Unmasking Stalking a Changing Landscape

So today for #NSAW2021 #unmasking stalking we will be looking at how the pandemic has altered a key piece of advice we usually give to stalking victims/survivors: vary your routine.

During the pandemic – varying routines has been extremely difficult when confined to the home. In fact, victims/survivors have been stuck at home with their phones, laptops and social media and therefore have been surrounded by the very tools that stalkers use for cyber stalking.

If victims/survivors do go out, it will be to get food, medication or to exercise. So the “rejected stalker” the ex-intimate knows where that victim/survivor will shop, exercise and which pharmacy they will use. Employing the use of the mask the #stalker can further get away with terrorising their victim.

During the pandemic, there was a lot of Press around #domesticabuse but barely any given to #stalking victims/survivors. Common sense would dictate that if you are in fear you could still vary your routes when out, but with restricted movement and no named guidance given directly to stalking victims - the victim’s world has been closed down by the stalker and the pandemic.

In fact, #stalking fell off the radar with the government focusing solely on #domesticabuse and the impact of the pandemic – funding was found, helplines were swamped. But what about stalking services? The National Stalking Helpline reported an 11% increase in calls. The National Stalking Consortium consists of the remaining #stalking services that are underfunded and having to fight for each penny to keep victims alive.

The Revenge Porn helpline received double the amount of calls and calls increased from 162 cases in February to 326 in November 2020. The helpline experienced record month after record month during the pandemic, with cases in November being 42% higher than the helpline anticipated.

Kate Worthington from the helpline said: “Also intimate image abuse isn’t a behaviour which occurs in isolation. It comes alongside stalking and domestic abuse. It is part and parcel of relationships becoming abusive. The pandemic has escalated pre-existing behaviours of abuse as people have been locked down with their abusers.”

So we know the link between #domesticabuse #image based abuse & #stalking so why haven’t we seen more funding going into #stalking services? Once relationships breakdown, if there has been #coercivecontrol #isolation #jealousy and #separation then we’re likely to then see #stalking. But there are very few #stalking services out there and they are all fighting for funding when #PFCCs should be setting up #stalking units in every county. #stalking advocates can assist victims/survivors and police. The work of an #ISAC is extremely niche and not the same as an #IDVA and we need more trained #stalking advocates to support #survivors, better trained police forces and this all requires funding. Without this we continue to see women #stalked and murdered by ex-partners who are #serialperpetrators. This is also why the #serialperpetrator register is needed. #MAPPA does not categorise these nominals as high risk or police them in the way #VISOR does.

We are living in the dark ages if we cannot create a national database that holds the names of #serialperpetrators of #domesticabuse & #stalking. This would save money and lives. Just one domestic homicide review will cost a CSP between £17000 and £28,000 and that excludes the costs of the murder investigation, criminal justice process etc. Surely we can save lives and money by further investing in the creation of specialist #stalking support services and the expansion of existing ones.

It’s extremely worrying that the murder of Sarah Everard – that brought male violence into the public arena - has not acted as a catalyst for #Amendment73 in the #DABill. And there is a long list of #femicides before Sarah’s murder. The government would rather spend money on murder, domestic homicide reviews than save women’s lives. Having worked alongside bereaved families who have lost their often young daughters as a result of #stalking it is difficult to put into words how shameful this government is being by not addressing #serialperpetrators.