Cal Poly’s recent increase in reports of stalking incidents is making this year’s Stalking Awareness and Prevention Month all the more important to staff and students. Safer launched its campaign “Know the Case, Reclaim the Space” to help the community identify and define stalking behaviors. 

“Stalking is one of the most misunderstood, delegitimized (and often even romanticized!) crimes,” Jennifer MacMartin, Prevention Specialist for Gender-Based Violence Initiatives, wrote in an email. 

In 2020, the Safer Team conducted a Campus Survey on Sexual Violence, and 68% of respondents who identified as being victims of listed stalking behaviors did not explicitly label their experience as “stalking.”

The Safer Team attributes this to the way stalking is perceived in our culture.

“This likely comes from the fact that stalking behaviors — location tracking, following, harassing on social media, constant communication, sending unwanted gifts, etcetera — are normalized, and often even romanticized in our culture,” MacMartin wrote. 

Safer is a resource for Cal Poly’s students. They specialize in providing confidential support for students who have experienced stalking, harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, domestic violence and sexual exploitation. 

The largest increase in dating-related crimes has come from stalking and dating violence, according to the university’s 2020 Annual Security Report.

More than 30 reports of stalking were filed in 2019, which is a significant increase from previous years, according to a Mustang News analysis.

To some it may look like more stalking has happened on Cal Poly’s campus, but it may reflect the increase in willingness to report according to MacMartin. 

“It shows that the student population believes that the University will believe them, take them seriously, and take action when they file a report,” MacMartin wrote. 

MacMartin also wrote that the Clery report only refers to incidents that have taken place on campus, while many of the survivors Safer works with have been stalked off-campus. 

There has been a significant drop in appointments made since Safer has moved virtually. MacMartin foresees a drop in reports during the COVID-19 pandemic, but emphasizes that it “does not necessarily mean there is actually lower stalking rates, but rather that there are more barriers in place to seeking help,” making the Safer campaign all the more important. 

Events are usually held on campus, but a digital campaign was launched this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The outreach for the campaign is on Safer’s Instagram, @calpolysafer. They have begun taking questions on their website, which will be answered on their Instagram’s IGTV. Safer is also hosting digital giveaways for Cal Poly students throughout the entire month of January. 

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