What is Stalking?
Defining ‘stalking’ is often tricky because a stalker will use multiple methods to harass their victim. According to the National Stalking Helpline, stalking consists of any type of unwanted behaviour, such as regularly sending gifts/flowers, making malicious/unwanted communication, damaging property and physical or sexual assault. If the behaviour is persistent and causing fear and anxiety for the victim, then it is classed as stalking and must be stopped.
The following points reveal worrying truths about stalking and the effect it can have on victims:
- Stalking is not limited to a delusional fan lurking in the shadow of a celebrity. In fact, 40% of people who contact a stalking helpline are being stalked by ex-partners and a further third are already acquainted with their stalker, be it a friend or somebody they’ve previously dated.
- Anybody can become a victim of stalking. Dr Lorraine Sheridan and the Network for Surviving Stalking surveyed 2,292 stalking victims with an age range of 10 to 73. This included male and female victims, spread across the entire socio-economic spectrum. A large proportion (38%) were professionals.
- Stalking can last any length of time from 1 month to 43 years, according to Dr Lorraine Sheridan’s studies. The average length of time was found to be between 6 months and 2 years.
- The absence of violence in a case of stalking does not mean the victim is unaffected. Stalking can evoke severe psychological distress for the victim, including depression, anxiety and paranoia, amongst others.
- According to domestic violence charity Women’s Aid – nearly half of women who reported a case of stalking had been tracked down by an ex-partner through their online activities
- Half of all victims lose out financially due to stalking – paying for repairs to damage caused by stalkers, as well as legal advice.
Television presenter, Sian Lloyd recently discussed how her ordeal with one stalker left her constantly ‘looking over her shoulder.’ The harassment was predominantly sent through letters to her home, containing explicit images and requesting that she meet with the culprit.
“This man wrote asking me to meet him for tea at Fortnum & Masons. When I didn’t go, he’d write another letter saying, ‘Well, I know you didn’t turn up last time, so please meet me here.”
Lloyd claims she has now been targeted by stalkers on several occasions during her career, with one ordeal forcing her to move.
“I’ve gone from someone hyper-confident, carefree, going from one thing to another, never looking over my shoulder. Now I look over my shoulder mentally and physically.”
A report released by the Suzi Lamplugh Trust said only around 26% of stalking incidents are reported to the Police, with 43% of those who did make a report finding the response not very helpful or not helpful at all.
Without increased confidence in a victim support system, many cases of stalking will continue to go unreported, perhaps worsening the situation for victims. As in Sian Lloyds case, stalking can often completely change somebody’s life.
Information and advice on stalking and how to report it, and how to keep yourself safe when working on your own can be found on the Suzy Lamplugh trust website.