Victim tells story in support of Let’s Talk Stalking campaign
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Staffordshire Police is highlighting the behaviours of stalking and sharing the story of a victim to show the devastation this crime can have on a person’s life.
Between Monday 19 and Sunday 25 April, the force will support the National Stalking Awareness Week spearheaded by Suzy Lamplugh Trust and will be sharing advice to stalking victims on how they can find help, but also how they can gather evidence. The Hollie Guard app will also be promoted, to help those worried about their personal safety to protect themselves.
The force has seen an increase in stalking offences and attributes this to increased victim and officer awareness, as well as changes to the national recording of such crimes.
Detective Inspector Victoria Ison, Deputy Head of Safeguarding, said: “Over the last year we have seen a significant increase in stalking offences being reported but on the whole it means less stalking is going unreported and more victims are being protected.”
In 2019 there were 823 offences recorded, compared to 2,088 in 2020.
Victoria Ison, continued: “A lot of work has been done to increase general understanding and awareness of this crime, so we believe more victims now recognise the behaviours and are reporting them to the police. However, the national changes to the way these crimes are recorded has also impacted the numbers quite significantly.
“Despite the increase, this change means we are better supporting victims of domestic abuse (stalking) and where appropriate we can use the tools specifically available under stalking legislation to protect them.
“We would encourage anyone who believes they be a victim of stalking to share their concerns and speak to the police.”
A Victim’s Story
The victim, whose name has been changed to protect their identity, has been on a turbulent rollercoaster at the hands of their ex-partner for over a year and is sharing their story to help other victims know they too can get help.
For our victim, who we will refer to as Steve, the stalking began as his relationship ended. Steve’s ex-partner refused to accept the relationship was over. She became fixated with the idea that their relationship could be reconciled and began to obsessively contact Steve. He made it clear that the contact was unwanted and she then began to make unfounded allegations. It became clear that Steve’s ex-partner was not going to stop her behaviour which was causing him considerable upset and distress.
Steve found the courage to report his ex-partner to the police and was referred to New Era, a free and confidential support service for those affected by domestic abuse, for support while the investigation commenced. He was assigned a male specialist Independent Domestic Violence Advisor. Steve’s ex-partner was subsequently convicted of stalking and given a custodial sentence which reflects the seriousness of her persistent offending against Steve.
Steve says: “I repeatedly asked her not to contact me, other than to arrange childcare and visits with them. But she continued regardless. That was when I applied for a non-molestation order but even this didn’t stop the unnecessary and constant contact.
“I did everything I could to cut all ties and employed a solicitor to handle childcare arrangements on my behalf. However, they too were bombarded by her emails.
“The best way to describe my ex-partner’s behaviour would be obsessed. She has been relentless in her efforts and methods of contacting me. It’s hard to understand how she can think that we still might have a future together after all she has done.
“I’ve had to completely reset my digital identity; new mobile number and handset as I didn’t trust she’d not put a tracker on it. Also a new email and work social profile, which has made it really hard to find work as I lost hundreds of contacts who would normally recommend me and help me find work.
“I constantly feel anxious and worried. I struggle to sleep and I am often awake in the early hours. I get no enjoyment from things I used to and I’m isolated from friends. I’m too scared to give out my new number so only a very few select people have it.
“My parents really worry about me, they see I’m no longer the person I was and every time I see my dad he looks older. I have no motivation to socialise, other than spending time with my folks who help with the children.
“The emotional turmoil of stalking should not be underestimated. I want other men who may be suffering similar behaviour to know that they don’t have to put up with it. There is help out there. New Era and the police have been brilliant and I couldn’t have got through this without them. They’ve given me practical advice about protecting myself online and listened to my worries about the court hearings.”
Over time Steve is beginning to rebuild his career and life, taking care of his young family.
“I’ve pretty much had to start my life again with an almost blank canvas and rebuild my career and confidence because of what she’s done to me. I’m so thankful that I have my adorable children to give me focus and a supportive family.
“After many months of struggling to make ends meet I’ve managed to find some work and I’m finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”
It’s believed that stalking is often not reported by men. Steve is hopeful his story might give other men the confidence to get help. Of the recorded stalking offences in Staffordshire in 2020 only 22 percent of victims were men. While 83 per cent (1,743) of stalking cases were domestic, so involved partners, ex partners or family members.