What is stalking?
A pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim.
Stalking is one of the most frequently experienced forms of abuse. It is insidious and terrifying and can escalate to rape and murder. We need to treat stalking with the seriousness it deserves. There are many misconceptions about what stalking is about. It is not romantic. It is about fixation and obsession. It is a crime. It destroys lives.
Stalking 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 the behaviour is persistent and clearly unwanted, causing you fear, distress or anxiety then it is stalking and you should not have to live with it.
A stalker is persistent, patient and relentless. While the stalker has their obsession and needs met, for example, the stalker’s vision of themselves being a persecuted and underappreciated person, they will believe their behaviour is alright. Stalkers often don’t view right from wrong the way others do. Often the majority of stalkers are never charged, much less convicted and imprisoned. A victim will often be the stalker’s target until the stalker does what many do: shift their obsession from one target to another.
When many people hear the word stalking they still think of a stranger lurking in the shadows or a delusional fan following a celebrity. Whilst these cover some stalking scenarios they are by no means the majority. About 45% of people are being stalked by ex partners and a further third have had some sort of prior acquaintance with their stalker; 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.
Who is a typical victim of stalking?
Anyone can become a victim of stalking. A report produced by Dr. Lorraine Sheridan and Network for Surviving Stalking, in which 2,292 victims of stalking were surveyed, found that victims’ ages ranged from 10 to 73, they were male and female, were spread across the entire socio-economic spectrum and a large proportion (38%) were professionals. Dr. Sheridan concluded that virtually anyone can become a victim of stalking and the only way to avoid doing so would be to avoid the social world.
How long does stalking last?
There is no definite answer to this question. Dr. Lorraine Sheridan’s report (see above) found that stalking could last anywhere from 1 month to 43 years. The average length of time was found to be between 6 months and 2 years. Dr. Sheridan also found that the duration of stalking tends to increase as the stalker’s emotional investment in the relationship increases. This is one of the reasons ex-intimate stalking is often considered to be the most dangerous
Can stalking without violence cause harm?
Yes. The absence of violence in a stalking case doesn’t mean the victim is unaffected. Stalking can cause severe psychological distress to a victim. Depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, paranoia, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder are all common side effects of stalking.
- Data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales shows up to 700, 000 women are stalked each year (2009-12) although the British Crime Survey (2006) estimated 5 million people experience stalking each year but there are no official statistics on the percentage cyberstalked.
- 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will experience staking in their adult life (Homicides, Firearm offences and intimate violence 2009/10; Supplementary Volume 2 to Crime in England and Wales 2009/10 2nd Edition. Home Office Statistical Bulletin 01/11)
- Office for National Statistics (2013) stated it was 1 in 6 women and 1 in 12 men. We still believe this to be grossly underestimated.
- In 2013/14 CPS figures reveal that 743 stalking offences were prosecuted whereas 9,792 were prosecuted for harassment out of the 61 175 allegations recorded by police. Therefore only 1% of cases of stalking and 16% of cases of harassment recorded by the police result in a charge and prosecution by the CPS (Paladin, National Stalking Advocacy Service, 2015).
- Research reveals that only 11% (n=33) of stalkers received an immediate custodial sentence for Section 2a stalking and just 9% (n=14) for a Section 4a stalking offence in 2013 (Paladin, National Stalking Advocacy Service, 2015).
- Victims do not tend to report to the police until the 100th Incident (Sheridan, 2005).
- 50% of victims have curtailed or stopped work due to stalking (Pathe and Mullen 1997)
- The Workplace Violence Research Institute found that 90% of corporate security professionals had handled 3 or more incidents of men stalking women in the workplace and claimed stalking was related to homicide in 15% of cases (Smock and Kuennen, 2002).
- 75% of domestic violence stalkers will turn up at the workplace.
- 79% of domestic violence stalker will use the work resources to target the victims.
- 1 in 2 domestic stalkers, if they make a threat, will act on it (MacKenzie, McEwan, Pathé, James, Ogloff, & Mullen, 2009).
- 1 in 10 stalkers, who had no prior relationship, if they make a threat will act on it (MacKenzie, McEwan, Pathé, James, Ogloff, & Mullen, 2009).
- Statistics show that the majority of victims (80.4%) are female while the majority of perpetrators (70.5%) are male. (National Stalking Helpline, 2011).
Paladin – National Stalking Advocacy Service