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National Stalking Awareness Day 2013

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national stalking awareness day, women's rights, safety, policeWith one in six women being a victim of stalking, could it happen to you?

This year, 18 April is National Stalking Awareness Day.

The focus for 2013  is ‘know the law, use the law’.

Stalking has only been a specific criminal offence in the UK since November 2012, when the government introduced two offences, stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence.

Prior to this all behaviour had to fall under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Stalking is now very definitely illegal – and it’s on the rise.

It’s recorded as Britain’s fastest-growing crime, with over 4000 prosecuted cases each year.

Incredibly, 90 per cent of women who are murdered were stalked by their ex-partner – and violence has very often been a factor in that relationship.

Stalking starts as something very small, but can quickly escalate to dangerous levels of risk.

According to national and international statistics, in the UK, women aged 16-19 are at the highest risk of sexual assault (7.9 per cent), stalking (8.5 per cent) and domestic abuse (12.7 per cent).

Women aged 20-24 are only slightly less at risk of stalking (7.5 per cent).

But do women recognise the behaviour that constitutes stalking?

Do we know what kind of behaviour would fall under the legislation?

And, importantly, do we know when we are most at risk?

Despite the fact the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 is new, there is no strict statutory definition of stalking included, but according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) examples include: physical following, contacting, or attempting to contact a person by any means (friends, colleagues, family, technology for example) or other intrusions into the victim’s privacy such as loitering in a particular place or watching or spying on a person.

Network for Surviving Stalking (NSS) is internationally recognised as the leading registered charity in the UK dedicated to supporting victims of stalking.

They have developed a separate website for the Trust Your Instinct Campaign.

They describe harassment as distressing behaviour but stalking as an ‘obsessive fixated pursuit’.

Visit their website and you can find a quiz to help you determine if someone’s behaviour should be giving you cause for concern.

People often think that the behaviour needs to be threatening violence for it to be a criminal offence, but this is not the case.

The requirement is that it incorporates behaviour which causes serious distress to the victim.

Like most behaviour, stalking cannot be classified under one heading.

Leading researchers in this field, Mullen et al. (1999) provide the following typology:

The rejected stalker is the stalker arising following the breakdown of a relationship.  Victims are usually previous ‘intimate partners’.

The resentful stalker arises when the perpetrator feels they have received some form of mistreatment or been the victim of some form of injustice.

The intimacy seeker is the stalker who arises out of loneliness and a lack of a close confidante.  Mullen et al. say that this type of stalker can often be suffering with mental illness involving delusional beliefs about their victims.

The incompetent suitor stalks in the context of loneliness or lust. This type of stalker will target strangers or acquaintances and will often have poor social skills along the lines of to autism spectrum disorders or intellectual disability.

The predatory stalker is usually male and the victim is usually a female stranger in whom the perpetrator develops a sexual interest.  The predatory stalker often possesses deviant sexual interests and practices.

One in six women in England and Wales has been the victim of stalking.

And of course, cyber stalking, involving the use of email, social media, and other on-line forums makes targeting victims easier than ever before.

And on average, a stalker will contact 21 people connected to the victim.  The NSS states stalking ruins lives and can lead to murder and therefore does need to talked about and to be taken seriously.

There are several  warning signs that something isn’t right.

Someone who refuses to accept ‘no’ for an answer, or who isolates you from your family and your friends, someone who wants you to spend all of your time in their company and is excessively nice in the early stages of your relationship, for example.

Extreme jealousy, turning up whereever you happen to be, offers of unsolicited help and frequent unwelcome gifts should have you asking serious questions.

Frequent loss of temper, threats and substance abuse are also signs you could be at risk.

If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, if someone’s behaviour is making alarm bells ring – if you feel frightened or threatened – trust your instincts and seek support.

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.  Tell the person you do not want any further contact with them and then do not respond any further.

And once a problem starts, make sure you keep a diary of what happened and when and where, and who witnessed it, and save evidence of any text messages or emails.

If you are – or fear you might be – the victim of stalking, contact the police on 999.

You can get additional support from the National Stalking Helpline on  0808 802 0300 where you can discuss your options.

Stalking is illegal and the police can take action.

Don’t worry about manners, or being rude. By trusting your instincts you could save a life.

That’s the very important message of National Stalking Awareness Day in 2013.

  1. Sadly, the rise of stalking does not surprise me. It is the inevitable result of the way that popular culture has structured gender dynamics. Men are characterized as predatory, women as prey. The dating scene and hookup culture are constantly compared to hunting, (being ‘on the prowl’) or some form of competition between males. Even euphemisms for sex involve disturbingly violent language (“going to hit that” for example) that situates men as “players” in a game, looking to “score” via women. Popular (and ridiculous) conceptions of masculinity almost completely revolve around the idea of women as possessions, as status symbols for men (which, ironically, has a number of homoerotic implications for the men who hang out with their buddies bragging about their “conquests). It is not surprising, therefore, that this deeply ingrained sense of entitlement, and the naturalization of male violence (we hear this all the time in victim blaming, where men are somehow not responsible for their actions because they can’t control the animal lusts the evil seductresses awoke in them) leads to this kind of awful, possessive and objectifying behaviour. We are practically raising men to be stalkers these days. And while the new laws proposed are a fantastic step forward, we do need to address the root of these issues, which lies in the popular construction of these horrible twisted gender dynamics.

    • vicki wharton says:

      Totally agree Graeham – but the biggest problem is in objectifying women and children in male media. An object has no right to say no, and men in the police force and judiciary are just as indoctrinated in this way of viewing women and children as the predators that act this out. Hence why Jimmy Saville was shielded by so many men who just disbelieved the evidence of objects against a human being. Stalking causes distress, but if the distress is felt by an object, then it ceases to stand up against the distress and ruination of a ‘human’ life. This is how the Nazi’s devalued Jews, the Serbians Bosnia’s Moslems etc etc etc. Objectification allows violence to be perpetrated on a group of people with little if any distress to the onlookers – they simply do not see the victims as human but merely objects that are being used as they have been born for. Having spent 19 years in media relations and trained as a councellor, I cannot be the only person that can make this link between sexist violence and chauvinism or male supremacy, and yet the Government systematically takes taxes off half the population whilst condoning violent sexist propoganda as ‘freedom of speech’. What about freedom to live?

  2. Thank you for your comment Graeme, I agree that gender dynamics play a large role in how women are perceived by men and this is the root cause of a lot of violence against women.

    I spent a lot of time talking to victims of stalking yesterday and what was apparent from their experiences was that they felt unsupported by the police. Many women said they had made complaints but felt no action had been taken until something serious had happened to them.

    Having said this, their experiences pre-date the new legislation and one would hope this empowers the police to take action earlier and to recognise the signs of stalking.

    Victims should be taken seriously at all times, and I think this is an issue that also needs addressing.

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