Thursday, 16 August 2012

How big is the problem of stalking in the UK.....? (Part 2)

Defining the size, scope and impact of stalking from a victim's perspective

One common theme in current stalking and cyberstalking research is the significant impact that stalking has on society as a whole, particularly:
  • Its victims
  • The friends, family and extended networks of its victims
  • Society as a whole
  • The criminal justice system
  • The health care system
  • The perpetrator of the stalking incident/s themselves.

This article provides a summary of some of the significant and accepted impacts of stalking and cyberstalking - particularly within the context of the United Kingdom

The impact of stalking on its victims

  • 40% of victims are forced to move home or job as a direct result of their stalker's unwanted attentions
  • 72% of victims said they’d received unsolicited phone-calls 
  • 67% of victims said they’d been spied on 
  • 62% said their stalkers had threatened suicide 
  • 19% said their homes had been broken into 
  • 18% said they’d been sexually assaulted 
  • 15% said their pets had been abused 
  • 12% said their children had been threatened with violence
  • Many stalkers don't stop until the victim takes drastic evasive action
  • Stalking often ends in the death of the victim
  • Stalking is a significant cause of suicide
  • Virtually all victims of stalking suffer severe emotional and physical effects
  • Financial losses to victims of reported stalking cases in the UK have ranged between £20 to £4Million
  • A staggering 94% of victims have to make major changes in the way they live, which can mean altering their appearance, giving up work, installing security devices or changing their physical location 
  • The same victims reported that only 8% of their stalkers had suffered similar significant life changes 
  • This was despite the fact that 22% of stalkers had legal proceedings brought against them or else were detained under the Mental Health Act
  • Accordingly the study found that stalking has more profound negative effects on its victims than it does on the perpetrators / stalkers


  • Almost all "traditional" or spatial-stalking incidents involve some element of cyberstalking
  • Cyberstalking is growing at an alarming rate
"The amount of electronic data and communication has given opportunity for areas of society to act unethically, unlawfully or immorally. One area that has given rise to great concern, and is the subject of this work, is that of cyberstalking. Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service show that during the last year 33% of stalking incidents were by e-mail, 32% by text message and a further 8.4% were through social networking sites"

Dispelling the myths about stalking

  • Popular culture and the media often represent the typical stalker as a sexual pervert who stalks lonely women whilst wearing a trench coat; or a deranged psychopath such as Anthony Hopkins in the Silence of the Lambs. However at least prior to the advent of cyberstalking, most stalking victims knew their stalker
  • Whilst ex-intimate stalkers are typically the most aggressive and prone to physical violence, it is arguable that the most sinister type of stalker is the sadistic or revenge stalker
  • There is a higher risk of violence where there has been a previous sexual/intimate relationship
  • Stalking often emanates from an infinitesimally short period of contact between the stalker and his prey (the victim) 
  • Stalkers typically believe that the victim should not be able to choose who he or she has “in their lives”. This is a fundamental infringement of the basic human right of a peaceful existence with control over one’s lawful circumstances. By definition, a stalker whom has this belief poses significant danger both to the victim and to society
  •  Stalking can affect anyone - no one is immune

The stark reality of stalking - stalkers will stop at nothing to gain information on their prey

  • Stalkers typically research their victims relentlessly and using many underhand means and tactics
  • Sometimes the information sourced by stalkers comes from unwitting friends and family   
  • Stalkers are extremely adept at findings out information concerning the victim, and at convincing third parties to aid their stalking campaign 
  • Stalkers are typically sociopathic (lacking moral compass) - thus they are extraordinarily adept at soliciting accurate information from pertinent sources under false pretence. Very often the person whom provided such illicitly gained information is oblivious as to the subterfuge to which they themselves have fallen prey 
  • Stalkers would obtain information from anywhere they could: 
  • Via surveillance and tracking equipment 
  • From private detectives 
  • From the internet 
  • From taxi and delivery firms 
  • From people who had passing acquaintance with the victim, and many more sources (some unknown to the victim and police) 
  • Many victims noted that their stalker could be very charming when obtaining information from third parties 
  • Stalkers easily duped others into passing on information about the victim:
  • One third said others had helped their stalker knowingly 
  • One third said their stalker had been aided unwittingly 
  • Of those who knowingly aided the stalker, some were paid and others were manipulated by the stalker into believing that the stalker did not have a sinister motive 
  • 40% of stalkers obtained information from people’s friends 
  • 27% got information from their work-place and from the victim’s family 
  • 17% of the information came from public records

Usually it is not just the initial victim who is stalked

  • One quarter of victims said their children had been targeted too 
  • One third said their family and friends had also been stalked 
  • One fifth said work colleagues had been harassed 

The next article continues to explore the most significant impacts of cyberstalking and cyberstalking, drawing on academic and government research and victim feedback.

Until then, stay safe!

Thanks and best

Andie Steele-Smith

Reference Sources

  1. British Crime Survey 2004 - Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey Sylvia Walby and Jonathan Allen - Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate March 2004
  2. University of Leicester Research into Stalking in the UK and the US - September 2005 (in conjunction with the Network for Surviving Stalking)
  3. Hoffmann, J. and Sheridan, L. (2008). Stalking, threatening and attacking business representatives. In Meloy, J. R., Sheridan, L., and Hoffmann, J. (Eds.). (2008). Stalking, threatening and attacking public figures. New York: Oxford University Press.
  4. Flatley, J. et al (eds.) (2010). Crime in England and Wales 2009/10. Home Office Statistical Bulletin 12/10.

  5. Harris, J. (2000). An evaluation of the use and effectiveness of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Home Office Research Study 203.
  6. Boon, J.C.W. and Sheridan, L. (Eds.). (2002). Stalking and psychosexual obsession: Prevention, policing and treatment. Chichester: Wiley.
  7. Joint Committee on Human Rights (2003b). Third Report, Scrutiny of Bills: Progress Report, HL 23/HC252 2003/04. London: HMSO. [includes scrutiny of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004]

  8. Protection Against Stalking
  9. The Network for Surviving Stalking
  10. Suzy Lamplugh Trust
  11. Bocij, Paul. Cyberstalking : Harassment in the Internet Age and How to Protect Your Family. Praeger Publishers, 2004. (ISBN 0-275-98118-5) 
  13. Crime in England and Wales 2010/11 - Findings from the British Crime Survey and police recorded crime (2nd Edition) Edited by: Rupert Chaplin, John Flatley and Kevin Smith July 2011 HOSB:10/11
  14. Cyberstalking in the United Kingdom - Analysis of the ECHO Pilot Survey (2011) published by the University of Bedfordshire in conjunction with the Network for Surviving Stalking

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