UK's first National Stalking Awareness Week is launched
The first ever National Stalking Awareness week was launched on Monday, April 11, with stalking victims describing the impact of stalking on their lives
Three stalking charities, Protection Against Stalking, Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the Network for Surviving Stalking, have joined forces with the support of the police to raise awareness about the serial nature of stalking.
The charities, on behalf of victims, are calling for the establishment of a register for perpetrators and are calling for police officers to be given specialist training on identifying and dealing with stalking offences.
The British Crime Survey (2006) suggests up to five million people experience stalking or harassment in any given year and that many victims will suffer up to 100 incidents before talking to the police.
The awareness week campaign urges victims to ‘Name it. Report it. Stop it’. It coincides with the first anniversary of the national stalking helpline which assist victims of stalking.
Many victims say there is little knowledge or understanding of stalking and that it is often regarded as not serious. Stalking, however, is life changing. It is frequently injurious to victims psychological, physical and social functioning, irrespective of whether or not they are physically assaulted.
Laura Richards Director of Operations for Protection Against Stalking and a representative on the National Stalking Awareness Week Board which is responsible for co-ordinating the week says “Stalking is where domestic violence was 20 years ago, which is why this awareness campaign is so important. Stalking destroys lives. Some cases lead to violence including rape and murder. Early intervention in a stalking case is vital and gives the victim the best chance of protection.”
At the launch event, the charities will call on government to amend and strengthen the existing laws on stalking and harassment.
Speakers will tell representatives from criminal justice agencies that the word ‘stalking’ in England and Wales, does not appear in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, that the police must have proper search powers for stalkers’ property and that whilst the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 can be used to prosecute all types of stalking but in the case of cyberstalking, it is difficult to gather technical evidence and prosecutions are rare.
Each day of the week has a different theme relating to the campaign:
Monday is the launch event where victims will speak out;
Tuesday victims are urged to come forward and report to police ‘Name it. Report it. Stop it’ and to complete the UKs first on-line survey on cyberstalking www.nssadvice.org/survey,
Wednesday there will be the launch of an advice leaflet for police services in England and Wales
Thursday the focus will be on perpetrators highlighting the absence of any treatment programmes
Friday will mark the first anniversary of the National Stalking Helpline whereby facts and figures will be released for the first time about the nature of the calls and the National Stalking Helpline Forum will be launched.
ACPO lead on stalking and harassment Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said:
“The police service has led the criminal justice system in recognising the harm that stalking can cause victims and we’ve been working closely with charities in this area to help our response.
“It is important to remember that stalking isn’t a ‘one off’ crime. It’s a series of incidents which when taken in isolation can appear trivial but when put together they become far more sinister. The challenge for the police service and other agencies is to protect victims by recognising the danger signs, by effective use of legislation and by effective and co-ordinated investigation. At a time when police budgets are under pressure, finding ways to share good practice and improve our response is critical.
“All forces have officers who specifically deal with stalking crimes, including assessing risk and supporting victims. We encourage all victims of stalking to come forward and report their concerns to police.”
The awareness week is being co-ordinated by Protection Against Stalking, Suzy Lamplugh Trust and Network for Surviving Stalking. It is supported by Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Home Office.
The launch event will be held at 9.30am on Monday, April 11 at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, 33 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2WG.
There is no legal definition of stalking. However, it is generally accepted that it includes repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and/or contacts on another in a manner that could be expected to cause distress and/or fear in any reasonable person.
Taken in isolation behaviours might seem unremarkable. However in particular circumstances and with repetition, they take on a more sinister meaning. The context and details of the behaviours and the underlying motivation are crucial to understanding the risks that the stalker poses to a victim.
Unwanted communications may include telephone calls, letters, e-mails, faxes, sms text messages, sending or leaving unsolicited materials/gifts, graffiti, and/or messages on social networking sites. Unwanted intrusions include following, waiting for, spying on, approaching, accosting and going to a person’s home.
In addition to unwanted communication and intrusion, the stalker may engage in a number of associated behaviours including ordering or cancelling goods/services, making vexatious complaints (to legitimate bodies), cyberstalking, threats, property damage and violence.
According to the British Crime Survey (2006), up to 1 in 5 people will experience stalking in the UK in their lifetime and approximately five million people experience stalking in any given year.
The majority of stalkers are known to their victims either as ex-partners or acquaintances, but some people are stalked by complete strangers.
Stalkers come from all backgrounds and do not form one ‘type’. Stalkers are not homogenous and the motivation for stalking can vary.
Understanding the motivation is important when assessing the risks the stalker may pose.
Many people don’t recognise what’s happening until it’s too late. A study of over 2000 stalking victims published in Sept 2009 (Sheridan & NSS) revealed that 77% of victims didn’t report the crime until over 100 incidents had taken place
Many victims will experience multiple, repeated stalking behaviours before they report this to the police.
Stalking is life changing. It is frequently injurious to 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.
Offenders engaging in stalking behaviour can follow a path that ultimately can lead to homicide.
50% of stalking cases involve ex-partners. Statistically these victims are at a higher risk of violence.
Around 80% of stalkers are male. However, stalkers and their victims can be of either gender.