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Stalking and harassment advice

Stalking and stalking involving fear of violence are criminal offences in England and Wales under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. They carry maximum sentences of five years’ imprisonment.

Stalking is different from harassment as it involves fixation and includes repeated attempts to impose unwarranted communications and/or contact on another person in a manner that could be expected to cause distress and/or fear in any reasonable individual.

Stalking may be domestic abuse related, but could also affect those who have not had an intimate relationship with their ‘stalker’ and in some cases, are complete strangers.

Many victims will have suffered between 70 and 100 incidents before making the initial call to the police.

The stalking can also affect people connected to the victim. For example, the stalker may involve third parties to upset the victim, obtain information about them, or punish those perceived as helping or shielding the victim.

Technology and social networking sites can help facilitate stalking and harassment, enabling stalkers to impersonate others online or to send or post hostile messages to their victim.

Stalking can be life changing and affect victims’ psychological and physical well-being, irrespective of whether they are physically harmed or not. Some examples of unwanted communications may include telephone calls, letters, emails, faxes, SMS text messages, sending or leaving unsolicited materials/gifts or messages on social networking sites

Unwanted intrusions include following, waiting for, or spying on, approaching, accosting and going to a person’s home.

In addition to unwanted communication and intrusion, the stalker may engage in a number of associated behaviours including:

  • Ordering or cancelling goods/services
  • Making false complaints to legitimate bodies
  • Cyberstalking
  • Threats
  • Property damage
  • Violence

General advice

  • Don't engage with your stalker – in face-to-face situations, try to show as little emotion as possible and simply hang up if they call.
  • Keep a log of sightings/encounters, the stalker’s behaviour and how it made you feel
  • Keep any messages and/or 'gifts'.
  • Save screenshots of any messages in a separate place to your mobile just in case your phone is lost, stolen or damaged.
  • Make a recording of any voicemail messages in the event of the message being deleted by your network provider.
  • Greet any calls to your phone with a simple "hello" rather than with your name or number and don’t answer questions about yourself if you don't know who's calling.
  • Try to vary your daily routine and routes to and from home to prevent the stalker from becoming familiar with your habits.
  • Have your keys ready for when you reach the front door.
  • Consider fitting a home alarm system if you don’t already have one.
  • If you feel you could be in danger, do not arrange to meet your stalker to try to resolve things – contact the police instead by calling 101 or dial 999 in an emergency.

Online advice

  • Secure your online accounts by changing user names and passwords regularly. Never share your passwords with anyone.
  • Never accept a friend request from someone you don’t know.
  • Block the person who is harassing you and if possible, anyone connected to them such as their family and friends.
  • Think about what you post publicly – do you need to share information about your current location, holiday plans or new job for example?
  • Change your account privacy settings to 'friends only' or 'only me' to restrict who can see your profile, postings and photographs.
  • Facebook also allows you to remove yourself from public searches, to turn off applications and also prevent people from ‘tagging’ you in posts and photographs.
  • Many people frequently access social networks and email via a mobile – ensure you activate a PIN or password on your phone to prevent other people from using it.
  • Turn off GPS/geo location settings on your mobile and don’t use applications to 'check in' to places or to share your current location when posting material or sending messages.
  • Take 'screenshots' of online content or messages by pressing the ALT and PRT SC (Print Screen) keys at the same time and pasting the copy into a new Word or Paint document.

Further support and information:

National Stalking Helpline
0300 636 0300
www.stalkinghelpline.org
advice@stalkinghelpline.org

Protection Against Stalking (PAS)
www.protectionagainststalking.org
info@protectionagainststalking.org

Network for Surviving Stalking (NSS)
www.nss.org.uk

Suzy Lamplugh Trust
020 7091 0014
www.suzylamplugh.org

National Stalking Advocacy Service
www.paladinservice.co.uk

Digital Stalking advice
www.digital-stalking.com