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Stalking and Harassment

Stalking affects one in five women and one in ten men at some point in their lives. One in 25 aged 16-59 are stalked every year. Eighty per cent of victims are stalked by someone they know, with the biggest category being ex partners who account for 40 per cent of cases reported to the National Stalking helpline. The British Crime Survey (2006) suggests up to five million people experience stalking or harassment in any given year and that many victims will suffer up to 100 incidents before talking to the police.

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What is stalking?

Stalking and harassment is conduct directed at or towards an individual by another that causes a victim to feel that violence may be used against them or another person, or causes the victim to feel afraid, alarm and distressed.

There will be different motivations for a perpetrator's behaviour. This may include revenge, retribution, loneliness, resentment, a desire for reconciliation, response to a perceived insult or humiliation or a desire for control. Some perpetrators' behaviour will be driven by mental health issues.

It encompasses a wide range of behaviours that can often have a devastating effect on its victims. It is repeated behaviour that is unwanted by the victim and causes them to have a negative reaction in terms of distress.

Click here for top safety tips for stalking and domestic abuse victims

There are several different contexts in which harassment can occur:

  • As part of domestic abuse
  • Within domestic abuse but where the pre-existing intimate relationship was very brief
  • Where the suspect is known personally to the victim, but not as a family member, intimate partner or former intimate partner, so is therefore outside the definition of domestic abuse (eg. neighbour, work colleague, acquaintance)
  • Where the suspect is not known personally to the victim (eg. harassment of a person in the public eye)
  • Where the victim is a target of a politically-motivated campaign (eg. animal rights extremist)

Stalking HelplineRemember that domestic stalkers are the most dangerous group of stalkers. A prior intimate relationship is the most powerful predictor of violence in stalking cases as there could be a shorter duration of stalking along with rapid escalation, which could signal a 'high' risk of serious harm.

Research shows that those who are at the highest risk of assault are ex-intimates who have been threatened, in whom the stalking has continued for most than two weeks.

Behaviour by a suspect can include:

Frequent, unwanted contact eg. appearing at the home or workplace of the victim, telephone calls, text messages or other contact, such as via the internet (ie. social networking sites).