Stalking is very dangerous but can be hard to define. This is because seemingly pleasant gestures such as giving flowers and gifts can be very distressing for the recipient if unwanted. Raising awareness around stalking empowers individuals to identify ongoing, unwanted and obsessive behaviour that causes fear, alarm or distress as stalking, and a form of abuse. While a small proportion of stalkers are strangers, most are known to their victim and the majority are ex-partners (particularly ex-partners who have been abusive). The act of stalking indicates a high risk of serious harm, making identifying it very important and potentially lifesaving.
Some examples of stalking are:
- following a person
- contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means
- publishing any statement or other material relating or purporting to relate to a person, or purporting to originate from a person
- monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication
- loitering in any place (whether public or private)
- interfering with any property in the possession of a person
- watching or spying on a person
Collecting evidence such as gifts, screen shots, texts, emails, photos, can be very useful for police investigations. Despite 6% of women and 1% of men in Wales experience stalking and an estimated 734,000 women and 388,000 men across England and Wales each year, conviction rates for stalking remain extremely low.
The impact of stalking on individual’s health and wellbeing can be devastating. Life inhibiting side-effects can include depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, paranoia, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder. No one should have to put up with it.
Anyone in Wales who needs help and support or to speak to someone about stalking, can contact Live Fear Free Helpline – 0808 80 10 800 – which provides 24-hour, bilingual, confidential help and support for victims and can put people in touch with local specialist services where this is needed.