How To Stop A Stalker
More Than 1.2 Million Women And 9,000 Men Are Stalked In The UK Every Year crack
Jennifer Aniston and other stars such as Halle Berry, Mel Gibson and Gwyneth Paltrow have all been victims of stalking, but it’s not just A-listers who suffer.
“People think stalkers are strangers lurking in the bushes, but research shows 50% of stalking cases involve ex-partners,” says Jane Harvey, from the charity Network for Surviving Stalking.
“Anybody who deals with the public is more at risk - I was speaking to a teacher recently who was being stalked by the mother of a pupil.”
Stalking can have a huge impact on lives - making people feel panicked, depressed and lonely.
“It affects your relationships, your ability to trust people and to function as a normal human being,” says Harvey.
The law in the UK doesn’t define what stalking is, but Harvey explains: “It could be someone phoning you repeatedly, emailing you, following you, sending you presents or other ‘gifts’.”
More than 1.2 million women and 900,000 men are stalked in the UK every year. Every case is different, but in the worst cases, stalking can lead to violence, criminal damage, rape or even murder. The only law against it is The Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Experts believe the rise in reported incidences of stalking in the last decade can in part be blamed on the development of new technologies. The internet and mobile phones have made it easier for stalkers to prey on their victims.
According to expert Dr Lorraine Sheridan, there are four common types of stalkers - ex-partners, infatuation harassment, delusional fixation stalking and sadistic stalking.
When Jemma met a guy on a dating website who shared her interests, she was excited but wary.
“He was my first internet date and I’d arranged to meet him in a public place - just as you’re supposed to do.”
After a couple of dates, she decided to end their relationship and that’s when the emails started. “They pleaded for another chance, saying we’d both regret it if we didn’t try again, but the emails continued, becoming stranger and darker. It frightened me.”
He kept phoning in the middle of the night and threatened to come round if she wouldn’t meet him.
Jemma was distraught. “I was finding it impossible to concentrate on work.”
She called the police and her stalker was finally arrested and given a restraining order. But the stalker posted a fake profile on the same dating site and got in touch with Jemma asking to meet. “I was horrified he’d invented a new identity to harass me again.”
He was finally caught by police again and they fitted a panic alarm in Jemma’s home. However, she’s still concerned. “How many more people are out there, creating false identities and stalking their victims under the cover of websites?”
How to stop a stalker
If someone’s making you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and go to the police.
“Victims themselves don’t take stalking seriously. If someone walked up to you and punched you in the face, you’d go to the police,” says Harvey. “But stalking can happen more slowly, a few texts one day, a few the next week.”
If you think you’re being stalked:
Show no emotion - even if you’re angry or frightened. Never confront or agree to meet a stalker. If you do come into contact, move to a busy place.
Contact your local police to let them know the situation and if you feel in serious danger, call 999.
Keep a diary of what happens to you and how it makes you feel, as well as any text messages, emails and notes on phone conversations as evidence to help the police. Jane says: “Say you’ve bumped into someone for the third time at the shops, take a note of what time it happened, if there were witnesses and a description of what the person was wearing.”
Visit the Network for Surviving Stalking (www.nss.org.uk) for advice and information.
Tips to stay safe
Limit the amount of information about you that’s on the internet. Make sure only trusted people can access your profile on social network sites like Facebook.
Remove your telephone number from direct marketing lists by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (www.tpsonline.org.uk).
Remove your name and address from direct mail marketing lists by contacting the Mailing Preference Service (www.mpsonline.org.uk).
Don’t say your name on the house answer phone message or that you’re away. It’s also a good idea to get a man to make the message.
Buy a personal alarm.
Be careful who you speak to on nights out, especially if you’ve had too much to drink