Being stalked by someone can be a frightening, distressing and daunting experience. The constant feeling of ‘looking over your shoulder’ or being watched or monitored can take an understandable toll on a victim’s mental health and well-being.
In this article, we look at what stalking is and what you can do if you’re a victim to help protect yourself.
Firstly, stalking can happen to anyone. A stalker can be a stranger, former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, an acquaintance or a work colleague. It can occur over a long period of time and it can also take a while before a victim realises it’s happening. If someone is stalked more than twice, then it is classed as stalking.
Victims often feel harassed, pestered and afraid from unwanted and persistent attention. Some people think that stalking only happens when someone is physically followed but victims can be stalked online too. This is called ‘cyber stalking’ and can include sending unwanted, frightening, or obscene emails, or text messages; harassing or threatening a victim on social media and tracking a victim’s computer and internet use.
If you think you’re being stalked, there’s the ‘FOUR’ test that outlines the main behaviours a perpetrator will do:
- Fixated – the perpetrator is focussed on the victim rather than an issue
- Obsessive – the perpetrator spends a significant amount of time and resources stalking someone and will also knowingly risk being arrested or imprisoned to continue doing this
- Unwanted – a perpetrator’s actions are unwanted by the victim
- Repetitive – there are multiple incidents of stalking (i.e. stalking on two or more occasions)
There are also a series of questions a victim can ask themselves to establish their level of risk if they believe they are being stalked. The answers of these questions can be shared with the police too.
- Are you very frightened?
- Is there previous domestic abuse or stalking/harassment history?
- Have they vandalised or destroyed your property?
- Have they turned up unannounced more than three times a week?
- Have they followed or loitered near your home or workplace?
- Have they made threats of a physical or sexual violence nature?
- Have they harassed or stalked any third party since the harassment began?
- Have they acted violently towards anyone else during the stalking incident?
- Have they engaged other people to help with their activities?
- Has the stalker had problems in the past year with drugs, alcohol or mental health?
- Is the stalker suicidal?
- Have they ever been in trouble with the police or do they have a criminal history?understandable toll on a victim’s mental health and well-being.
Detective Sergeant Roshan Pitteea of West Yorkshire Police heads up the force’s Stalking Coordination Unit, a team dedicated to supporting victims of stalking and bringing perpetrators to justice. On stalking he said:
‘Stalking is a serious offence which has significant impacts on all areas of a victim’s life. Perpetrators can be an ex-partner, a work colleague or even a complete stranger. My team works with officers across the force to keep victims of stalking safe and prosecute perpetrators. If you are experiencing stalking, please report it so that we and our partners can help you.’
Specialist stalking victim support organisations such as Paladin and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust advise victims to follow some ‘golden rules’ to keep themselves safe, also known as the ‘REPORT’ guidance:
‘R’ is for reporting concerns you have to the police and your friends and family, neighbours, workplace and, if you have children, their nursery or school. ‘E’ is for ensuring you get good practical advice and there are lots of support organisations out there, including the National Stalking Helpline. ‘P’ is for proactively gathering evidence whether that be saving all messages or gifts you receive from the perpetrator or, if it’s safe to do so, filming them. If you’re being followed in a car, drive to an area where there’s lots of CCTV coverage. Town centres especially have plenty of cameras.
‘O’ is for an overview of what’s happening and when. Much like a diary, logging times, dates and the details of what’s happened. ‘R’ is for the risk checklist – the questions covered earlier in this article and finally ‘T’ is for trusting your instinct. If you’re frightened or worried, it’s really important to either call the police or go to a safe place and, don’t contact or respond to the stalker in any other way.
If you are worried or concerned that you may be a victim, there are support services available who can help.
Victim Support West Yorkshire (domestic-abuse related stalking)
Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service (non-domestic stalking)
The National Stalking Helpline – call 0808 802 0300, or fill out an online enquiry form here