Treating stalking like a "joke" is making light of what can often be sinister and violent behaviour, including T-shirts with slogans mocking the issue, a leading charity has warned.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust said fear of being laughed at prevents people from seeking help with stalkers, putting them at a higher risk of being attacked or suffering serious psychological damage.
It criticised T-shirts being offered for sale with slogans like "You Call It Love I Call It Stalking" and "You're No One Til You Have Your First Stalker" saying they mock an issue affecting one in six women and one in 12 men.
To coincide with National Stalking Awareness Week, which starts today, the Trust has unveiled a two-minute animated film.
This Is Stalking will be shown online, looking at what stalking is and the different ways it can manifest as well as offering help and support for people experiencing it, through its National Stalking Helpline.
Kristiana Wrixon, manager of the National Stalking Helpline, said: "Stalking is a very common and sinister problem in the UK but there are still a lot of myths around it that need to be dispelled, which is why this film is so important.
"We know victims who have contacted the National Stalking Helpline tell us they felt unable to seek help early on because of a fear of being called dramatic, laughed at or dismissed.
"If a victim of stalking is unable to seek help early then they are at higher risk of experiencing psychological distress, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or being physically assaulted or even murdered.
"Coming forward can be difficult in any situation but is made worse by a society in which stalking is often seen as something of a joke and is often misunderstood by the public and professionals alike."
The film will seek to make clear that stalking is "not romantic, trivial or funny, it's worrying, serious and illegal", the Trust said.
The charity was set up by Diana Lamplugh, the late mother of Suzy, a 25-year-old estate agent who disappeared in Fulham, south west London, in 1986. She was presumed murdered and declared dead in 1993. No one has ever been charged over her killing.
Rachel Griffin, chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which manages National Stalking Helpline and Stalking Awareness Week, said: "Although individuals are more likely to be a victim of stalking than any other kind of inter-personal violence, the crime is not being taken seriously enough and a key part of that is the public perception of what stalking is and how dangerous it can be."