Today (24th April) is National Stalking Awareness Day and each year there is a different theme, this year it is “Working without Fear”. The aim is to eliminate workplace stalking and provide information to employers on how they can help employees who may be victims of stalking.
1 in 20 calls to the National stalking helpline are regarding stalkers who are current or former colleagues of the victim.
50% of all stalkers will appear at the victim’s place of work and many victims feel forced to reduce their hours or leave the employment because of it.
Stalking affects 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men
80% of stalkers are men and 20% women
Domestic Violence is by far the largest category of stalker ie. that they are ex partners of the victim (42%). Worryingly 50% of domestic abuse stalkers will act on the threats they make to the victim.
In 90% of cases the stalker is known to the victim
21 other people connected to the victim will be affected eg colleagues, family and friends who may be targeted by the stalker to cause further distress to the victim, attempt to obtain information about the victim, or isolate the victim by attempting to turn friends against the victim.
On average victims will suffer 100 incidents before they report it to the police.
What is stalking?
Stalking is repeated, unwanted contact from one person to another which causes the victim to feel distressed or fearful. It differs from harassment in that a perpetrator of stalking will have an obsession with or fixation on the individual(s) they are targeting.
Examples of stalking behaviour may include:
Nuisance telephone calls Sending excessive emails Being followed Sending gifts or letters Death threats Monitoring behaviour Making false complaints to employers/police/social services etc. Abuse through social networking sites Criminal damage Visiting home/place of work Blackmail Physical assault Sexual assault Computer hacking
Thanks to a successful campaign stalking became a criminal offence in November 2012 and the National Stalking Advocacy Service – Paladin was created shortly afterwards to help to support high risk victims. Paladin have continued to campaign and are currently spearheading the Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign.
In November 2012 the Protection from harassment Act 1997 was amended to include stalking as a criminal offence
You need to show
– A course of conduct (at least 2 incidents) amounting to stalking
– A more serious offence is committed if in addition to the above you can show stalking which causes serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on the victim’s usual day-to-day activities which the perpetrator knows or ought to know amounts to stalking.
The maximum sentence which the courts can impose is 6 months for the 1st offence and 5 years for the second offence.
Court will also usually make a restraining order – breach of which is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.
If the police don’t take action it is possible to obtain a civil order with the assistance of a solicitor – either a non-molestation order or a civil restraining order.
Employers have a duty under health and safety legislation to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety and welfare of an employee – if not they may be open to legal proceedings
She was stalked by a colleague for 8 years starting in 1992 before there was any legislation to protect victims from this kind of behaviour – he placed listening devises down her settee, stole items from her house, followed her, stole and then copied her keys to gain access to house when she wasn’t there, made silent calls, sent unsigned cards to her and tried to arrange for someone to kill her husband. Her employer told her to “be mature about it”. She left her job and her marriage broke down. It only ended when he was finally imprisoned in 2001 for attempted murder of another woman.
She worked at Harvey Nichols and had a brief relationship with a security guard who became fixated with her. He followed her home, kept calling her and loitering outside her house. He was arrested and charged with harassment and whilst on bail came to her work and shot her 4 times in the head killing her before turning the gun on himself.
Met her stalker at work and he tried to start a relationship with her. He left gifts at her desk regularly, called her every few hours, turned up at her keep-fit class, duped HR into getting her address details. He was eventually dismissed by the employer and she got a restraining order to keep him away but two years later he turned up at her work the day before final court date relating to the restraining order. He was armed with various guns, including a semi-automatic shotgun, a rifle with a scope, a pump-action shotgun, two revolvers, two pistols, a foot-long buck knife and a smoke bomb. He murdered seven people at her place of work, injuring four, including Laura. He was sentenced to life and a film was made about this real-life nightmare.
Employers need to be aware of sign that employee’s may be being stalked which may include – poor performance, absences, lateness, nervousness and ask about it in a sympathetic and private way. Believe the victim and be supportive, take it seriously, refer him/her to the relevant agencies who can help. Consider changing the work routine of the victims if he/she wants to – start time, place of work etc. consider extra security, CCTV, walking her to her car etc. If the stalker is also an employee there should be a disciplinary investigation.
It is also hoped that employers will sign-up to a workplace policy around stalking to ensure that both victims and perpetrators know that the issue will be taken seriously and that the employer can sign-post them to expert help.
Where can people get help?
Paladin – The national stalking advocacy service – 0207 8408960 www.paladinservice.co.uk
National Stalking Helpline – 0808 802 0300