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Support services for stalking and harassment

There is no one definition for either stalking or harassment. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has legal guidance addresses behaviour which is repeated and unwanted by the victim and which causes the victim alarm or distress.

Stalking

The Crime Survey for England and Wales defines stalking as:

“One or more incidents (causing distress, fear or alarm) of receiving obscene or threatening unwanted letters, e-mails, text messages or phone calls, having had obscene or threatening information about them placed on the internet, waiting or loitering around home or workplace, following or watching, or interfering with or damaging personal property by any person, including a partner or family member”

Harassment

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) considers harassment to be:

“repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contact upon a victim in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person.”

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What behaviours constitute stalking and harassment?

Harassment includes:

  • antisocial behaviour
  • bullying at school or in the workplace
  • cyber stalking on the internet
  • sending abusive text messages
  • sending unwanted gifts.

Stalking is considered as an aggravated form of harassment and includes:

  • persistently following someone
  • repeatedly going uninvited to their home
  • monitoring someone’s use of the internet, email or other form of electronic communication
  • loitering somewhere frequented by the person
  • interfering with their property
  • watching or spying on someone
  • identity theft
  • cyber stalking
  • overt threats.

Stalking has a strong correlation with murders of women by their current or former ex-partner with studies showing that almost 70 per cent of murder or attempted murder victims were also victims of stalking whilst in the relationship.

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What is the impact of stalking on victims?

The impact of stalking on victims is varied and depends on the individual circumstances of the person being stalked. Impacts can be wide ranging and affect a person’s physical and mental health as well as impacting on their work and social lives. These include:

Mental health

  • Denial, confusion, self-doubt, questioning if what is happening is unreasonable, wondering if they are over-reacting
  • Frustration
  • Guilt, embarrassment, self-blame
  • Apprehension, fear, terror of being alone or that they, others or pets will be harmed
  • Feeling isolated and helpless to stop the harassment
  • Depression (all symptoms related to depression)
  • Anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia (frightened to leave the house, never feeling safe)
  • Difficulty concentrating, attending and remembering things
  • Inability to sleep – nightmares, ruminating
  • Irritability, anger, homicidal thoughts
  • Emotional numbing
  • Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder e.g. hypervigilance (always on the lookout), flashbacks of frightening incidents, easily startled
  • Insecurity and inability to trust others, problems with intimacy
  • Personality changes due to becoming more suspicious, introverted or aggressive
  • Self-medication alcohol/ drugs or using prescribed medications
  • Suicide thoughts and/or suicide attempts

Physical health

  • Fatigue from difficulty sleeping, being constantly on guard, symptoms of depression
  • Effects of chronic stress including headaches, hypertension
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Fluctuations in weight due to not eating or comfort eating
  • Development or exacerbation of pre-existing conditions e.g. asthma, gastric ulcers and psoriasis
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Impact on health of increased use of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Physical injury due to not concentrating or being under the influence of substances
  • Heart palpitations and sweating

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Work and school

  • Deteriorating school/work performance
  • Increased sick leave
  • Leaving a job or being sacked
  • Changing career
  • Dropping out of school – poorer education and career opportunities

Social life

  • Insecurity and inability to trust others impacting on current and future relationships and friendships
  • Problems with physical and emotional intimacy
  • Avoidance of usual activities e.g., going to the gym, going out
  • Isolation through trying to protect others, feeling misunderstood or psychological symptoms
  • Others withdrawing from the victim because they don’t believe the victim, they are unable to cope with the victim’s mental state or as a direct consequence of third-party victimisation
  • Victim moving to a new area, changing their phone number, name or even their appearance.

Finances

  • Loss of wages due to sick leave, leaving job or changing career
  • Costs incurred through legal fees
  • Expense of increasing home and personal security
  • Cost involved in repairing property damage
  • Seeking psychological counselling and medical treatment
  • Cost involved in breaking leases on rented properties
  • Expense of relocation.

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Is stalking and harassment illegal?

Stalking

As of November 2012, amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act under Section 111 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, made stalking a criminal offence. This means that any stalking after the November 25, 2012 will be dealt with under the new legislation and any offences prior to that date will be dealt with as ‘harassment’ under Section 2 and 4.

Section 2A stalking

  • To prove a Section 2A it needs to be shown that a perpetrator pursued a course of conduct which amounts to harassment and that the particular harassment can be described as stalking behaviour.  
  • Stalking is not legally defined but the amendments include a list of example behaviours which are following, contacting/attempting to contact, publishing statements or material about the victim, monitoring the victim (including online), loitering in a public or private place, interfering with property, watching or spying
  • This is a non-exhaustive list which means that behaviour which is not described above may also be seen as stalking
  • A course of conduct is two or more incidents as it is for harassment.

Section 4A stalking

  • Section 4A stalking involves the fear of violence or serious alarm or distress
  • Serious alarm and distress is not defined but can include behaviour which causes the victim to suffer emotional or psychological trauma or have to change the way they live their life

Civil Remedies

There is also a route for civil remedy for stalking under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. An injunction can be obtained and damages for anxiety and financial loss applied for. Breach of an injunction is considered either as a criminal offence (whereby the Police and CPS can charge the person stalking with a maximum sentence of five years) or contempt of court (whereby the victim can apply to the civil court with a maximum sentence of two years).

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Harassment 

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, prohibits harassment. It was always intended to tackle stalking as well according to the Government, but the Act was designed to tackle any form of persistent behaviour that causes someone alarm or distress.

Section 1 of the Act provides that:

  • A person must not pursue a course of conduct— (a) which amounts to harassment of another, and (b) which he/she knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

Section 7 provides that:

  • ‘references to harassment include alarming the person or causing the person distress’ and that this ‘course of conduct’ must have happened on at least two occasions.

Under the 1997 Act there are two key offences:

Section 2:

deals with conduct that amounts to harassment of another.

Section 4:  

covers situations where the victims fears that violence would be used against them.

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Support services

Stalking directory
 Organisation Support Contact

 National Stalking Helpline

 is the national service for victims of stalking and harassment in the UK.

 Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm (not including bank holidays)

Wednesday, 1pm to 4pm

Tel: 0808 802 0300

 Paladin

 is a trauma-informed service established to help high risk victims of stalking in England and Wales.

Their team of accredited Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers (ISACs) makes sure that:

high risk victims of stalking are supported

a coordinated community response is developed locally to keep victims and their children safe.

 Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm

Wednesday, 10am to 5pm

Tel: 020 3866 4107

Email: info@paladinservice.co.uk

Secure Email: info.mailbox@paladin.cjsm.net

Protection against Stalking

Aims to change society’s perception of stalking, to improve the safety for all victims of stalking and harassment and for perpetrators to be held to account by the Criminal Justice System. Their website offers advice about how to recognise stalking and practical guidance on how to deal with it.

Email: Support@protectionagainststalking.org

Network for Surviving Stalking

Offers advice and information to people affected by stalking; enabling early recognition and the opportunity to seek help. Their website provides advice about how to recognise stalking and practical guidance on how to deal with it.

Visit their website for more information

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VAWG service directory

You can find lots of other useful services on the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) service directory homepage.