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National Stalking Awareness Day 2013

Donna Navarro

Today, 18 April 2013 is National Stalking Awareness Day. Do you know the law and would you use it?  Today is all about raising awareness about the risks and dangers of stalking in the hope that lives can be saved.  Yes, stalking really is a serious matter.

In November 2012, the UK saw the introduction of legislation making stalking a specific offence.   Despite the introduction of the Protection from Freedoms Act 2012, there remains no specific legal definition of stalking, but the Crown  Prosecution Service (CPS)

provide specific examples of what types of behaviour may constitute stalking:

If you visit their website, you can see included are behaviours such as physical following, contacting, or attempting to contact a person by any means such as through friends, colleagues, family or email or social media for example.  Also, other intrusions into the victim’s privacy, such as loitering in a particular place or watching or spying on a person fall under the legislation.

So, stalking actually covers a lot of behaviours, but would you necessarily consider yourself a victim of stalking if these were happening to you?

It’s really important to remember that stalking will often start with very small incidents, things you may think you can shrug off and find an alternative reason for.  We’re English and we’re polite.  Too often we blame coincidence rather than asking questions or taking it seriously.  We worry too much about what other people will think, whether they will consider we are over-reacting.  But stalking can escalate quickly and the risks to the victim can increase rapidly. And those risks can be life-threatening. When it’s expressed in that way, it’s a sharp shock to ignore what other people think and to do the right thing.

Stalkers tend to typically fall into one of the following five categories; read on, you may recognise someone here:

The rejected stalker will tend to strike following a divorce, separation or the ending of a relationship.  Their aim is to reverse, correct, or avenge this rejection.  They will often assert they want reconciliation and are most likely to become violent.

The resentful stalker possesses a sense of grievance against his victim. His motivation is to instill fear and distress in the victim and he will gain a sense of satisfaction from seeing this reaction. He will often choose a professional person he feels has mistreated him or produced some kind of injustice.

Intimacy seekers are obsessed with their victim and seek to establish an intimate, loving relationship with them. They are often loners motivated by their belief that the victim, no matter how well they know that person, is their soul-mate, someone they are destined to spend their future with.

Incompetent suitors often possess poor social skills and will become fixated on their victim who will have attracted their interest in some way, even if this victim is already in a loving relationship with someone else.

Predatory stalkers spy on their victim in order to prepare and plan an attack on their victim.  Often this attack will have a sexual objective.  

Four out of five stalkers are men. There is often a correlation between domestic abuse and stalking and any allegation of harassment or stalking should always be taken seriously.  When a victim leaves a relationship the rejected stalker finds losing the victim as a losing control.  He wants that control back.  To gain control they are prepared to fill the perpetrator with fear and rage. 

Stalking can lead to murder, and it really is vital people are aware of the dangers associated with stalking. 

Incidents are on the increase and most perpetrators are former partners. According to Home Office statistics for England and Wales, 57 percent of victims were females in 2010/2011. 

I have been involved in cases of domestic abuse which have led to victims being harassed once they have ended and left a relationship.  Sometimes, the lengths a former partner will go to is incredible and the fear the victim suffers is indescribable.  The National Stalking Helpline reports that 76 percent of women murdered by their ex-partners were stalked in the lead up to their death.

The role of the offender manager and the probation service is vital in protecting the victim where the perpetrator of domestic abuse has been made subject to a community order.  Offender managers are continually assessing the risks posed by the perpetrator throughout the term of the sentence. They have built a rapport with the offender, a relationship and an awareness of their demeanour.  They will be working closely with any other agencies involved in addressing criminogenic need and other risk management agencies such as the police and social services. 

Without such professional and highly skilled probation officers working so closely with the offender, I feel certain the number of deaths resulting from offences of violence against women, harassment and stalking would be even greater than it is currently.  With the knowledge that risk levels are dynamic and can alter so rapidly, we can only hope Grayling’s plans to split the management of medium and high risk perpetrators between the private and public sectors will not detrimentally impact on the lives of victims of violence against women. I consider it will, but that debate is one I have covered before, and one probably best kept for another time. 

What I would urge you to do today is share this post and to help raise awareness about the dangers of stalking.  You can find more information on the Network for Surviving Stalking website.  Use the hashtags #NSAD #KNOWTHELAW #USETHELAW.  If you recognise any of the behaviours above in anyone you know or in a situation either you or someone close to you is experiencing, seek support.  Trust your instincts. 

Contact the National Stalking Helpline 0808 802 0300, contact the police.  You could save a life. 

Donna Navarro is a law graduate with a BA (Hons) degree in Community Justice Studies.  She has worked in the public sector in the criminal justice field for ten years with high risk offenders. As a freelance writer she is interested in women’s issues, particularly social justice and violence against women and children.  You can follow her @lexiconlane and visit her blog Lexicon Lane

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