Topeka Groups working to reduce sexual assault and domestic violence said Thursday that state law against stalking needs to be revised so that violators can be more easily prosecuted.
"Stalking is often something that is part of the domestic violence survivors' experience," said Sarah Terwelp, of Women's Transitional Care Services in Lawrence.
Terwelp and other advocates gathered in the Statehouse to lobby for laws and funding aimed at reducing domestic violence.
"If all domestic violence were reported, it would show that domestic violence is the most often committed crime in our state and nation," said former Attorney General Bob Stephan, who is chairman of the Governor's Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board.
In Kansas, 10 percent of adult women report being victims of domestic violence and 30 percent of Kansas women say they know someone other than themselves who is a victim, according to the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
On the issue of stalking, officials said Kansas law enforcement reported only 183 stalking cases in the past year, while more than 4,000 protection from stalking orders were filed in Kansas courts.
Sandy Barnett, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said this indicates that the law may be too cumbersome.
Officials said that in Kansas, to prove someone guilty of stalking, it must be proven that the person was a credible threat. But most states, they said, have an easier threshold: simply that the defendant's course of conduct put people in fear of their safety.
Nationally, one in 12 women and one in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime. Four out of five women stalked by a current or former partner will be assaulted by that partner, according to statistics.
And three out of four people killed by their partner had also been stalked, the coalition said.
Stephan said he would like to see Kansas law changed so that when a crime occurs in the context of domestic violence, that designation is attached to the case and defendant.
Sarah Jane Russell, executive of GaDuGi SafeCenter in Lawrence, said advocates also are concerned about a recent 11 percent cut in federal funds to programs that provide basic safety services to victims of sexual and domestic violence.
She said she hoped the Legislature would help replace those dollars with state funds.