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updated: 12/13/2010 12:08 PM

Hannah's e-mail leads Quinn to declare January Stalking Awareness Month

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  • Elgin High School student Hannah Perryman recently e-mailed Gov. Pat Quinn about her stalking ordeal. The governor responded by declaring January Stalking Awareness Month in Illinois.

       Elgin High School student Hannah Perryman recently e-mailed Gov. Pat Quinn about her stalking ordeal. The governor responded by declaring January Stalking Awareness Month in Illinois.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
By Kerry Lester

To those who know her, it's no surprise that Hannah Perryman would keep working for stalking victims, though her own ordeal is over.

But the rapid pace of happenings since she came forward to tell her story three weeks ago is daunting even to the teen who specializes in slinging fastballs for Elgin High's softball team.

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After being contacted by 17-year-old Hannah, who, after years of being stalked by a neighborhood teen pushed for a change in state law, Gov. Pat Quinn has issued a proclamation declaring January Stalking Awareness Month in Illinois.

Just last week, Hannah said, she e-mailed Quinn at his state of Illinois e-mail address, with links to the Daily Herald's three-day series of articles telling her story.

"I wanted to see if he'd do anything, if he'd say anything," she said.

In less than a week, Hannah said, Quinn wrote back with the news, sending her an official proclamation.

"I, Pat Quinn, Governor of the state of Illinois, do hereby proclaim January 2011 as Stalking Awareness Month in Illinois, and applaud the efforts of the many victim service providers, police officers, prosecutors, national and community organizations, and private sector supporters for their efforts in promoting awareness about stalking," the proclamation reads.

Illinois' observance will coincide with National Stalking Awareness Month. This year's theme is "Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It."

Last year, Hannah successfully pushed to strengthen state stalking laws after finding she could not get a court order to keep a teen from coming near her, despite numerous cries for help over four years' time.

Law enforcement applauds the change, which helps people who cannot get orders of protection through the Illinois Domestic Violence Act or no-contact orders granted by civil courts to sexual assault victims.

Judges now have more discretion to issue orders of protection to individuals, such as Hannah, who don't know their stalkers well.

The penalty for breaking an order of protection was increased to a one-year jail sentence and a fine of up to $2,500 for the first violation. A second violation would be considered a class 4 felony, resulting in one to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 after another offense.

The legislation also retooled the definition of stalking, with descriptions of the course of conduct fitting much of Hannah's story.

Before Hannah's law, police said, protecting victims and prosecuting stalkers was more difficult.

"(Stalking) was non-prosecutable, almost," Algonquin Sgt. Brett Wisnauski told the Daily Herald. "We were behind the eight ball. Now we have a law you can do something with."

Since Hannah's story was published in mid-November, the Perrymans say they've heard from scores of people who have been in similar stalking situations.

"I think Hannah has really felt like people are putting their arms around her," said her mom, Deb Perryman, an Elgin High science teacher. "She has been getting Facebook messages and e-mails from people who say thanks for the law and how proud they are that she was able to take a higher road."

Hannah has also reached out to President Barack Obama, Congressman Peter Roskam and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin asking them each to do something to commemorate National Stalking Awareness Month. She says she'll keep us posted.

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