Stalking and harassment
Stalking and harassment can take many different forms, which is why it can be hard to define. It can range from persistent, unwanted comments to more severe invasions of your privacy and threats of violence, causing psychological trauma and making you feel targeted and threatened.
Viewed in isolation, some of the incidents may not seem like much – for example someone making a rude remark or prank phone call – but if someone persistently targets you with unwanted attention, then you are a victim of harassment.
If it gets to the point where you are changing your day-to-day activities because of what is happening to you – for example, taking a different way in to work to avoid the person harassing you, then it becomes stalking.
Stalking is not always physical – for example, you can also be stalked on social media. Online threats and comments can be just as intimidating and traumatic for the victim.
Most victims of stalking know the perpetrator. 40% of people who contact the National Stalking Helpline are being stalked by ex-partners, and a further third have had some sort of prior contact with the stalker.
Examples of stalking include:
- Following you
- Contacting or trying to contact you
- Publishing comments or other material about you
- Monitoring your activity, including online
- Loitering in a public or private place
- Interfering with your property
- Watching or spying on you
How it can affect you
If someone is targeting you, you are likely to feel threatened, anxious and afraid. What may start as vague annoyance or anger, can quickly escalate into fear and intimidation as the harassment or stalking continues – sometimes over a long period of time.
You might not realise that you are being harassed or stalked at first. Sometimes the problem builds up slowly before it becomes a full-blown campaign.
Stalking without violence is still incredibly damaging and could cause depression, anxiety, poor sleeping, and paranoia. Some victims become afraid to leave their homes.
Sometimes the person stalking is someone known to you – someone you were friends with or even dated. But just because you know the person, it doesn’t mean you are to blame for their behaviour.
At first you might not want to seek help, for fear that no one will take you seriously. Rest assured, you are not overreacting, you are not alone and you are entitled to help and support.
What you can do
Recognising that you are victim of harassment or stalking is the first step. Now you can start taking steps to address the issue.
Make sure you firmly tell your stalker that you no longer wish to have any contact with them. Once you have done this, do not engage with them again. Trust your instincts, if you are worried about what is happening, seek help and support.
The nature of harassment and stalking means that individual incidents of it may not seem like much, so it can be hard for police and other agencies to step in for you. There are things you can do, though:
- Contact the police so they can warn the offender to stop what they are doing and, if the harassment or stalking continues, update the police so they can help secure evidence and plan next steps
- Keep a diary of what is happening – note down dates, times and places, along with details of what has taken place. Note if anyone else witnessed what happened.
- Keep copies of any material relating to the harassment or stalking, e.g. letters, text messages, and emails. You can also ‘screenshot’ any messages you get over the internet, e.g. on social media.
- Discreetly try and capture your own evidence, e.g. by recording video or audio of what is happening. Be careful with this, though, some offenders may react badly if they spot you trying to do this, and it could make the situation worse.
Court orders and civil routes
If you don’t want to involve the police, you can get court orders to help protect you. Any breach of this order is then a criminal offence or a contempt of court.
How to report it
In an emergency: dial 999
An emergency is when a crime is being committed or has just been witnessed, there is a risk of injury, or a risk of serious damage to property.
In a non-emergency: dial 101
Use this number to report a non-emergency incident or make a general enquiry.
Find help and support
If you have been a victim of crime, don’t suffer in silence. Even if you don’t want to report it to the police, tell a trusted friend or family member about it and use them for support. You can also search our directory to find help and support to help you cope and recover from what’s happened.
National Stalking Helpline
You can call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website contains lots of information and advice.
The UK’s leading source of unbiased, factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety. They’ve got loads of information for individuals and businesses, including advice on data protection, social networking, protecting your computer, online gaming, viruses, spyware, cyberstalking, privacy, buying tickets online – the list of topics is practically endless!
The Safe Network provides safeguarding information related to activities outside the home – from after school art clubs to weekend reading groups