Stalking has been an ongoing problem that I’ve seen in my friends’ relationships and have even experienced myself. It happens more often than most people realize.

My most recent encounter with a stalker was when I went abroad over the summer. I went to a club one night where I met another American from Texas who was cute and seemingly normal. We talked and befriended each other on Facebook. We danced for a while, then I excused myself to go to the bathroom to fix myself up.

I came out and walked to the table where my friends were sitting and found one of my favorite drinks on the table: Red Bull mixed with vodka. Before I can even ask, one of my friends told me that the guy I danced with bought the drink, sat down waiting for me, left and then scoured the bar looking for me. I didn’t even tell him what my favorite drink was. One of my friends even made a joke, saying, “I think he likes you.” Needless to say, I was a little creeped out and we left shortly after.

The next day, he messaged me saying I was the first girl he liked in about two years, that he loved me and that we should hang out with him and his friends the next day.

It was like that for the last two days before I left and even though I politely told him I was leaving,  he kept blowing up my phone with messages and I ignored him until he eventually got the idea.

Although my case was a mild one, signs like what this guy pulled could turn into a major problem. One of my friends even had to get a restraining order because a guy kept following her around and showing up at places she was at multiple times.

This isn’t just something guys do either. Girls are just as capable of stalking as guys and can make their target just as uncomfortable.

Here are some signs that you might have a stalker and some advice on how to handle them.

1.  This person could call you repeatedly, including calling and hanging up when you answer.

2. Your stalker seems to always know where you are and could show up at these locations, such as your dorm, classes, practices, where you eat lunch or the workplace.

3. A stalker could send lots of unwanted gifts, text messages, emails or anything else to get your attention.

4. If the stalking is extreme, they will threaten to hurt you, others associated with you or even themselves if you don’t pay them enough attention.

5. They could constantly try to find out about you by asking friends and family, lurking through your social media, searching through your garbage or even hire a private investigator.

6. Any other kind of actions that control you, track you or scare you might be signs.

In order to deal with a stalker, confront them and tell them that things aren’t working out. If they still don’t get the message, ignore them and cut them loose. Block their number and Facebook if you have to. If they are still stalking you, you should tell somebody.

Tell your RA if you feel like this is happening to you. They can tell Campus Safety and help you file a no contact report, which means your stalker can’t be near you on campus. They helped out my friend about a year ago when a student here kept following her around.

There’s also the St. Petersburg Police Department if things get out of hand  and you need to file a restraining order. If there is so much as an inkling that someone is bad news, cut them loose. It’s better to be single than in a relationship with someone who makes you feel afraid.

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