This week is National Stalking Awareness Week (18-22 April) and North Yorkshire Police are joining the campaign to echo the message that ‘stalking counts’ and to assure victims that the force take reports of stalking very seriously.
Whilst over recent years the law has been strengthened to help victims to stop their stalker, the number of victims who come forward to report the crime nationally still remain low. It’s thought this may be due to the types of behaviour which are recognised as stalking not being widely known or victims not knowing of the steps that can be taken and the law that can be used to make their stalker stop.
The definition of stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted behaviour that causes a person to feel distressed or in fear. It does not necessarily mean someone violent towards another.
Stalking can be someone giving persistent and unwanted contact towards an individual that causes distress. It can take many different forms, some of which include; following, contacting, publishing material relating to the victim, monitoring, loitering, interfering with property and watching or spying.
The Protection from Harassment Act of 1997 made stalking a specific criminal offence and the law provides two sections that enable police to deal with cases of stalking. Section 2A labels stalking as a criminal offence and section 4A deals with stalking that causes fear of violence or serious distress.
To help raise awareness North Yorkshire Police have produced a leaflet entitled ‘Taking Stalking Seriously’ which is available on their website. The leaflet provides information and advice to victims of stalking about how to take action and encourages them to come forward and seek help from the police.
DCI Andrea Kell from the North Yorkshire Police Safeguarding team said:
Stalking is a very serious crime which can have physical, psychological, social and economic effects upon its victims. We take reports of stalking very seriously and would encourage anyone who is suffering at the hands of a stalker to come forward and speak to us.
You do not have to live in fear and put up with this person’s behaviour. There are steps that can be taken and a law that can be put in action to protect you and make this person stop, so you can live your life without fear or distress.
DCI Kell went on to give advice to victims as to how they can start to bring about an end to the misery:
It’s a good idea to gather any evidence you can of the stalking you are experiencing. Keep a diary of events and write down as much information as you can about the incidents times and dates and document what it happening to you. Keep all evidence of any phone calls, emails and text messages and letters or gifts. Also take screenshots of any social media posts or pages, messages.
Don’t engage with your stalker and take any action you can to ensure your own personal safety – consider carrying a personal alarm or downloading a personal safety app to your mobile such as www.hollieguard.com
Come forward and contact the Police – you can dial 101 or attend your local police station. If you are ever in immediate danger always dial 999. If you do not want to contact the police at this time – please seek out support from other agencies such as the National Stalking Helpline or speak to friends and family about what is happening to you. Don’t suffer in silence.