What is Stalking
Stalking is one of the most frequently experienced forms of abuse, and is mainly perpetrated by someone the victim knows. However, stalking can also be carried out by people who are unknown to the victim. Stalking leaves a person unable to trust, feeling fearful and scared at all times, and worried about going out. It can lead to concerns about using devices to stay in touch with people and can lead to withdrawing from friends and family.
The four signs of stalking behaviour are FOUR:
It is worth noting that about 50% of stalking cases only last for a short time. When stalking continues past two weeks becomes ingrained behaviour and is harder to stop.
According to the crime survey for England and Wales March 2020, there were over 6 million reports of stalking for adults, with over 4 million reported by women and 2 million by men. This is an increase from previous reporting, where the figure was estimated as 5 million.
- The boom in technology, the internet, and social media has led to an increase in stalking.
- 73% of stalking prosecutions in previous years were related to domestic abuse.
- The Suzy Lamplugh Trust stated that in 9 out of 10 femicides, the killer displayed obsessive, fixated behaviours associated with stalking. They state the majority of victims (80%) are women and the majority of perpetrators (70%) as male.
- 1:5 women and 1:10 men will be stalked in their adult life (this is believed to be grossly underestimated)
- In other research, 91% of victims reported mental health problems following experiences of stalking with 50% stating they had reduced or given up work due to stalking.
- Studies have shown that victims will not report stalking to police until the 100th incident
History of Stalking
Stalking behaviours have always existed and this was constructed as a social problem by western societies and the stalking label was developed in the 1980’s. The media used the term to describe people who pestered and harassed others and it was initially used to describe behaviours of people harassing celebrities.
As time moved on, this term was used to describe harassment behaviours by former partners.
Pathe and Mullen describe stalking as a
constellation of behaviours in which an individual inflicts upon another repeated unwanted intrusions and communications (Mullen, 1999). We understand stalking as wilful and repeated following, watching, harassing and can take place over a long period of time.
Paladin calls stalking ‘murder in slow motion’
The list is not exhaustive, but these are behaviours you may notice that could indicate that you or a friend are being stalked. A stalker will hang around/call your home or workplace, they want to be noticed. They may send unwanted gifts, flowers, cards, letters, texts, and will continue to do so even after you have asked them not to. These behaviours can lead others to think there is nothing really wrong, they are sending gifts and flowers after all, but these are unwanted attentions and are stalking behaviours.
The will befriend/contact your friends and family, turn up to social events, and become friends on social media, or follow accounts on Instagram, for example. They will mention you in social media posts or leave comments on posts you have commented on.
Stalkers are not always obvious and may spy on you, monitor you online – even looking at how often you post and following your interactions – commenting on them at some stage. But they may hack your devices and accounts, meaning they can access your friends lists and then contact them, too. They may discredit you or befriend your social contacts, make a nuisance of themselves and turn people away, make false allegations to your work or other agencies, meaning you lose your support networks.
Stalkers may threaten to share information about you or share explicit photographs. They may even break into your home and steal personal items, move things around, or damage your property.
Stalking Risk Profile have trained members of our team to identify and assess stalkers according to certain behaviours, history, and personality. They have identified five main types of stalking behaviours, here is a brief overview.
Rejected Stalker – has been in a relationship with the victim of stalking. Usually stalking happens after a breakdown of a close relationship, however, these behaviours may have already been present. It is usually an ex-intimate but could be an adult child, for example, who is harassing and stalking the family where they feel they have been rejected. It’s usually about gaining a relationship anyway they can, an attempt at reconciliation or revenge for perceived rejection, or may fluctuate between both. There is a very high risk of violence. Stalking usually happens within breakdowns of domestic abuse relationships where coercion and control was present
Resentful Stalker – feels the victim of an injustice or perceived humiliation, will target the person they feel is the voice or spokesperson for the group. In the case of not being promoted, this type of stalker may target the person giving them the bad news, and/or the person who received the promotion. The initial motivation will be one of revenge or validation but they may keep going as they get a sense of power and control from harassing the victim. They may spread gossip, seem to be bullying but are really undermining or demeaning someone’s practice, especially by questioning each decision being made.
Intimacy Seeker – driven by loneliness and a lack of love. The victim may be a stranger or an acquaintance. Intimacy seeking stalkers can have a significant mental illness, have high expectations of any relationship, and believe the victim is in love with them. They believe they see special glances, signals and that a relationship is being encouraged.
Incompetent suitor – this comes from loneliness or lust, and again the victim may be a stranger or an acquaintance. The motivation is to establish a friendship or sexual relationship. The incompetent suitor is not perceptive to the disinterest or indifference of the victims and will persist even though they know their advances are not welcomed or encouraged.
Predatory Stalker – usually driven by deviant sexual practices. The victim is usually a stranger. This is a small group of stalkers but they tend to be high profile and may stalk a public figure. The stalking behaviours are about getting information about the victim and they enjoy a sense of power and control from targeting an unsuspecting victim.
Many people access banks, notes, passwords, and social media all on one device. This can make it easy for someone you know to hack your accounts. Women aged 20 – 40 are more likely to be victims and police have seen an increase in cyberstalking during lockdown.
Here are some simple tips, and more can be found on www.stalkingriskprofile.com/victim-support/cyberstalking or www.alicerugglestrust.org/aware
Usually stalkers use computers and devices for unwanted texts, messages on social media, and as a way of easily communicating. However, in some cases, especially where the stalker is known and may have access to your device or passwords, they can hack into your accounts to cause confusion and distress and to stalk movements.
A person can be hacked using numerous methods. For example, they may log into a device and forget to log out. Or, they may have shared a password and then haven’t changed it. A hacker loves when people use the same password on many accounts or if the password is easy to guess. A person can be hacked if spyware is put on their system which records all keystrokes.
To reduce/prevent hacking, keep your phone updated regularly. Make sure it locks quickly when left alone. If the option to use 2-step identification is available, make sure you turn it on. This will let you know if someone is trying to log into your account. It can be annoying, but it is necessary in this age of cybercrime.
If you believe you have been hacked, contact the police, back up all your data and photos, and then reset your phone. Only reinstall the apps you want, change all passwords and even create new accounts with a different ID.
Stalkers use vehicle tracking devices, listening devices and install CCTV to spy on loved ones at home – this can be under the guise of safety but effectively monitors all activities.
Impact on Victims
Stalking has a huge impact on its victims. The average stalking case goes on for two years and can cause mental and physical ill health. It can cause financial loss, through moving house, leaving a job, or stopping work all together. It can lead to anxiety, eating disorders, and isolation. Some people fear for their loved ones as well as themselves. Friends can drift away, sometimes families and children are targeted, and colleagues can be harassed. It’s a constant barrage; a drip, drip, drip effect.
Supporting victims of stalking
The most important thing to do is to believe the person and what they are saying. Stalking is psychological and makes a victim question themselves – listen and believe what they say.
Reaffirm what they are saying. Give them space to talk about what is happening and make sense of it all. Try and gain some insight. Help them look for patterns of behaviours and don’t dismiss the bizarre. Some stalkers go into the house and move things around, place objects in different places, and leave items.
Six golden tips:
- Report it and tell others
- Ensure you get good practical advice
- Proactively collect evidence
- Overview of what is happening – keep a diary
- Risk assessment – a stalking advocate can help
- Trust your instincts
We are here to help and work with many agencies who can support you – please contact us