Victims of stalking across Suffolk are being urged to seek help as a national campaign aimed at highlighting the issue gets under way.
The purpose of National Stalking Awareness Week, which kick-starts today, is to encourage those who believe they are being targeted to speak out.
Stalking isn’t just about strangers lurking in the shadowsDetective Superintendent Dave Cutler
This year’s campaign by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, focuses on the risk social media poses with a new study - The Stalker in Your Pocket - revealing it as a tool of choice for many stalkers.
Statistics for Suffolk show that the number of incidents of stalking recorded by Suffolk Police during the 2013-2014 financial year were 46, compared to 74 in 2014-2015 and 27 between 1 April 2015 and 4 February 2016.
Despite the figures a lack of reporting is an issue and officers in Suffolk hope the national week of action will encourage victims to seek help.
Detective Superintendent Dave Cutler, who heads Suffolk Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People Directorate, said: “Stalking can consist of many types of behaviour and these can just as easily be across social media as more physical forms.
“If the behaviour is persistent and clearly unwanted causing you fear, harassment or anxiety then it is stalking and you should not have to live with it.
“Stalking isn’t just about strangers lurking in the shadows or obsessive fans following celebrities. The greatest number of stalking offences are by individual who know the person they are stalking.
“This may include being stalked by ex-partners, someone you have had some sort of prior acquaintance with e.g. someone you may have dated or have been friends with.
“Just because you know/knew the stalker it is still stalking and it is wrong.
“Stalking often has a huge emotional impact on the victim, they can feel very much alone and unable to seek help for fear of repercussions or that they will not be taken seriously.
“However, we would ask that if you have concerns you come and speak to us. You certainly shouldn’t feel as though you’re wasting our time or that you’re over-reacting. By talking to use we will be able to help you.
“Only through building confidence in those suffering from stalking will we see the increased reporting that will help us gain a better understanding of the extent of stalking in the county.
“I can’t emphasise strongly enough that is you are experiencing stalking or think you are then you don’t have to feel alone, you don’t have to accept this behaviour and we can help you.”
Stalking is repeated unwanted contract from one person to another, which demonstrates either a fixation or obsession and causes the victim to feel alarm, distress or fear of violence.
It may involve personal contact but also via the phone, email, letter or social media.
National research shows:
- 18.1% of women and 7.7 % of men have been stalked at some point in their lifetime.
- 22.8% of stalking cases involved ex-partners, 22.5% total strangers, 17.4%acquaintances, 10.1% former friends, 8.1% work colleagues and 6.4% family members.
- 36.8% of people that have been stalked had been stalked using online methods such as by Facebook or email.
Jim Gooding, Detective Inspector of Suffolk Constabulary’s Protecting Vulnerable People Directorate, said: “Greater use of social media and digital technology mean that stalkers now have many additional ways to harass their victims.
“We see firsthand that offenders can often use very subtle methods of intimidation but the effect on the victim and also their families can be devastating and would urge people to report their concerns to us.”
Types of stalking behaviour:
Taken in isolation, events might seem unremarkable. But in particular circumstances and with repetition, they take on a more sinister meaning.
Unwanted communications may include telephone calls, letters, emails, faxes, text messages, messages on social networking sites, graffiti or sending or leaving unsolicited gifts.
Unwanted intrusions include following, waiting for, spying on, approaching and going to a person’s home. A stalker may also order or cancel goods or services, make complaints (to legitimate bodies), damage property or follow and try to talk to you online (cyberstalking).
Advice for victims:
Keep a record of what happened, where and when you were followed or telephoned, or when you received post or email messages
Details of people who may have seen these events
Write down information as soon as possible when events are still fresh in your mind
Tell the police if any neighbours or others saw or heard what happened
Record how the suspect looked or sounded - what they were wearing and the make, number plate of any involved car
Stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Victims can get more advice and support from:
Suffolk Constabulary on 101 (if life is in danger or a crime is in progress, call 999).
The National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0800 2000 247.
The National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or visit www.stalkinghelpline.org.