SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. --One in six women, and one in 19 men have been stalked at one point in their life time, according to the California Victim Compensation Board. Victims tend to be college-aged, and at Cal Poly, university advocates are hosting a series of events this month aimed at educating, and preventing this behavior.
“Stalking is the continued, unwanted, and unsolicited harassment and pursuit of another individual," said Cal Poly Police Chief, George Hughes.
January is Stalking Awareness Month in the United States.
“It's really for us to develop awareness to our campus community about stalking, the dangers of stalking, what you can do to protect yourself and others," said Hughes.
Hughes says social media can --in some cases-- make someone more likely to become a victim.
“So many people are putting so much of themselves out there –what they're doing, who their friends are, where they are. It's really cyber-stalking that we are seeing more of," the chief said.
Police say it could lead into someone following you in real life.
“We do see a higher volume of people that are experiencing stalker behaviors," said Kara Samaniego of the campus Safer program.
Safer offers confidential advocacy and support for cases involving stalking, dating violence, and similar situations.
“There's an uncertainty to their safety at any given moment," said Samaniego.
Samaniego says the university is hoping to educate students about the real dangers of this form of harassment.
“Often what we know about stalking is that it can escalate into further actions or into further violence," said Samaniego.
In pop culture, a stalker can be a handsome guy like Gossip Girl alum Penn Badgley, who now embodies a seemingly caring boyfriend in the Netflix hit series, You.
“Often what we see with stalking [in the media] is that it's minimized, or it's romanticized, or it's maybe object of jokes," said Samaniego.
Advocates say you should take precautions.
“Keep logs of interactions," said Samaniego.
“Take screenshots of things. Tell that individual it's unwanted, and if it continues, contact the police," said Hughes.
The chief says in the past year, his department investigated three stalking cases, but officials say the number of victims is much higher than that.
“It's very similar to any other dating or sexual violence crime. It's under-reported, it doesn't mean it's not happening," he said.
Samaniego says Safer has talked to victims who see the early signs of a problem, and are often time doubtful about reporting it to law enforcement.
“Because they feel like that fear is unjustified, that it shouldn't be as big of a deal as it is," she explained.