Our Victim Engagement Officers (VEOs) are specially trained members of police staff who are there to support the victims of domestic abuse, and that can often including stalking.
Stalking behaviour is most often about the coercion and control by one person of by another and has been linked to some of the most serious crimes we can deal with, including murder, sexual offences and domestic abuse.
When you hear the term “stalking”, you might imagine someone being followed or harassed by a stranger, or that it happens to celebrities, but the reality is that it can happen to anyone, and the perpetrator is likely be someone you know.
Statistics from the College of Policing show that, on average, victims will suffer as many as 100 incidents of stalking before they decide to report it.
It may begin as something very ordinary, or even seem affectionate, but the repeated and fixated nature of the stalker’s behaviour means it becomes menacing, and victims will feel unsafe, isolated or terrified, even in their own homes.
Here we examine two case studies to show the impact that being stalked has had on two recent domestic abuse victims, and how we were able to stop the perpetrators and assist the victims to rebuild their lives.
The names, and some details, have been changed to protect identities, but the stories are real.
Amanda and Ben
Amanda was in a relationship for 15 years with her husband, Ben, and they were married for 10 of those years. They have three children, now aged 14, 10 and 8.
After enduring many years of domestic abuse involving coercive control, verbal and emotional cruelty, Amanda ended the marriage but this prompted Ben’s behaviour to escalate, so she was compelled to report him to the police.
Since ending the relationship, Amanda has received more than 400 unwanted emails from Ben, and has reported approximately twenty other incidents, including harassment, criminal damage, assault, threats to destroy, criminal damage, and incidents of non-criminal domestic behaviour, such as arguments.
Six of those reports also raised concerns of child protection towards their three children, and despite the marriage ending, Ben’s behaviour continues to exert control over Amanda through their children.
He manipulates the eldest child to report on Amanda’s every move, and her whereabouts, and often deliberately leaves the youngest child home with her when he takes the other children out, to block her going out and socialising.
Ben has constantly flouted a non-molestation order, whereby he will deliberately pass by her house, ensure he is close enough to be seen by her, but does not technically breach the order by entering her garden.
Ben was charged with harassment and now has a criminal record, yet persisted in this behaviour, which seriously affected Amanda’s life.
Even though they were no longer a couple, she continued to feel harassed and intimidated by Ben and has told us that she became more and more anxious, suffering with depression, and a virtual prisoner in her own house with the curtains closed and with the doors and windows locked.
Amanda relied on alcohol to help manage her stress levels, and had to be signed off work due to ongoing depression.
There was a notable deterioration in the relationship with her eldest child who decided to live with his dad, and was continuously absent from school. He refused to acknowledge his mum, and blamed her for the breakdown of the family.
Ben faced fines for the child’s non-school attendance and Amanda found it difficult to manage the other children who also displayed challenging behaviours and needed to be supported at school.
After reporting Ben’s behaviour to the police, we were able to complete a stalking and harassment risk assessment, and refer Amanda to Paladin, the stalking advocacy service, for support.
We also recommended her for additional support services through the MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference) including children’s social care, and domestic abuse services for children. Amanda was also referred to IDVA; the independent domestic violence advisory service.
We were also able to ensure she received help from Stepping Stones; a charity that helps women rebuild their lives after experiencing a situation which has left them vulnerable.
Julie and Dan
Holly, one of our Victim Engagement Officers, has recently been working with Julie and told us: “I have been supporting Julie, a victim of stalking.
“Julie and Dan had been in a relationship for many years with Julie suffering ongoing physical and emotional abuse.
“She eventually left Dan, but he continued to turn up at her address and try to contact her. This was further complicated by the fact that a member of Dan’s family was Julie’s landlord, and so would tell Julie that Dan had permission to go to the address.
“Dan hacked into Julie’s emails and saw that she had booked a holiday, so he booked a flight for himself to the same resort.
“A couple of days into her holiday, he turned up at her hotel where he tried to assault her in front of the children, and then also assaulted the hotel manager when he tried to intervene.
“Back home, the police picked her up from the airport and brought her to the police station.
“Julie told us her children had been previously removed from the family home by social services due to domestic abuse involving Dan, and she had only recently regained custody of her two sons.
“She was extremely concerned for the safety of her family, and for herself, as although attempts had been made to arrest Dan, he had not been found.
“On top of this, Julie was extremely worried that Social Services would take her children away again due to this new incident. After talking with her at length, she agreed to move into a refuge far away from home, to ensure their safety.
“Social Services were then happy that Julie had taken steps to safeguard her family. However, Dan’s family were now contacting Julie, threatening to make allegations to Social Services so that the children would be removed.
“Julie was able to contact the officer in charge of her case, and then speak with me about her worries and concerns.
“Through this dialogue, and the trust that was built by her engagement with us, Julie was fully supportive of the case, and Dan was subsequently charged with five crimes.
“Julie is now able to live with her children free of fear and intimidation.”
If you’re experiencing persistent and unwanted attention, and the behaviour is causing you to feel fearful, harassed or anxious, then you are a victim of stalking.
It’s not something that you should have to live with, and we’re here to help you. We would urge anyone with concerns about another’s behaviour towards them to contact us, even if you’re not sure that a crime has been committed.
For information and advice about stalking, visit our stalking and harassment information pages.
To report stalking, call police on 101. In the case of an emergency, always dial 999.
You can also visit our online reporting centre
You can also call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300, or speak with Paladin, the National Stalking Advocacy on 0203 866 4107.