What is Stalking?
Stalking and harassment is behaviour that is repeated and unwanted by the victim. The behaviours may seem normal and ordinary, however, when they are repeated they can be menacing and cause alarm and distress to the victim.
- Frequent unwanted contact such as appearing at the victim’s home, workplace, telephone calls, text messages, letters, notes, e-mails, faxes, or other contact on social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo, My Space etc;
- Driving past the victim’s home of workplace;
- Following, watching or loitering near the victim;
- Sending letters or unwanted ‘gifts’ (‘gifts may appear ‘nice’ but could have a sinister meaning);
- Damaging significant property belonging to the victim;
- Burglary or robbery of the victim’s home, workplace, car;
- Gathering information on the victim by contacting people who know the victim, using public records etc;
- Harassment of others close to the victim;
- Threats to harm or kill (includes sexual threats) the victim or those close, particularly those who are seen to be ‘protecting the victim’ or acting as the buffer between the victim and the stalker;
- Physical and/or sexual assault of victim.
• The popular image of a stalker is that of the stranger in the night, something that is suddenly visited on you by some madman. However, most female victims KNOW their stalker.
• Sheridan and Davies (2001) found that ex-intimate stalkers were the most aggressive and dangerous of all stalkers.
• Being stalked carries a high violence risk if there is a previous sexual/intimate relationship.
• It is not always about long-term relationships. Stalkers include estranged husbands, ex-boyfriends, a one-time date or an unwanted suitor.
• The end of a ‘relationship’ can produce some very powerful emotions, feelings of loss, anger or rage. Some people will not want the ‘relationship’ to end. However, you need to feel concerned when the behaviour frightens you or instils fear. Complete the Stalking and Harassment Risk Identification Checklist (S-DASH 2009) if you are feeling frightened.
• Stalking is a crime of power, control and intimidation.
• The stalker enforces the belief that the victim cannot choose who is in their lives – this is a very dangerous belief.
What does the term ‘stalking’ mean?
• Stalking is not a legal term used in the context of the criminal justice system. It is a colloquial term used in to describe a particular type of harassment.
Types of stalking and motivation
• There are mainly two types of stalking: unwanted pursuit by a ‘stranger’ and unwanted pursuit by someone the victim knows.
• The media tends to report on stalking and the stalker as if it were are some sort of special crime or that they are a special type of criminal. However, those who choose regular people as their victims are not. They are NOT from Mars – they are the man our sister dated, the man the company hired, the man our friend married.
• Motivations for the stalking behaviour can be different. These can include revenge, retribution, resentment, a response to a perceived humiliation, a desire for control, reconciliation and/or loneliness. In some cases the motivation will be the delusional belief that an individual is in love with the stalker. This is called erotomania. In some cases the harassment may relate to the obsessive preoccupation with a particular cause of issues that may be politically motivated.
• The motivation will inform the level at risk the victim is at in terms of risk of harm from the stalker.
• The motivation will also inform the typology of stalking, as well as what intervention tactics that might be effective in any given case. The context and behaviour of the stalker is crucial to understanding this.
What to do if you believe you are being stalked?
• Gather evidence and document everything. Keep texts, e-mails, letters, notes, faxes, ‘gifts’. Preserve any ‘gifts’ or packages that are sent to you. Box them up or if they are perishable bag them up and place them in the freezer. Record the date and time they were sent/left.
• Record anything that is happening to you on a camera/video or Dictaphone, for example. Most mobile phones now have these facilities. You can also keep a Dictaphone in your bag and use it when s/he contacts you to record conversations/threats etc.
• Keep a diary of the stalking incidents and make a note of the time and date. Make the diary entry whilst it is all fresh in your mind.
• Inform people around you – family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, for example. Ask them to record sightings, if they are approached by your stalker or what is said to them by the stalker.
• Feel concerned if the stalker is making threats such as ‘If I can’t have you, no-one can’ or ‘If you report me, I’ll kill you’ or ‘If you were to ever leave me, I’ll kill you/myself and/or the child(ren)’.
• If you are very frightened contact your local police. Complete the Stalking and Harassment Risk Identification Checklist (S-DASH 2009).
• If you feel in immediate danger at any time call 999.
• Think that you are being paranoid or a ‘drama queen’. Follow your instinct if you believe you are being stalked.
• Allow the stalker to shrink your world down. Do not allow his/her behaviour to isolate you from your friends/family/colleagues. Make sure everyone around you is aware of what is happening.
What about if I am being called all the time?
• Record the phone calls and also document it in your diary – the content of what was said and the time. Do this as soon as the call has happened.
• Save any text messages from your stalker and make a note of what they say and the time and date they were received.
• Use 1471 and note the number they are using. If it is displayed on your mobile note the number down in your diary and the time.
• Ask someone else to answer the phone and make your employer aware at work, if they call you there.
• If you are a BT customer, there are a number of things that might assist – see www.bt.custhelp.com Or contact BT Malicious Calls Bureau on 0800 661 441 (24hrs, 7 days a week).
• Remove your telephone number from direct marketing lists by registering with the Telephone Preference Service at Telephone Preference (www.tpsonline.org.uk) Registration Line: 0845 070 0707.
• Remove your fax number from direct marketing lists by registering with the Fax Preference Service at Fax Preference, (www.fpsonline.org.uk) registration Line: 08450 700 70.
• Enter into ANY conversation with the stalker at ANY time. No contact means NO contact.
• Think that you can rationalise with your stalker. They know what they are doing – it is part of a targeted campaign and they probably won’t stop until they are stopped.
• Pick up the phone if they are calling – even if they ring/text a hundred times.
• Proactively call them or respond in ANY way.
• Give away any personal information about yourself or those you live with unless you’re familiar with the caller. This also includes on your voicemail i.e. saying you are away on holiday or in the phone book or ever saying you live on your own/or are home alone if you are female, for example.
If you think that you are being followed
• Try to stay calm.
• Always carry a mobile phone.
• Always carry a notepad and pen to record what is happening. If you see your stalker, at the next available safe opportunity, note down details, location, description of person, vehicle details, especially the registration number/make of car. Take a picture/video using your mobile phone. If necessary, call the police.
• Vary your routine. We are all creatures of habit, and if they know you or have been watching you they will know your routine. Take different routes to work, shop in a different supermarket, meet friends in different social places, for example. Try and be unpredictable in terms of your patterns of behaviour.
• Drive to the nearest police station/court house to seek assistance. If you feel in imminent physical danger, stop safely and use your mobile phone to dial 999.
• Dismiss it and think you are being silly or over dramatic. Again, pay attention to your instinct and ensure you record what is happening and document the time and date, whilst it is fresh in your mind.
• Confront your stalker or engage in ANY discussion with them.
You need to consider your home and work place in terms of security measures. In terms of your home you can ask for your local Crime Prevention Officer to visit and advise you on home security.
Equally, over the last few years work place violence has increased and the work place is NOT a safe haven. So you need to take security measures at your work place, as well as in your personal life to maximise security.
• Employer awareness – let them know what is happening to you. A good employer should initiate a file on what is happening to you, particularly if your stalker works at the same place.
• Ensure they have a description of the stalker – get a photo if possible.
• Ask your manager to handle all inquiries made about you, including phone calls, e-mails, faxes and visits or suspicious packages being sent.
• Get permission to park your vehicle close to the building or in an area that is well lit.
Further advice to reduce the risk of stalking
• Limit the amount of personal information you put in the public domain. This includes on networking sites, the internet, phone book etc.
• Consider obtaining a secure PO Box for your contact address. Details can be found on the Royal Mail website www.royalmail.com or by contacting them on 08457 950 950. An accompanying letter from the police will be required for your application.
• It is possible to make sure your name and address do not appear on the electoral register. You can receive a certificate of anonymous registration. (But you do still have the choice to send this information through to credit reference agencies so you’ll still be able to get a credit rating.) However, to get a certificate of anonymous registration you will need a court order that is in force, or a qualified person to support your application. This registration lasts for one year and does not apply in Northern Ireland. See the notes in Section 8 of the application form. For more details go to www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.
• Remove your name and address from any direct mail marketing lists by contacting the-Mailing Preference Service at Mailing Preference, (www.mpsonline.org.uk) Registration Line: 0845 703 4599.
There is still limited knowledge, awareness and education about stalking, even though the problem is getting bigger. Many people and agencies, including law enforcement, still do not fully understand stalking and harassment behaviours and the risks.
They may not understand how frightening it is when it is happening to you. Many will expect to see physical violence and think it is not so serious until this happens. However, a lot of the stalking behaviour is about coercive control and jealous surveillance i.e. psychological abuse/violence. This does not make it any less dangerous.
Do not despair if you have not been satisfied with the initial police response. Keep trying to be heard. Complete the Stalking and Harassment Risk Identification Checklist (VS-DASH 2009) attached below and then take it into the Police if you answer positively to the questions. We can assure you that most police officers want to help, but they sometimes lack the tools and training needed.