Stalker continually watches and observes their victim, learning everything they can about their victim. By learning their victim’s habits and patterns, they can place themselves in places where the victim often frequents. In Great Britain, the stalking definition is often used interchangeably with that of harassment.
What Is Stalking?
The definition of stalking changes somewhat when you are trying to differentiate between stalking, intimidation and harassment.
Stalking and other harassing behaviors come in many forms. Physical stalking where a person actively follows or tries to engage another person at one time was the most common type of stalking reported in Great Britain. Now the most used method of stalking is cyberbullying. Statistics show that 37 percent of all reported stalking cases were made by men, while 23 percent were made by women. Approximately 4 percent of all reports claimed to be the result of a possible date gone bad. One of the most interesting statistics is that men were most often stalked by perfect strangers, with women knowing their stalker.
Stalking and Harassment
Stalking laws found in the United Kingdom offer various avenues of recourse for victims of stalking. Within the legal system of the United Kingdom, harassment and stalking are similar, but have different definitions when it comes to criminal offenses. In the Protection from Harassment Act of 1997, harassment is the term given to any activity that causes distinct alarm or distress. While not exactly defined as a criminal offense, harassment is included in conjunction with other charges like intimidation and stalking.
Stalking, on the other hand, is defined in great detail by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Within the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, two new offenses were established. The first offense is designed to prohibit a person from stalking someone else. Although the exact definition of stalking is not clearly related, there are various types of terminology that state obsessive behaviors that result in the following or monitoring of another person’s movements results in that person being afraid or concerned for their own life is prohibited.
The second half of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, give law enforcement officers in the United Kingdom the right to search a potential stalkers’ apartment, vehicle or other premises they may frequent. This would give the police the advantage to stop the stalking or harassing behaviors before the victim is hurt or injured, mentally, emotionally or physically.
Stalking that involves fear on the behalf of the victim can also be brought into play during the legal process. For this particular portion of the Act to be brought into play, the victim must admit to at least two separate instances where they were made to fear for their lives or that bodily injury was going to occur. When a person who has been victimized begins to show signs of changing their basic routines to avoid seeing or interacting with the stalker, the victim begins to add security features to their home or office or the person’s physical and mental health deteriorates to the point where it is adversely affecting their health, it is deemed there is enough evidence to prove stalking or harassment.
The Criminal Justice and Licensing Act in Scotland was written and enacted into legislation that makes stalking illegal. Northern Ireland has the Protection from Harassment Order of 1997. The Protection from Harassment Act of 1997 was enacted in both England and Wales. Every country within the United Kingdom has the means and the laws to protect its citizens from stalking, harassment and intimidation.
The laws that protect the citizens of Great Britain also protect Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Each country has an active version of the many laws that have passed through each individual governing body. Every country has legislation in place that also pertains to cyber stalking and the use of electronic communications devices as a way for bullies to attack and stalk their victims.
Effects of Stalking
In Great Britain, law enforcement and other government agencies have taken careful note to monitor what happens to victims of stalking type behaviors. Increased reports of depression and paranoia are common. Victims of stalking and harassment also experience a wide variety of repercussions ranging from relationship problems to financial issues. Many victims would double or triple the amount of money spent on securing their home or purchasing weapons. 40 percent of all victims claim to have lost money, while 10 percent have sold their cars or vehicles because they do not travel far from their home base or comfort zone.
When stalking occurs, relationships begin to suffer as long as the other person’s mental health begins to gradually deteriorate. As long as the person continues to be harassed or stalked, the progression into a downward spiral will continue. The problem with many stalking behaviors is that they are perfectly legal. Emails, sending a card or letter, sending flowers or the basic act of gathering information through common forms of query are all perfectly legal. It is the constant, repetitive and obsessive use of those legal behaviors that turn them into a “stalking” situation.
Taking Control of the Situation
While each country in the United Kingdom has enacted some type of legislation when it comes from stalking and harassment. Just like in other types of bullying, many instances of stalking do not get reported to law enforcement agencies. In certain cases, people don’t want to involve the police and prefer to handle stalking situations on their own. Normally, the severity of the situation will determine whether or not the case is reported to the police.
Many cases of stalking are rather mild and the potential victims rarely feel threatened. In those instances, the behaviors are mostly annoying and often dealt with rather easily. Behaviors that continue to persist or progress in nature to be more threatening or demanding should always be reported to local law enforcement agencies. Women aged 16 to 19 years of age were the most likely to be stalked or harassed by strangers. It has also been proven that one out of five women who are separated from their spouses are commonly victimized through stalking and harassment.
In the United Kingdom, over 20,000 law enforcement officers have dedicated themselves to taking specialized training to help them assist individuals who have been the victim of one or more stalkers. Some statistics gathered by the police claim that a person is normally victimized between 70 and 100 times before they go to the police with their concerns.
The National Stalking Helpline and Stalking Directory were created to help provide victims with the resources they need to regain and maintain control of their lives. Estimates over the past few years, show that over 2,000 people each year contact the Stalking helpline to get advice on how to best handle a stalking situation. In Wales and England, almost 4 percent of all women surveyed and 3 percent of men who were questioned in a recent Crime Survey admitted to using the National Stalking Hotline.
There are several programs throughout the United Kingdom that offer aid and assistance to individuals who have been victims of stalking and harassment. Law enforcement agencies and many of the programs that work to help stalking victims are included in a Stalking Directory. This important resource is used by public groups to provide stalking victims with valuable tools that will not only protect them, but also help them restore confidence in themselves.
Many victims often avoid going out in public or are paranoid of areas where they do not know many people. They like to remain within their comfort zone and may fall into a full blown panic attack if forced to venture to far out of it. These vital resources work to help bring the victims back into a safe zone where they feel they have a viable support system