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Stalking

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What is Stalking?

Stalking is “a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive and causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress”. 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 a stalker’s behaviour shows a fixation or obsession (which may include unwanted behaviours such as following you, turning up at your work, making vexatious complaints about you, or continuously contacting you) and this behaviour is causing you alarm and distress then this meets the definition of stalking and you should not have to live with it.

What are the warning signs I should look out for? 

The acronym FOUR helps you remember what type of behaviours to look out for:

Fixated: Does the perpetrator’s behaviour indicate a disproportionate investment of time, effort and resources? Is the perpetrator interested in everything the victim does? Do they want to know who the victim is talking to, what they are doing, where they are going etc. Does the Perpetrator try to find this information by using social media, texting, calling, emailing or being followed?

Obsession: Does the perpetrator appear to have an unhealthy and persistent preoccupation with the victim(s)?Does the perpetrator continue their behaviour when they have been told to stop? Does the perpetrator dedicate time and effort to the stalking behaviours?

Unwanted attention: Does the victim report that the behaviour of the perpetrator is unwanted attention? Is the perpetrator persistent? Does the perpetrator send gifts to the victim(s), unwanted communication such as massages, letters or phone calls. Has the perpetrator damaged your property or has graffiti been caused to your property?

Repeated: Is there a pattern of behaviour, meaning 2 or more incidents of unwanted contact whether or not they have been reported to the police?

Who stalks?

About 55% of stalking victims who contact the National Stalking Helpline are stalked by an ex-intimate partner and 96% of stalking victims know their stalker in some capacity; you may have dated, married or been a friend with your stalker. Just because you know/knew the stalker does not mean that the situation is your fault – it is still stalking and it is wrong!

Are you at risk?

If you’re not sure if what is happening to you is stalking, then please take some time to look at the questions below:

  • 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?
  • Have they attempted/threatened suicide? (signs of finality and commitment)
  • Have they ever been in trouble with the police or do they have a criminal history?

If you answered YES to any of the questions above, you should take the situation, and the person’s behaviour towards you, seriously and contact us for support and advice.

What can you do?

The most important thing is to tell someone. Stalking thrives on secrecy – if people know they can help to keep you safe. You can contact the National Stalking Helpline for advice about your options and safety planning. To report incidents to the police, call 101, but if you ever feel in danger, call 999 immediately.

Personal Safety

  • Take a mobile telephone with you when you go out.
  • Carry a personal attack alarm and learn how to use it.  Do not carry anything that is meant for use as a weapon.
  • Try to alter your daily routines.  Ask friends to go with you whenever possible, and always try to let someone know what your plans are.
  • Contact your telephone company to see what action they can take against malicious callers.  Register with Telephone Preference Service to have your details removed from direct marketing lists.
  • Review your security settings on social networks
  • Consider turning off GPS and locating tagging on your mobile devices
  • Do not interact with the person stalking you
  • If you become aware that you are being followed, make your way to a public place, commercial premises (such as a retail shop) or your nearest police station
  • You can find more personal safety advice on our personal safety page or at the National Stalking Helpline website

Keep records

Keep a record of what happened, where and when, every time you were followed, phoned, received post or e-mail.  Write the information down as soon as possible, when events are still fresh in your mind.  Your diary should include the following columns:

  • Date and time
  • Location
  • What happened?
  • Any evidence?
  • Any police contact, actions or reference numbers
  • Impact of incident
  • Any changes you’ve made as a result of the contact
  • Any impact on children, family or others

- The more details you have the better. How did the offender look or sound? What were they wearing? What is the make and number plate or colour of their car?

- If you have been sent gifts you should put them in a plastic bag and store them safely somewhere as evidence. If the gift is perishable, such as flowers, take a picture. You should take screenshots of any digital messages as evidence too and keep them stored somewhere safe. Handle any evidence as little as possible.

- Keep copies of e-mails, text messages and social network messages. Print copies if you can.

- Keep a record of telephone numbers. Tape-record telephone conversations if you can.

- Tell your friends, neighbours and work colleagues about what is happening.

- Try to get photographic or video evidence of your stalker

Home Security

  • Ensure you property has an alarm
  • Ensure you have CCTV at your property and spot lights
  • Make your neighbours aware so they can look out for you
  • Ensure your property is secure (windows and doors must be locked)

Report it

If you feel in immediate danger at any time, always call 999.

If you are frightened, but not in immediate danger contact us on 101 or report it online.

You can also contact:

The Stalking Advisory Service

The National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group, or an organisation.

There is no legal definition of cyberstalking but it involves Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted and Repeated behaviour. This maybe to gather information, monitor or discredit the victim(s).

Stalking Behaviours

There are a number of ways that a perpetrator may stalk or harass someone through the use of technology. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Sending unwanted messages, whether this be via email or social media, which may be obscene or threatening in nature.
  • Identity theft.
  • E-mail hacking – either by attacking the mail server or attacking the sign-in page with password cracking software.
  • Hacking software is also available on the internet as well as automated hacking websites.
  • In some instances a victim will think they are being directed to the correct web page, but it has been falsified.
  • This type of hacking may include an entire account take over or be used to monitor what that person’s online activities are, i.e. who they’re speaking to, what activities they are engaging in.
  • Social media account takeovers, changing of passwords and information.
  • Using social media including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube etc. to monitor someone.
  • Fake profiles being set up in an individuals name, posting malicious content.
  • Location and tracking of the victim by GPS on mobiles, tracker devices or spyware on phones or other electronic devices.
  • Software can also be used to download data from that particular device whether it be a mobile phone, computer, tablet or laptop.
  • Other applications can also be used to access someone’s webcam.
  • Using others to gather information or target the person – online communication can also make it much easier for a third party to become involved.

For further advice please refer to the cyber stalking checklist.

Please ensure you Report it.