Stalking – the great secret that links 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men in the UK
By Network for Surviving Stalking www.scaredofsomeone.org
**This piece contains references to content that some readers may find upsetting or triggering**
Stalking is a huge and largely hidden problem in the UK. Hidden or secret even though the latest statistics from the Crime Survey from England and Wales (CSEW) suggests that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will experience stalking in their lifetime.
What is Stalking?
It’s unwanted, repeated, obsessive and controlling behaviours that distress or scare you. You can see that this is a very simple description. Stalking is behaviour that is:
- Scares you.
IT IS THAT SIMPLE… so why is this such a secret, why are so many people affected, and for such long time periods?
In 2015 Network for Surviving Stalking did a survey to try to find out why. We found that:
- People do not recognise the pestering frightening behaviour as STALKING.
- They recognised that the pestering was unwanted alright
- They recognised, just fine, that it was happening over and over again
- They certainly recognised that they were scared…
But they did not add all this together and label it as stalking. Therefore they did not have the words to label what was happening in such a way that agencies might understand. We also found that victims of stalking do not know where to turn for advice and support.
If you are the target of someone pestering you and frightening you, it is a criminal offence and is called: Stalking.
Two new offences of Stalking were introduced on 25 November 2012. Police now have additional powers of entry, search and seizure when investigating stalking – so for example they can enter a stalker’s home, search and seize a computer that may have been used in the stalking.
Many people are stalked by ex-partners. This stalking often goes unrecognised because people make allowances for ex-partners who may be upset and wanting to rebuild the relationship. But ex-partners who take it too far, who make threats and repeatedly pester or scare you are NOT trying to rebuild a positive relationship. They are harassing or stalking.**
March 10th 2016 sees the launch of a campaign to highlight the dangers of stalking by ex-partners with the release of a film and resources and the hashtag #TroubleWithAnEx. Keep a look out for more on this and during Stalking Awareness Week 18th to 24th April!
What to do if you are being stalked?
Deciding what to do and where to go for help is not easy but you are likely to get a better outcome if you are prepared. Our website www.scareofsomeone.org takes you through the process of:
- Recognising risk
- Deciding who is at risk- on average 22 people close to the primary victim are affected
- Looking at how you can manage the risks to yourself and people close to you
What you can do to stop a stalker – there are different stalker profiles and there are differences in how to deal with them; where you can go for help.
Looking at general advice e.g. on how to collect evidence
If the unwanted attention is making you frightened then the situation is serious. Stalkers, particularly ex-partners, can go on to murder.
Research has shown that action taken really quickly is most effective. Stalking that goes on for more than two weeks often becomes long term behaviour, becoming entrenched in the stalker’s way of life. If you recognise it early and are scared – ACT QUICKLY.
Tell other people: You may find it difficult to tell other people what is happening, perhaps you are worried about what they will say; if they will believe you; or think you are making a fuss about nothing and make fun of you. It is important to tell people, your safety may depend upon other people knowing.
Do not communicate with the stalker: Any communication at all will feed the stalker’s need to keep you communicating with them. So, for example, do not return phone calls, reply to letters, emails, text messages – no relationship means you make no contact. Communicating with the stalker also weakens your case. (Clearly this is difficult for some people e.g. those who have to have some contact with their stalker for child contact arrangements, but they can try to minimise direct communication by using other people as intermediaries).
Look at our website: For information and contacts for agencies that provide support on stalking – cyberstalking, links to finding out more about the legal aspects of stalking and the different orders.
Contact the Police: 999 if it is an emergency of course; otherwise ask to speak to their Single Point of Contact for Stalking – every force should have one. Take evidence (see scaredofsomeone.org for how to gather evidence).
Contact the National Stalking Helpline: Email: email@example.com or call 0808 802 0300 for free. The helpline is open 09:30 – 16:00 weekdays (except Wednesdays 13:00 – 16:00). The Network for Surviving Stalking was involved in the work to set up this helpline. It is run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. We are always keen to have feedback on this.
** There is a difference between harassment and stalking although both are criminal offences. The threshold for ‘repeated behaviour’ is two or more incidents regardless of whether the person harassing or stalking is known to the target. If the behaviour engenders fear or distress and there have been two or more incidents (not necessarily the same behaviour – e.g. one breaking and entering and two text messages that cause alarm) then this is stalking. If there have been two text messages and a Facebook message that are insulting but carry no threat and do not leave the target feeling fear of violence or great distress, then this would be harassment. If a stalker uses third persons to act on their behalf in the stalking/harassment campaign and this can be evidenced then it still counts as stalking/harassment. One of the big problems is that police and agencies – even if they get as far as seeing the pattern of behaviour – will identify it as harassment, which carries a much less severe penalty, when really it is stalking.
Additional resource: CallerSmart have developed a useful guide to cyberstalking to help people understand what cyberstalking is and what to do if you are a victim. There is also a Reverse Lookup Phone Book App that you can download for free: https://www.callersmart.com/articles/50/Cyberstalking