Thursday, 16 August 2012

How big is the problem of stalking in the UK.....? (Part 3)

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 continues to summarise of some of the most significant impacts of stalking and cyberstalking - particularly within the UK context

Stalking devastates lives

  • One third of victims said they’d lost their job or relationship or had been forced to move because of the stalking 
  • 98% of victims reported emotional effects due to stalking. These included: 
  • Anxiety 
  • Sleep disturbance 
  • Anger 
  • Depression 
  • Paranoia 
  • Agoraphobia; and 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Stalking has massive economic consequences for its victims

  • One half of the victims said they’d lost out financially due to stalking 
  • One third said they’d paid for repairs to damage inflicted by a stalker 
  • One fifth said they had paid for legal advice 
  • Stalking results in serious financial and social losses for its victims 
  • One half of all victims change their telephone numbers 
  • One half give up social activities 
  • One half saw their performance at work affected 
  • One third relocated homes 
  • Others gave up friends and family, or changed their identity 
  • Many victims changed or replaced their car and installed security systems

Stalking isn't taken seriously enough

  • One half of victims reported being told they were being paranoid or over-reacting when they confided to friends and colleagues about their stalker 
  • 57% of victims said they didn’t go to the police when their stalking problem started for fear of being ignored or laughed at 
  • One sixth of victims said they were told they were lucky to receive such attention 
  • One third of victims said that prior to being stalked, they’d thought that only mentally ill people were responsible for stalking 
  • One half began to feel they were going mad or perhaps imagining the stalking (this rarely occurred where family, friends and the police took the victim seriously from the outset)

The response to stalking by the British Police

  • No marked differences were seen between UK based and USA based victims in terms of the police response they reported, and their views concerning the police. Given legislative and practical policing differences between the two nations, this may be considered surprising. It has been known for some years however, that stalking is an international phenomenon and victims in many countries report very similar experiences 
  • 42% of all victims reported their stalker to the police 
  • Of these, 61% said the police were ‘very helpful’ 
  • 40% were satisfied with the Crown Prosecution Service 
  • The majority of victims whose case did not reach court cited insufficient evidence as the primary reason 
  • Some victims noted that their stalker was an extremely manipulative individual who was able to convince the police that the stalking was a non-existent or trivial matter 
  • Many stalkers made counter-allegations of stalking 
  • Victims felt that overall, the police in the UK were sympathetic towards the needs of stalking victims, but could benefit from training or guidance on the nature of stalking and the many tactics employed by stalkers 
  • Victims felt that arrest was the best police response to stalking. However, many noted that arrest, charges, a restraining order and even jail failed to stop their stalker 
  • Many victims noted that police responses should be tailored to the needs of individual cases, given the fundamental differences between different types of stalkers

Starting and ending stalking

  • Victims were asked what they believed triggered the stalking: 
  • Half of the respondents cited rejection (most often the rejection of partners or potential partners) 
  • The next largest group said they had no idea why they were being stalked, followed by those who cited jealousy (romantic or general), arguments (usually with strangers or acquaintances), and finally, mental illness in the stalker
  • From those cases where the stalking had ended, no clear pattern was detected as to the most effective ways of curtailing the activities of stalkers
  • The largest proportion of victims whose stalking had ended said this was due to the delivery of a police warning (one in six) 
  • However, a similar proportion said their stalking had only ceased when they moved to a secret location
  • The largest proportion simply did not know why the stalker had stopped. For this reason, 18% of all victims did not know whether they were still being targeted
  • Similarly, there was no clear pattern between how far a case had gone through legal channels and whether the stalking had ended
  • Some stalkers stopped after a police warning or a solicitor’s letter, or after an injunction or restraining order had been imposed. Others did not 
  • Being jailed stopped some stalkers but not others
  • Stalkers are not a homogenous group
  • Because different stalkers will have different motivations for stalking, they will react differently to the imposition of various sanctions
  • 40% said that from the perspective of victims, stalking never ends
  • Even if a stalker appears to stop the stalking, many victims noted that there is no guarantee that it will not resume

What stalking victims want

  • Victims want to be taken seriously by the agencies - to be believed. This was their principal wish
  • Victims want to see an increase in awareness so that the general public take stalking seriously, and to erode stereotypes (e.g. that only celebrities are stalked or that stalkers are ‘sad’ but harmless individuals who are seeking a romantic relationship)
  • Victims want practical help and practical advice, such as: advice on collecting and preserving evidence, how to change telephone numbers and routines, security advice, help with CCTV or personal attack alarms, advice on available legal responses, advice from psychologists, referrals to other agencies
  • Many noted that there are different stalker types and expressed hope that any advice would recognize this fact. For instance, a violent ex-partner stalker would require a different intervention to a non-violent delusional stalker
  • 80% wanted stalkers to be tagged

I trust that this post has proved helpful to you. If you are a victim of stalking or cyberstalking, one impact of this post will be the realisation that you are not alone. Stalking and cyberstalking are clearly all too prevalent crimes in the UK. I will be posting more in the coming days re victim's responses and what you can do to survive after becoming the target of a stalker, however in the meantime you may find "Okay so I am being cyberstalked - what can I do.....?" a useful resource.

I also recommend initiating contact with the National Stalking Helpline either by telephone on 0808 802 0300 or by email 

As always, if you feel that you may be in imminent danger, please dial 999 (in the UK) without delay.

If you have any feedback or comments please contact me via my website

Thanks for stopping by - and stay safe!


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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