Being Stalked: What to do
The National Stalking Helpline describes stalking as consisting 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, harassment or anxiety then it is stalking and you should not have to live with it.
The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is the key law in England and Wales relating to harassment or what people may call stalking. This makes it a crime punishable by up to six months in prison to pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another on two or more occasions. Courts can issue a restraining order which if breached carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison. The Communications Act 2003 criminalised indecent, offensive or threatening phone calls and the sending of an indecent, offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person, this includes text messages.
In 2010 stalking became a named crime and a criminal offence under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill. This introduced an offence of engaging in ‘threatening, alarming or distressing behaviour’. It covers a wide range of behaviours constituting stalking, including the sending of threatening or harassing emails, text messages or phone calls, or persistent following, pursuing or spying upon a person.
Some dancers did report experiences of being stalked by people they had met in their workplace. Suzy Lamplugh Trust gives the following tips for people who are being stalked (or suspect they are) these will help ensure your personal safety and assist with prosecution.
- If you think you are being stalked, phone or visit your local police immediately no matter how trivial the harassment may seem. This will enable them to record your complaint, log, monitor and build a profile of the offender. Ask for the name and number of the officer you see or speak to.
- Keep a record of all events, telephone calls, texts etc., noting as much detail as possible including time and date of incidents. Jotting everything down in a diary can be very useful.
- Try to get photographic or video evidence of your stalker’s actions.
- Do not throw away parcels or letters. Try to handle them as little as possible and if possible place them in paper/card envelopes to preserve them. (Not in plastic sleeves as moisture may mean fingerprints are lost). The police advise that you should read any mail you receive in case it contains threats or indecent/offensive language.
- Get to know your neighbours so that they can keep a record of sightings and notify you of anything they may see or notice. Inform work colleagues about the harassment so they will be able to support and protect you (i.e. prevent calls from reaching you and prevent your stalker from gaining access).
- Try to alter any daily routines, if possible ask friends to accompany you and always try to let someone know what your plans are and when they change. Do not carry anything which might be used against you as a weapon.
- Although it may be hard, try to show no emotion towards the stalker, do not confront them and do not agree to meet them.
- If you do come into contact, aim to get away and ideally into a busy public place.
- Consider carrying a personal alarm. This will give you greater confidence and in an emergency it can be used to shock and disorientate an attacker. An alarm can be ordered through the Suzy Lamplugh Trust online at www.suzylamplugh.org/shop or by calling 01736 336977
You can contact the National Stalking helpline for further advice at www.stalkinghelpline.org or call 0808 802 0300 (09:30 – 16:00 Weekdays except Wed 13:00 – 16:00). This number is free from landlines and the six main UK mobile networks: 3, Orange, Virgin, Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2.This provides guidance and information to anybody who is currently or has previously been affected by harassment or stalking. It can provide guidance on: the law in relation to stalking and harassment, reporting stalking or harassment, effective gathering of evidence, ensuring your personal safety and that of your friends and family and practical steps to reduce the risk.
If you are followed
- Cross the road, maybe twice, to be sure that the person is following you.
- If they are, head for the nearest pub, police station, garage or open shop as quickly as you can. Go the most public route to the most public place.
- Call the police if you have your mobile phone with you.
- Try to keep yourself composed and your thoughts rational. Pay attention to what someone is actually doing, rather than what you think they might do.
- Don’t add to your fear by letting your imagination take over. Be positive and confident about your actions. Focus on the fact that you are heading to a safe place, where you will be with other people.
- Do not head for home, even if someone is waiting for you there. When you get to a public place e.g. a pub if the stalker follows you in and takes a position where they can observe you try to socialise with other people in the venue to give the impression that you are meeting friends. If you have a mobile phone a trusted colleague or friend who could come and meet you at the venue. If you do not have anyone you can call and you feel genuinely threatened then you should contact the police. It’s safer to go to a public place than to let a stranger know where you live.
- If the stalker leaves the venue wait a good 20 to 30 minutes before planning your exit to ensure they do not return and is not waiting outside. Either wait to be collected by your friend or, if it feels safe to do so, leave the venue at the same time as others.
- If you think you need to, for example if the presence of others does not deter the stalker or you need to attract the attention of others, cause a commotion. Make lots of noise and fuss to attract attention and to deter the person following you.
- Consider reporting the incident to the police if you have not called the police already.