Stalking – the Crux

Time and time again in my work with services and agencies of all types, I hear quoted that the perpetrator did not use violence, threaten the victim or abusive in any way and therefore the victim was not being stalked. Rubbish! This is just not correct.

Many victims of stalking say that they feel agencies and services trivialise their experiences and they are made to feel responsible.  This is most often the case with online contact from the perpetrator when victims of stalking are told to stop using social media.

Victims suffer around 100 stalking incidents before they report it

One incident that may appear trivial is likely to be the tip of the iceberg.  Research conducted by Lorraine Sheridan (2005) revealed that on average, victims experience 100 incidents of stalking before they first report it – a trend that continues to be reflected by national figures. Overall, it is clear that no one knows an exact figure for how common stalking is.  Therefore the behaviours of stalking that a victim suffers need to be thoroughly explored, to fully understand what the victim is going through.

What is stalking?

Sadly, there is no legal definition of stalking in the UK. “What?” I hear you say. That’s correct, there is no legal definition. So what is stalking? Essentially if the perpetrators behaviour is fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated, it is stalking.

According to research by The Victim Journey, the crux of the issue lies in the fact that it is how the victim experiences the unwanted contact as opposed to the contact itself.

The experience of unwanted contact or intrusion

Unwanted contact can be broken down into unwanted communications e.g. Telephone calls, SMS texts, emails, or messages via any other type of social media, they could be leaving unsolicited gifts or materials, graffiti and (dare I say it as it shows my age!) faxes.

Unwanted intrusions can be spying on, approaching, following, so called “coincidence” meetings, going to a victims home or workplace, vexatious complaints, threats, and damage to name a few and these are acts or omissions which are ones associated with stalking as determined by legislation. This is not an exhaustive list.

As can be seen, none of these unwanted contacts or intrusions state there needs to be a threat connected to them, violence associated with them or be abusive. All that is required is for these contacts to be unwanted. So let me repeat, the CRUX of the issue lies in the fact that is how the victim experiences the unwanted contact as opposed to the contact itself. As soon as this is recognised then stalking will be identified more readily and proper safety planning and investigations can follow thereby hopefully keeping the victim safe and stalkers themselves dealt with in a positive way which will divert them away from the victim.

John Trott is an associate with where he offers a variety of domestic abuse courses and consultancy.  John is an expert on stalking and stalking investigation having spoken on the subject at national conferences, delivered training on stalking to the police, National Probation Service, social services, Health and Housing throughout the UK, been the CEO of a Stalking Advocacy Service, is an ISAC and continues to work with victims of services throughout the UK and Europe. John is also a Domestic Homicide Review Chair and Author and an Independent MARAC Chair.

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