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Stalking: A private problem for the public’s health
Stalking is a crime. It is not a joke, or a product of strong romantic feelings. At its core, it is similar to domestic abuse and sexual violence because it is about control. Stalkers use persistent, unwanted contact to frighten and distress their victims. Stalking victims suffer as a result. Some live with mental ill health, or alter their lives due to their experience of stalking.
Perhaps surprisingly, stalking victims do not turn to the police right away. In fact, a 2005 University of Leicester study discovered that more than 3 in 4 victims have experienced 100 incidents or more by the time they reported the matter. Moreover, it is typical for incidents to spread over months, or even years before a report is made. Suffering with only the support of a few trusted friends or family members. With no end in sight. Is it any wonder then that there would be harmful effects on one’s life?
How Stalking Hurts
Each incoming text, notification, or phone call might be them. Going to the shop, walking to your car after work, dining out with friends could each mean you “bump” into your stalker. Suddenly, a life that had been open, filled with connections and options becomes smaller, or at least more threatening. Victims often can never go back to a “normal” life, even once stalking has ended.
Psychological effects are common. Anxiety, depression, agoraphobia may develop. Difficulties with memory or attention can occur. Elevated stress can change one’s ability to cope with and engage in social exchanges. This, in turn, may bear on a victim’s job. Doubly so if a stalker’s behaviour becomes disruptive to a business. For as long as the stalking continues, a person’s financial stability, mental health, and physical well-being are at risk. Although physical violence only occurs in roughly one-third of cases, stalking is an alarming indicator of grave danger, for women in particular.
A study at the University of Gloucester examined 358 homicides in the UK from 2012-2014. The homicides chosen all involved a female victim and a male perpetrator. The researchers found that stalking behaviours were identifiable in 94% of cases. This clearly demonstrates the need for greater stalking awareness.
Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Suzy Lamplugh Trust is an organisation dedicated to “reduc[ing] the risk of violence and aggression”. As part of its efforts, the Trust manages the National Stalking Helpline. Founded in 1986 by Paul and Diana Lamplugh after the disappearance of their daughter Suzy, it has focused on personal safety for over 30 years. Suzy Lamplugh Trust was “instrumental” in driving the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, one of the key pieces of legislation relating to stalking.
With others in the National Stalking Consortium, the Trust will be leading National Stalking Awareness Week 2019. The theme this year is “Stalking Steals Lives”, and the campaign runs Monday 8th April-Friday 12th April. The focus of the associated conference is “on the physical and mental impact of stalking and the role of the health sector in this insidious crime.”
What to Do
If you are being stalked, it is important that you seek help. There is too much at risk. In Hampshire, Dorset, and the Isle of Wight we may be able to assist you directly.
Our You First Dorset Stalking Advocate can be reached at 0800 032 5204. In Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, Aurora New Dawn’s Stalking Service is available to you on 02392 479254.
If you are elsewhere, the National Stalking Helpline is available during the week on 0808 802 0300.
Should the situation require it, contact the police, and in an emergency you must dial 999.