Persistent stalking has a devastating effect on the people who experience it. Whilst the risks of violence in stalking cases are well known, and rightly so, the risks of persistent stalking are no less impactful.
Persistent stalking, whether or not there is no fear or threat of violence can lead to victims feeling trapped, isolated and hyper-vigilant. Many of the clients that we work with at Aurora talk about feeling paranoid and as if they are just waiting for the stalker to be seen or act again. When someone is feeling this level of psychological torment and feel sure that it will never end, anything can trigger a fear response. There doesn’t need to be a threat or fear of violence for someone to feel utterly terrified. Furthermore, victims of stalking over long periods of time can report feeling numb or bored of what they’re going through, as if they are a burden on their friends and family, whom they talk to about their experiences, and often choose not to report to the police because they feel that they are wasting police time. The latter seems to happen most in cases where the stalking has previously been no further actioned.
The 4a stalking charge that criminalises a course of conduct which causes ‘serious alarm or distress’ and has ‘a substantial adverse effect on the day to day activities of the victim’ seeks to capture the psychological and emotional harm that victims of stalking experience. The list includes:
(a) the victim changing their routes to work, work patterns, or employment;
(b) the victim arranging for friends or family to pick up children from school (to avoid contact with the stalker);
(c) the victim putting in place additional security measures in their home;
(d) the victim moving home;
(e) physical or mental ill-health;
(f) the deterioration in the victim’s performance at work due to stress;
(g) the victim stopping /or changing the way they socialise.
This list is by no way exhaustive and, I would argue, does not begin to address the long-lasting nature of the impact of stalking, which can have devastating effects on relationships and trust for years. This impact is frequently not captured by the initial or investigating officer because, so often, stalking appears as a series of bizarre and often unconnected incidents. Encouraging officers to look at the fixation and obsession that drives the varied behaviour is one of our objectives through the Hampshire Stalking Clinic.
We hope you’re finding the blogs throughout National Stalking Awareness Week 2016 useful or interesting. If you have any questions, or would like to contact anyone about stalking please call us on 02392 479 254 (office hours) or 02392 472 165 (out of hours). For national enquiries, call the Paladin helpline on 07721757071 and 07769995393 or the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.