For one Cal Poly student, a walk to class turned into a race for her safety.
Journalism senior Christina Arthur was walking to campus from her apartment on Jan. 9 when a man started following and then chased her.
“He followed me all the way down Casa Street up until the corner of Foothill and California. I was walking really fast the whole time, I was sweating and I was freaking out,” Arthur said. “Once I got to the intersection, there were other people around at that point, he caught up to me, he just stood there and stared at me and I was really creeped out.”
According to Arthur, he ran into the street and he “definitely wasn’t in the right mind.” She immediately called the police after the encounter.
However, stalking does not always happen with a stranger.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month. Safer, Cal Poly’s on-campus confidential advocacy, education and support program concerning sexual assault, hosted a variety of events throughout the month of January to provide “approachable” ways to educate students on the common themes of stalking, including a trivia night about the pop culture surrounding stalking.
“While discussions around intimate partner violence and sexual assault have increased over the years, stalking remains often misunderstood and minimized,” Safer Assistant Director of Wellbeing Kara Samaniego wrote in an email to Mustang News.
Samaniego said Safer believes that “it is essential for everyone in our community” to be able to identify stalking and to know where to refer stalking victims for help.
According to Safer’s website, stalking is a repeated pattern or action directed at a specific person that causes fear. A person can be stalked within the context of a relationship or a stranger. In many cases, however, a person is stalked by someone who they know.
Sameniego said she generally believes that the topic is “minimized as not being as ‘serious’ as other crimes” which can lead to a more dangerous situation for those being stalked.
“We see this commonly in the media, where it can be romanticized or made the object of jokes,” Samaniego wrote. “Unfortunately, stalking is often a precursor to an escalation of violence against a person.”
Shows like Netflix’s You have been criticized for romanticizing stalking, according to Vice.
“It’s a show that has actually taught me about being careful with who you trust and I feel like that definitely goes hand in hand with what happened to me,” Arthur said. “I trusted this whole town, I’ve always felt safe in San Luis Obispo, but you never know who could be trying to harm you. You really can’t trust someone you think you know, but you don’t.”
Arthur said that since the incident she has been a lot more alert and aware of her surroundings.
“This happened during the day time and I’ve never really thought about my safety during the day,” Arthur said, “It’s usually at night when I’m more paranoid … so this whole situation has definitely taught me that no matter what time of day it is, if you’re walking alone always just be aware of your surroundings.”
What’s going on during Stalking Awareness Month
A screening of the movie Obsessed will take place Jan. 22 from 6-8:30 p.m., and it will be followed by a facilitated discussion about the effects of extreme representations of stalking and victim blaming.
Safer has partnered with the student improv group Smile and Nod to raise awareness about stalking through humor Jan. 24 from 6-8 p.m. Students will also have the opportunity to talk to Cal Poly Police Officers about stalking resources, safety planning or ask any other questions on Jan. 31 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
The National Center for Victims of Crime established National Stalking Awareness Month in 2004 to increase public knowledge and education regarding stalking, as well as to improve law enforcement’s response to stalking in order to save lives.
If an individual or someone they know is being stalked and there is an imminent danger to their safety, call 911. Safer advocates can offer emotional support, help create a customized safety plan and refer to resources that are best aligned with a person’s needs. Any student, faculty or staff member can make an appointment with an advocate to learn about the options available to them by visiting our website, safer.calpoly.edu. For after-hours support, RISE has a 24-hour crisis line.
Emma Roellig contributed to this story.