Stalking is not romantic. Stalking is a crime.

With Valentine’s Day approaching we want to highlight the risks around stalking and the fact that stalking is not romantic and is not a joke.

Stalking is a pattern of Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted and Repeated (FOUR) behaviours that cause serious alarm and distress and/or fear of violence. It causes the survivor/victim to make changes to their daily life such as coming off social media, staying at home, changing routes or patterns when out, experiencing high levels of anxiety of depression, stopping work and putting extra security into their property – this list is not exhaustive. Stalking disproportionately affects women more than men[1]. However, men can also be victims of stalking.

There are two main types of stalkers – the most common is the “ex-intimate” partner. They will have been extremely controlling and jealous within the relationship, often using isolating tactics with the victim; when the victim separates from the controlling partner (or family member) this will be when the stalking starts.

The other type of stalker is the “stranger stalker” which encompasses acquaintances, ex-employees, someone perhaps you were at school or in an education setting with or someone you don’t know at all.  

Stalkers use a variety of tactics to intimidate and control their targets, persistently making unwanted contact that continues obsessively with the aim to maintain control and power over their victims.

Stalking behaviours can seem innocuous eg including leaving gifts or flowers, and other behaviours can seem more insidious such as following victims, sexual assault, damaging property, repetitively messaging and/or calling the victim, messaging the victim’s contacts, or threatening to share or sharing intimate media of the victim to others. However, it is important to look at the totality of the stalking and to join the dots to see the bigger picture and the crime of stalking. Leaving unwanted gifts, for example, needs to be looked at by joining the dots with the other unwanted stalking behaviours which will inevitably be occurring and will be having a devastating effect on the victim.

Cyberstalking is growing by the year, particularly since the onset of the pandemic as people spend more time online and use social media. The National Stalking Helpline run by stalking charity The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, saw a 10% increase in calls since March 2020 coinciding with the first lockdown in the UK. 100% of stalking cases currently include a cyberstalking element – an increase from 80% in 2019. During the pandemic, we have seen victims stuck at home with the very weapons cyber-stalkers use phones, social media, laptops etc.

Stalking is a crime! You can receive up to 10 years in prison for stalking someone. Yet, people still joke about it. We don’t joke about rape so we shouldn’t joke about stalking as it steals lives and takes lives. Get trained and save lives.

So on 14th February, Solace is holding a full day’s training session “Unmasking Stalking: Stalking Awareness” https://bit.ly/3K5yLzr.

My Stalking Story

As someone with lived experience of stalking from an ex-partner, the unnerving fear and constant anticipation of their next move lives long after leaving the perpetrator. Even when living in different countries, my ex-partner found relentless ways to humiliate and harm me by exploiting the largely unregulated digital space.

For years, he would find ways to contact me even after I blocked his numbers and wanted the relationship over. There seemed no escape from him as he kept creating new social media accounts, buying new telephone numbers, and even sending his friend to leave extravagant gifts, flowers and cash to my address.

After realising I won’t respond, the messages became more threatening and malicious, targeting not only me, but also my family and friends. It eventually escalated to him repetitively sharing intimate media of me to my university peers and relatives in an attempt to force me to respond and return to him.

When I initially reported the stalking and intimate image abuse to the police both in the UK and in the country my ex resided in, there wasn’t much that could be done to stop him. There were barriers as he resided in a different jurisdiction, so no action was taken. I also had fears of the escalation of his vengeance and retaliation if the case was taken to court. In the end, I decided that the safest decision may be just to continue to ignore the online abuse and try to get on with my life instead of retraumatising myself with constant re-reporting and taking the case further.

Life-long impact of stalking

The impact of online stalking on me has been life-changing. I’ve had to change my name, phone number and isolate myself from relatives and friends out of fear of being tracked and stalked again by my ex. Alongside these more practical changes, I also live in a constant state of stress and worry - always imagining the worst case scenarios so I feel assured I’m prepared for it. On top of this, the repetitive nightmares of being trapped with him and being unable to escape wakes me up in panic and petrifying fear.

What needs to be done

Perpetrators of stalking take so much away from us, but still not many people are aware of how serious and traumatic stalking can be. Stalking is not romantic or flattering, as I’ve often heard. Stalking is mainly coupled with coercive control that both drive the “Homicide Timeline” which indicates the predictable sequence of events that can eventually lead to the victim’s homicide. Stalking and coercive control contribute to over 90% of homicide cases[1], suggesting that stalking can be an early indicator of an escalation of violence.

We need to keep the discussion going on the harms of stalking so it leads to real policy changes and becomes a government priority as part of the fight against violence to women and girls. Although recently there has been support in government for a stalking register that would enable police to monitor perpetrators using a police database, as is currently used with sex offenders, it was rejected by the government to include in the Domestic Abuse Bill. Such a register would be necessary to prevent harm from stalking and show a serious concerted approach to help current and potential victims of stalking. 

Being empowered with knowledge of stalking and how to safeguard victims is necessary for everyone. You never know how such knowledge can save a life or prevent a lifetime of trauma for someone.

Stalking is NOT romantic and is not a joke. So on 14th February, Solace is holding a full day’s training session “Unmasking Stalking: Stalking Awareness” https://bit.ly/3K5yLzr.

This is applicable to anyone who is working or may come into contact with stalking victims, eg, domestic abuse workers, police, social services, corporates (who should always have a stalking policy), safeguarding leads, CYP workers; GPs, counsellors etc. We will teach you:

  • History of stalking
  • how to spot the signs
  • how to respond safely and in a trauma-perceptive way to a disclosure
  • the types of behaviours a stalker will use
  • legislation and civil/criminal remedies
  • the difference between harassment and stalking
  • how to risk assess
  • barriers for victims
  • impact of stalking
  • advice for victims
  • how police can support victims who are reporting
  • stalker typologies
  • we will use case studies throughout to bring the session alive.

To book please use this link: https://bit.ly/3K5yLzr

If you would like to ask any further questions please contact tr[email protected]

References: 

[1] ONS findings on stalking from 2020 dataset from the Crime Survey for England and Wales

[2] Monckton Smith, J., Szymanska, K., Haile, S. (2017). Exploring the relationship between stalking and homicide. Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Retrieved from http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/4553/