Taking stalking seriously
Date published: 18 April 2012
Greater Manchester Police is joining forces with police and charities from across the country to launch the national Stalking and Harassment Day, which aims to put a stop to stalking.
Statistics show that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will be stalked at some point in their lives and the National Stalking Helpline service, which was launched two years ago, is receiving more calls than ever before from people reporting obsessive, unwanted behaviour that is blighting their lives. Yet many people still do not understand the seriousness of the crime.
Victims who have contacted the National Stalking Helpline often tell how they felt unable to seek help early on because of a fear of being laughed at or dismissed. This puts them at higher risk of more serious crimes being committed against them or experiencing psychological distress, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Even in cases where there is no physical assault, stalking can drastically affect lives. The National Centre for Cyberstalking Research found that 54.7% of men and 43.1% of women gave up social activities as a result of being cyberstalked and a study by psychologist Dr Lorraine Sheridan found that a third of stalking victims had lost jobs and relationships, or had been forced to relocate as a direct result of being stalked.
Online communication has also meant that stalkers have more tools in their arsenal than ever before and it is important that online stalking is taken as seriously as ‘offline’ stalking. Professor Carsten Maple from the National Centre for Cyberstalking Research says: “We now live a larger part of our lives online, both personally and professionally and this has meant that harassment online has a more significant impact than ever before. It is vital, given the prevalence of cyberstalking, that we raise awareness and education of the issue, how victims can report the crime and access support and assist the authorities to investigate the matter.”
However, the last 12 months has seen some great strides forwards for victims. The University of Bedfordshire launched the National Centre for Cyberstalking Research. There has been the creation of the world’s first National Stalking Clinic to provide treatment for perpetrators. A guide called ‘Digital Stalking: A guide to technology risks’ has been published and provides victims with invaluable information and advice. Most importantly, stalking is to be made a criminal offence.
Greater Manchester Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, and ACPO lead on stalking and harassment, said: “The police service has led the criminal justice system in recognising the harm that stalking can cause victims and we’ve been working closely with charities in this area to help our response.
“It is important to remember that stalking isn’t a ‘one off’ crime. It’s a series of incidents which when taken in isolation can appear trivial but when put together they become far more sinister. The challenge for the police service and other agencies is to protect victims by recognising the danger signs, by effective use of legislation and and co-ordinated investigation. All forces have officers who specifically deal with stalking crimes, including assessing risk and supporting victims. We encourage all victims of stalking to come forward and report their concerns to police.”
Have Your Say