Stalking and Harassment
Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted behaviour that causes someone to feel distressed or scared. It can be perpetrated by men or women.
Harassment is any unwelcome comments (written or spoken) or conduct which violates your dignity; and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
Both stalking and harassment are criminal offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Examples of stalking and harassment
Examples of stalking behaviours include; following, contacting, publishing material relating to the victim, monitoring, loitering, interfering with property and watching or spying.
Stalking can also be cyber enabled for example, being sent unwanted emails or receiving unwanted phone calls.
Harassment can take many forms including violence, threats, abuse, and damage to property. It can involve verbal abuse and name calling, offensive graffiti or post and can be received via text message, emails or social networking sites. It may cause physical injury, mental stress, anxiety or insecurity. It can also occur for a variety of reasons, including race, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability
How may this affect someone?
Stalking and harrasment can have an physical and emotional impacts on victims. It can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Stalking and harrasment can both happen with or without a fear of violence. This means that if someone is receiving persistent unwanted contact that is causing them distress but the person has never threatened them, this is still not acceptable.
As well as physical and emotional health, stalking and harassment could impact a victims:
- Financial situation
- Employment, education or training
- Shelter of accomadation
- Relationships with family and friends
Each person will have a unique experience and may be impacted in different ways, at diferent stages. Support is available at any time.
How can victims access support?Everyone has a right to feel safe in their own home and workplace, or wherever they are. If someone believes they are being stalked or harassed they can call the police, who are used to dealing with this type of crime and can offer advice and support. Victims will be offered support by a specialist stalking and harassment support officer to help start the process of coping and recovering from the crime.
If a victim is not yet ready to contact the police, victims can contact the Victim and Witness Hub directly to find the right support based on the exact nature of the stalking and / or harassment they have experienced.
- The law in relation to stalking and harassment in the United Kingdom
- Reporting stalking or harassment
- Effective gathering of evidence
- Ensuring a victims personal safety, and the safety of their friends and family
- Practical steps to reduce risk
Personal safety - top tips
Victims who believe they are being stalked or harassed can take some simple steps to reduce their risk:
- Carry a mobile phone at all times
- Carry a personal attack alarm
- Tell trusted friends, colleagues or family of whereabouts
- Vary the daily routine and taking different routes to and from work
- Ensure all doors and windows are locked before leaving the house or going to sleep
- Get any computers and electronic devices such as smartphones checked for malware
- Change computer and phone passwords frequently and don’t use the same password for everything
- Limited the amount of information shared on social networking sites and check privacy settings to ensure personal information is private and secure
- Keep a record of any occurrences including what has happened, where and when, such as being followed, called, or receiving messages, emails, letters or notes
- Keep any evidence, as this could be used in a court of law
- Do not confront stalkers or engage in any conversation or communication