Statistics released by the College of Policing show that, on average, victims will suffer as many as 100 incidents of stalking before they decide to report it, yet stalking can be linked to some of the most serious crimes we can deal with, including murder, sexual offences and domestic abuse.
Defined as persistent and unwanted attention that makes you feel pestered and harassed, stalking includes behaviour that happens two or more times, directed at, or towards you by another person. If someone is constantly intruding in your life, whether it be online or in person, and this is making you feel scared or distressed then it counts as stalking.
Stalking behaviour is most often about the coercion and control by one person of another, and spotting the signs early can prevent escalation, stopping even more serious offences occurring.
To help identify the signs of stalking, and highlight these associated behaviours, the College of Policing has shared the mnemonic FOUR, which stands for Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted, Repeated.
For example, a person could be harassed by persistent phone calls, letters, online messages or unwanted gifts. These behaviours, on the face of it, may seem very ordinary, or may even be affectionate to begin with, but their repeated and fixated nature means it becomes menacing, and victims will feel unsafe, isolated or terrified, even in their own homes.
The problem isn’t always physical, social media and the internet are common tools used for stalking and harassment, and ‘cyber-stalking’ or online threats can be just as intimidating.
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.
If you've been affected by cyber-stalking, you can get more information and safety tips from Get Safe Online