Stalking and harassment

The British Crime Survey (2006) suggests up to five million people experience stalking or harassment in any given year.  Many victims will suffer up to 100 incidents before talking to the police.

What is harassment?

There are many forms of harassment, ranging from unwanted attention from somebody seeking a romantic relationship, to violent predatory behaviour. This may make the victim feel alarmed or distressed.

What is stalking?

Stalking is a form of harassment that can be defined as persistent and unwanted attention where the victim feels pestered and harassed. A stalker will be obsessed or fixated with the victim, and a stalker’s behaviour often means that a victim has to change their day-to-day routine in an attempt to avoid the behaviour.

Examples of stalking or harassment

  • Frequent, unwanted contact.  This can include text messages, telephone calls, social media or appearing at the home or workplace.
  • Driving past the victim’s home or work.
  • Following or watching the victim.
  • Sending letters or unwanted gifts to the victim.
  • Damage, burglary or robbery of the victim’s home, workplace or vehicle.
  • Threats of harm to the victim and/or others associated with them.  This might include sexual violence and threats to kill.
  • Harassment of people associated with the victim (e.g. family members, partner, work colleagues).
  • Physical and/or sexual assault of the victim and even murder.”

How to protect yourself

If you are experiencing stalking or harassment, there are steps you can take to help deal with this type of behaviour.

Personal Safety

  • Take a mobile telephone with you when you go out.
  • Carry a personal attack alarm and learn how to use it.  Do not carry anything that is meant for use as a weapon.
  • Try to alter your daily routines.  Ask friends to go with you whenever possible, and always try to let someone know what your plans are.
  • Contact your telephone company to see what action they can take against malicious callers.  Register with Telephone Preference Service to have your details removed from direct marketing lists.
  • Review your security settings on social networks
  • You can find more personal safety advice on our personal safety page or at the National Stalking Helpline website

Keep records

  • Keep a record of what happened, where and when, every time you were followed, phoned, received post or e-mail.  Write the information down as soon as possible, when events are still fresh in your mind.  You can use our Stalking and Harassment Behaviour Diary.
  • The more details you have the better.  How did the offender look or sound? What were they wearing?  What is the make and number plate or colour of their car?
  • Keep letters, and parcels as evidence.  Even if they contain frightening or upsetting messages, do not throw them away and handle them as little as possible.  
  • Keep copies of e-mails, text messages and social network messages.  Print copies if you can. 
  • Keep a record of telephone numbers.  Tape-record telephone conversations if you can.
  • Tell your friends, neighbours and work colleagues about what is happening.
  • Try to get photographic or video evidence of your stalker (especially if they are someone already warned by the police not to come near you).

Unwanted calls

  • Answer the phone by saying 'hello', not your name or number.
  • Try to keep calm and not show emotion. Many callers will give up if they don't think that they are making an impression on you or your feelings.
  • Use an answer machine to screen out calls and only talk to people you want to.
  • If the caller rings again, put the handset down on a table for a few minutes - the caller will think you're listening. After a few minutes replace the handset, you do not have to listen to what the caller has to say.
  • Use 1471 and write down details of calls received, including the time received and telephone numbers (even unanswered calls).

If you know, or find out, who is stalking you

  • Do not confront your stalker or engage them in conversation.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, agree to meet with them to talk about how you feel about them bothering you.
  • Do not respond in any way to calls, letters, or conversations. If you ignore the phone nine times and pick it up on the tenth, you will send the message that persistence pays. Once they have your attention, they will be encouraged to carry on.
  • Seek advice from the police, a solicitor or the National Stalking Helpline about what you should do.

Are you at risk?

If you’re not sure if what is happening to you is stalking, then please take some time to look at the questions below:

  1. Are you very frightened?
  2. Is there previous domestic abuse or stalking/harassment history?
  3. Have they vandalised or destroyed your property?
  4. Have they turned up unannounced more than three times a week?
  5. Have they followed or loitered near your home or workplace?
  6. Have they made threats of a physical or sexual violence nature?
  7. Have they harassed or stalked any third party since the harassment began?
  8. Have they acted violently towards anyone else during the stalking incident?
  9. Have they engaged other people to help with their activities?
  10. Has the stalker had problems in the past year with drugs, alcohol or mental health?
  11. Have they attempted/threatened suicide? (signs of finality and commitment)
  12. Have they ever been in trouble with the police or do they have a criminal history?

If you answered YES to any of the questions above, you should take the situation, and the person’s behaviour towards you, seriously and contact us for support and advice.

Report it

If you feel in immediate danger at any time, always call 999.

If you are frightened, but not in immediate danger contact us on 101 or report it online.

We will arrange a convenient time to meet you to give more support and safety advice to you. An officer will sit with you and discuss all the things that have been happening to you. It is important that you tell the officer everything that has happened, even if you think it may sound trivial.  

You can also contact the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.

More help and support

National Stalking Helpline
0808 802 0300

Suzy Lamplugh Trust

Related Documents & Further Reading

28 May 21 11:50 AM

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