How can things like “Facebook stalking,” sending compliments to someone via text or showing up to someone’s apartment unannounced be harmful? It is important to recognize that if that interest is not mutual or welcome, those behaviors are considered stalking. January is National Stalking Awareness Month, and Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education (C.A.R.E.) is partnering with Student Health Services (SHS) to spread awareness about stalking as a public health issue.

The Stalking Resource Center reports that 7.5 million people are stalked each year. Most often, current and former spouses, partners, friends or acquaintances are the perpetrator. 61 percent of women and 44 percent of men know the person stalking them. Stalking, which is a crime in all 50 states, can be defined as when a person repeatedly engages in conduct directed at a specific person that places that person in reasonable fear of his or her safety or the safety of others. Stalking can take many different forms but is always an act of not respecting boundaries. For example:

It’s stalking when someone shows up in a place where the other person didn’t want them to be there.

It’s stalking when someone spies on a person with a listening device, camera or GPS system.

It’s stalking when someone makes unwanted phone calls or leaves unwanted text/voice messages.

It’s stalking when someone uses social media to harass, intimidate, torment or embarrass a person.

These behaviors are intrusive and often last for an extended period of time. Because stalking is generally not associated with physical assault, many assume that it is not a health issue. However, stalking often has a negative impact on a survivor’s mental and physical well-being.

The process has a domino effect. People being stalked often live in fear and are concerned about their safety. Because of those feelings, they frequently need to avoid their favorite public places and activities, move or change jobs and cut ties with their friends and communities. As a result, they experience feelings of hypervigilance, guilt, embarrassment and depression. Many report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Stalking can also cause difficulty sleeping, chronic stress, fluctuations in weight, dizziness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. To top it all off, the financial strain caused by stalking can be severe. Survivors often incur costs for legal fees, increasing home and personal security and relocation.

A 2013 study on the psychological effects of stalking surveyed 8,100 women and concluded that college-aged women who were stalked but experienced no physical harm had an estimated 113 percent greater chance of experiencing psychological distress than other women their own age who were not stalked. The researchers also found that the levels of trauma experienced by the survivor approached the levels of survivors of sexual assault.

C.A.R.E., SHS and the University of California take stalking very seriously. UCSB community members have the right to live free from stalking and seek support services on campus and in the Santa Barbara area at large. C.A.R.E. provides resources that help survivors cope with the physical and mental health issues that result from being stalked.

As part of our efforts to spread awareness about stalking, this month, C.A.R.E. is offering the Selfie Safety workshop! This 90-minute interactive workshop focuses on stalking, social media and protecting yourself on and off-line. Contact Sasha Coles at to bring Selfie Safety to your group, club, sorority or fraternity.