Although the terms stalking and harassment are sometimes used interchangeably, they are two different offences which can occur together, or separately. In both cases, stalking and harassment cause tremendous harm to the victim and their family.
Stalking will often focus on a person when harassment will often focus on disputes.
Stalking is described as a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive. It can include harassment that amounts to stalking, or stalking that causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress.
Stalking behaviour can include:
- making unwanted communications
- consistently sending gifts (e.g. flowers)
- damaging property
- physical or sexual assault
Harassment involves repeated behaviour imposed on a victim that could be expected to cause alarm, distress or fear in any reasonable person.
Harassment can include:
- unwanted phone calls, texts, letters, emails or visits
- abuse (verbal or online)
- physical gestures or facial expressions
- images and graffiti
What should you do?
If you are a victim of stalking or harassment, it is important to report it as soon as it happens. There are a number of powers, including Stalking Protection Orders, that police can use to support a victim in an early stage, before the behaviour escalates.
To stay safe, make sure you:
- Take a mobile with you when you go out.
- Carry a personal attack alarm and learn how to use it.
- Review your security settings on social networks.
- Tell trusted friends, family or colleagues your whereabouts.
- Keep a record of any occurrences. including what has happened, where and when.
- Keep any evidence you have as this could be used as evidence in a court of law.
- Do not confront your stalker, or engage in any conversation or communication.
There are a number of organisations you can contact for advice and support.
National Stalking Helpline
Website: National Stalking Helpline
Telephone: 0808 802 0300
Signpost for Bedfordshire
Website: Signpost of Bedfordshire
Telephone: 0800 0282 887
Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Website: Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Website: Victim Support
Telephone: 0808 168 9111
If you want to report stalking and/or harassment, please contact us for help or advice on:
More information is available on GOV.UK.