interactive as it allowed the audience to take a look at songs that they did not know or songs that they didn’t realize carried themes of stalking and violence.

“The more you ignore me the closer I get”

“I will possess your heart”

“You belong to me”

These are just a few of the lyrics that were discussed during the Stalker Anthems Panel.

Song lyrics were printed out on each table for the audience to discuss with each other before the panelists began. “Hello” by Lionel Richie, “Obsession” by Animotion and “I Will Possess Your Heart” by Death Cab for Cutie all have one thing in common.

Other than the disturbing lyrics, these songs share the normalizing of a very serious subject -stalking.

“7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the United States. The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know,” said Rachel Eskeridge, YWCA (a global women’s organization) prevention education teacher and representative.

She began her speech by defining what stalking really is, something that many do not know. The defining factor of stalking is fear.

“The difference between stalking and harassment is fear, and that stalking must be repetitive to be considered a crime,” Eskeridge said.

However, Eskeridge said that many people, herself included, are wanting to change that law.

“Less than one third of states classify stalking as a felony upon first offense.”

There are many other factors – more than half of states classify stalking as a felony upon second offense or when the crime involves aggravating factors including possession of a deadly weapon, violation of a court order or parole, if the victim is under 16 years old or if it is the same victim as prior incidents.

“Love looks like stalking. That’s the message,” said Dr. Mary Carver, an associate professor and department chair of the mass communications department at UCO, while showing an eye-opening and disturbing music video.

If you have ever heard the song “Animal,” by Maroon 5, you might not have realized what you were hearing.

The video contained several scenes of lead singer Adam Levine stalking a woman and watching her, eerily following her and eventually attempting to seemingly kidnapping her.

Dr. Carver addressed this by saying that these videos and songs we hear constantly on our radios, in our mall and on our phones all normalize violent actions.

This is not to say that we are all immune from liking and listening to songs that degrade or promote actions that we are against. Most of the panelists spoke about how catchy some of these songs are.

When realizing the actual meaning of the song, it might be hard to separate the band who sings it from the lyrics. Dr. Carver said we can promote and try to change the glorification of violence and stalking by simply not listening to songs with those themes.

“Consumers think they don’t have power, but we do,” said Carver. We can’t control what others do but we can start by changing what we, as individuals do.

Dr. Kole Kleeman, who is a professor of mass communications and the director of the media studies minor at UCO, studies masculinity in media and the normalization of sexual harassment. One out of five college women experience violence.

At the panel, Dr. Kleeman specifically spoke about a topic that had not yet been addressed. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) normalizes sexual harassment, “there’s even a character called The Stalker.”

Many people, including children, watch this for entertainment.

“Men are growing up thinking violence is what is required of them,” said Dr. Kleeman.

In his research of the WWE, he also found that people naturally have a tendency to want to relate more to a stronger person. “People identify not with the victims of bullying, but with the bully.”

Dr. Kleeman also mentioned a song by influential pop star Justin Timberlake. His song “Cry Me a River” features Timberlake breaking and entering into a former girlfriend’s home, dancing on top of her furniture, hiding in her closet and watching her in the shower.

Dr. Kleeman said, “The ways men treat women are taught in these videos.” In many music videos, similar themes are found. Women are being objectified and men are dominant.

Dr. Kleeman spoke about how these are obviously not created by women and most of these ideas come from a man’s perspective.

Kara Kliewer, SPEAK educator and the organizer of this event, said the Stalker Anthems Panel was created to help gain an awareness and an ability to understand what we’re listening to regularly.

“This event increases awareness of sexual violence, which is a huge battle on college campuses,” Kliewer said.

More than 1 million women are stalked by an intimate partner every year. Perhaps it’s time to change what we say, watch and even listen to and, of course, if you are experiencing violence or stalking or even know someone who is, the 24-hour domestic violence hotline number is 405-971-9922.

To get more specifics on stalking and other crimes visit, www.victimsofcrime.org/src


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