Stalking Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is stalking?
A. Stalking or harassment is behaviour that is persistent and unwanted by the victim. That behaviour could initially appear normal. However, when that behaviour is repeated and causes fear, harassment or anxiety then it is stalking and you do not have to live with it.There are many forms of harassment ranging from unwanted attention from somebody seeking a romantic relationship, to violent predatory behaviour.
Examples of stalking are;
- Unwanted contact (in person, by phone or online)
- Publishing statements or material about the victim
- Monitoring the victim (including online)
- Loitering in a public or private place, frequented by the victim
- Interfering with property / damaging property belonging to the victim
- Watching or following the victim
- Sending unwanted presents, for example flowers
The above list is by no means exhaustive and every case is different. Many other types of incident could be seen as harassment or stalking.
Taken in isolation some of these behaviours might seem unremarkable, but in the particular circumstance and with repetition, they can take on a more sinister meaning. The context and details of the behaviours and underlying motive are crucial to understanding the risks that a stalker poses to a victim.
Q. Can stalking only be done by a stranger?
A. A stalker does not have to be a stranger, although they can be, such as the stalking of someone in the public eye or where someone is targeted because of their race, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
However, the majority of stalkers are known to their victims such as ex-partners, a friend, neighbour, colleague or an acquaintance.
Sometimes the link to the person maybe historic such as someone you dated in the past, or an ex work colleague.
Just because you know or knew the stalker does not mean that the situation is your fault. It is still stalking and it is wrong.
Q. What are the effects of stalking?
A. Stalking can be life changing for the victim. It is frequently injurious to the victims psychological, physical and social functioning, irrespective of whether they are physically assaulted. The majority of stalking victims experience symptoms of traumatic stress and other forms of psychological, social and vocational damage.
Many victims will experience multiple, repeated stalking behaviours before they report to the police. If you are concerned, report it.
Q. How do I report stalking?
A. If you feel you are being persistently harassed by another person who is causing you distress and fear, then it is important you seek help.
If you are in immediate danger: call 999.
For more advice and support call the police on 101, or visit your local police station.
Q. How you can help the police?
A. If you are a victim of stalking, there are a few things you can do to help us help you.
Gather evidence. Collect any evidence you can, no matter how trivial it may appear. The more information you can give us, the more evidence we can use for our investigation. Keep voice mails, text messages, emails, pictures, examples of unwanted gifts etc. It is also important to keep a log / diary of all the incidents that have occurred whether there is evidence available or not.
Ask others to help gather information. Ask your family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues to record any sightings of the individual or, if they are approached, what was said, as this will all help.
If you are unsure about gathering evidence it may be worth speaking to the police in the first instance to find out exactly what information you might need to collect.
Q. What if I don’t want to involve the police?
A. If you do not want to involve the police, there are things that you can do to help yourself.
- Always carry a mobile phone. If you feel in immediate danger at any time, call 999.
- Consider having a personal attack alarm in your bag or close at hand and ensure you know how it works.
- Change your routine and ask friends to go with you to places. Let people know your plans, so if you are not where you should be someone will know.
- Tell people what is happening to you.
Cyber Safety/Stay safe online:
- Google yourself to check your digital footprint frequently
- Change passwords often and do not use the same password for everything.
- Check privacy settings on social networking sites and limit the amount of information you put on.
- Be aware of geolocation and tagging on social networking sites and ensure that this is disabled on your smartphone
- Keep your antivirus software up-to-date.
- Report stalking to website administrators.
- If you believe that your computer or smartphone has been hacked or compromised, stop using them immediately and take them to a specialist such as your mobile phone provider or computer repair experts for advice
Q. What is the law on Stalking?
A. Stalking became a criminal offence in 2012.
Stalking is not legally defined but the law includes a list of example behaviours which are following, contacting/attempting to contact, publishing statements or material about the victim, monitoring the victim (including online), loitering in a public or private place, interfering with property, watching or spying. This is a non exhaustive list which means that behaviour which is not described above may also be seen as stalking.
As of 25th November 2012 amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act have been made that makes stalking a specific offence in England and Wales for the first time. The amendments were made under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The amendments can only be used to deal with stalking incidents that occur after 25th November 2012; stalking prior to this will still be dealt with as ‘harassment’ under sections 2 and 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act.
There are two new amendments;
Section 2A stalking requires the prosecution to show that a perpetrator pursued a course of conduct which amounts to harassment and that the particular harassment can be described as stalking behaviour. A course of conduct is 2 or more incidents.
Section 4A is stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm of distress. Serious alarm and distress is not defined but can include behaviour which causes the victim to suffer emotional or psychological trauma or have to change the way they live their life.
Sections 2 and 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act can also still be used to prosecute harassment. Harassment is described in the Act as a course of conduct which (a) amounts to harassment of another and, (b) which they know or ought to know amounts to harassment of another. Sections 2 and 2A are summary only offences and there is a maximum prison sentence of 6 months. Sections 4 and 4A are either way offences with a maximum prison sentence of 5 years.