Stalking is defined as 'a pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim.'
Most victims know their stalker. In Staffordshire 84 per cent of stalking cases in 2020 were classed as domestic, which means they involved partners, ex partners or family members. But whether you know the person or not, there are a number of measures you can take to disempower stalkers and help protect yourself from being targeted and tracked.
Victims can be stalked for years with national research showing the average case lasts between 6 months and 2 years. But many cases last longer – 30 per cent of people who contact the National Stalking Helpline have experienced stalking for over two years and 13 per cent have been stalked for over five years.
It can consist of any type of behaviour such as regularly sending flowers or gifts, making unwanted or malicious communication, damaging property and physical or sexual assault. If the behaviour is persistent and clearly unwanted, causing you fear, distress or anxiety then it is stalking and you should not have to live with it.
Stalking often has a huge emotional impact on those it affects. It can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder. It can be a psychological as well as a physical crime. There does not have to be violence or threats of it for stalking to occur.
We want people to recognise the FOUR behaviours highlighted in our video above that are warning signs that someone is stalking you:
Fixated - being followed on your daily routine, spied on, or being watched by someone loitering around your work or home.
Obsession - being monitored on or offline, cyberstalking, the ordering and cancelling of items on your behalf.
Unwanted attention - gifts being sent or left for you; unwanted messages, letters or phone calls. Even damage or graffiti being caused to your property.
Repeated behaviour - this can be any nuisance or threatening behaviour, being approached, accosted or bullied repeatedly.
Stalking behaviours can also include but are not limited to:
Following, surveillance, spying
Standing, loitering around your home, school, place of work etc
Verbal abuse or public humiliation
Unsolicited mail, postcards, photographs and gifts
Repeatedly texting/emailing/leaving voicemails
Planting spyware viruses into your computer
Hacking into your computer, email, cameras and social media accounts
Spreading rumours, discrediting
Threats/violence against you, your family, friends or pets
Physical violence, sexual assault, rape, murder
Befriending your friends, family to get closer to them
Going through rubbish bins; leaving offensive material in the garden
Breaking into your car, home or office and/or damaging property
Declarations of love and communications indicating they are in some sort of relationship with you
Cyber stalking, bullying and identify theft - social networks (including create fake accounts), websites, forums, chat rooms, instant messaging
This behaviour is NOT acceptable and shouldn’t be ignored. If you’re experiencing this type of behaviour please seek help now. You can private message police on Facebook or Twitter, report it online or call 101. You should always call 999 in an emergency.
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself. If you often walk alone you can use personal safety apps such as Hollie Guard (see more below) and follow general personal safety advice outlined by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.
If you’re worried you’re being stalked or harassed we’d also recommend keeping a diary. You don’t have to have a diary of evidence to report either but it will help the police when building a case of evidence to take to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that you are being stalked or harassed. The details and records may then be used in court if required.
There are a number of charities you can call for advice if you’re being stalked, or you can visit their websites for some guidance. They can also help if you’re worried about someone’s behaviour towards someone you know, such as a friend, colleagues or family member.
The National Stalking Helpline is run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, you can find out more here.
New Era provides emotional support and all sorts of practical help to victims of stalking in Staffordshire. They can provide safety planning advice but do not provide counselling but can signpost. They can be contacted on 0300 303 3778.
Paladin is a charitable company and a trauma-informed service established to assist high risk victims of stalking in England and Wales. They can be contacted on 020 3866 4107 (their line is open 9am to 3pm weekdays except for Wednesdays when it is open 10am to 5pm). If you are unable to call within these hours you can email [email protected] and they will try and make arrangements for a call at a convenient time.
In 2014 Hollie Gazzard, a 20-year-old hairdresser from Gloucester, was killed by her ex-partner and stalker Asher Maslin. In the aftermath of her death her family decided to do something positive as a legacy to her. They began the Hollie Gazzard Trust with the aim of raising money for young people's programmes, working with local colleges and organisations to help those who don’t have the resources to fulfil their ambitions.
They also produced Hollie Guard, an app which transforms your phone into a personal safety device. More information can be found on the Hollie Guard website.
Stalking can often be combined with other offences, and develop following them. For example, it can be very closely linked to coercive control, which can include mind games and entrapment, isolating the victim and intimidating them so they don't seek help.
How is stalking different to harassment?
Stalking is different to harassment as it relates to fixation and obsession rather than nuisance behaviour. The behaviours listed in the section above can be classed as harassment as well.
Harassment can become stalking when underpinned by persistent and unwanted behaviour. If someone is making you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened then this could be harassment. You can report this to us online, by calling 101 or visiting a police station.
If you think you're being harassed because of your race, disability, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity you can report this to police as a hate crime.
Stalking can often begin after a relationship ends, and can follow on from controlling behaviour during the relationship. More information can be found on our page about coercive control.
Steve suffered stalking from his ex-partner for over a year. His whole life has suffered as a result and he wants others to know that they don’t have to shoulder stalking behaviour alone. He has bravely faced the reporting and court process with help and support from his independent domestic abuse support advisor from New Era.
Detective Inspector Victoria Ison has answered a few questions regarding stalking that you may find useful.