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Stalking

How to recognise stalking behaviours and where to get support if you’re worried about stalking.

Stalking is when someone repeatedly and persistently acts in a way that is unwanted towards another person. This behaviour can make the person being stalked feel worried, scared or unsafe. Stalking is a criminal offence.

Dispelling the myths

Stalkers are often portrayed in the media or in TV shows and movies as ‘creepy’ strangers who are obsessed with celebrities and have dedicated a significant part of their lives to following them around. We also sometimes hear the term ‘stalking’ used in banter or flirting, or laughed off as flattering.

In reality:

  • Stalkers can be anyone. They can be someone you know, or someone you don’t. In most stalking cases, there is some kind of relationship between the person being stalked and the person stalking.
  • Stalking doesn’t just happen in person, it can also happen online. The stalker could be someone you met online, or they could be using online platforms to stalk you (this is called cyberstalking).
  • Stalkers aren’t always obsessed with the person they are stalking. Sometimes they will have developed an obsession, but they might be motivated by other factors too, like jealousy, revenge or they may be living with mental health issues.
  • The behaviour doesn’t have to go on for a long period of time before it is considered stalking. As soon as the way a person is acting becomes repeated and persistent, it can be classified as stalking.
  • Stalking can have serious short- and long-term emotional impacts on people who experience it. It shouldn’t be taken lightly or joked about.

Whatever the situation, it is never the fault of the person being stalked.

Stalking behaviours

Stalking can be very varied and could look different in every case, but there are some behaviours that you can look out for that might indicate stalking.

Someone might:

  • Turn up unexpectedly at places you are
  • Repeatedly call or message you
  • Continue to contact you after you have blocked them or told them not to
  • Speak to your friends or family about you
  • Repeatedly mention you directly or indirectly in social media posts
  • Track your movements and social media
  • Make up things about you that aren’t true in an attempt to damage your reputation
  • Try to threaten or blackmail you
  • Try to access your social media without your permission

Sometimes these behaviours may be framed as flattering or caring, for example they turn up at places when you’re hanging out with your friends because they care about you and want to see you. Other people might support this narrative too, but anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe is not ok.

Any of these behaviours in isolation may not amount to stalking, but they are all forms of harassment. If you are experiencing these behaviours or are worried about someone who is, seek support.

FOUR warning signs of stalking

Fixated – the person is not able to stop the behaviour, despite being asked to.

Obsessive – the person constantly finds new ways to contact, track or interfere with the person they are stalking.

Unwanted – the behaviour, whatever form it takes, is not wanted or appreciated by the person experiencing it.

Repeated – the unwanted behaviour has happened more than once.

Cyberstalking

Stalking is not just limited to happening in person, it can also be done partly or entirely online.

The internet, social media and mobile devices have made it much easier for people to contact, track and find out personal information about the person they are stalking.

For example, someone may use fake social media profiles to catfish the person they are stalking, giving them new ways of contacting and tracking the person. They may attempt to hack into and restrict access to the person’s social media accounts, to access more information and gain control.

Location-based tracking apps and tagged locations on social media can be used by stalkers to monitor a person’s whereabouts and key locations, such as their home and school.  Technologies, like smart devices and tracking tags, also provide more opportunities for stalkers to enter the life of the person they are stalking.

Privacy settings and location tracking

Be in control of what other people can find out about you online by checking your privacy settings. These help you to stay safer online by allowing you to choose who can see what you post and share. You should also regularly review which apps and contacts can access your location data to make sure you know who can see what.

How to get help

  1. Talk to an adult you trust. Speak to an adult you trust, such as a family member, teacher or youth worker, about what’s happening to you and how you feel. They will be able to support and help you.
  2. Contact the police on 101. If it is an emergency, dial 999. Stalking is a crime and police officers will be able to advise you and take action if needed.
  3. Speak to a support service. If you don’t feel like you can speak to an adult you know and trust, there are plenty of support services that offer free and confidential advice, like Childline. There are also organisations who can provide specialist help and support for young people who are experiencing stalking, like the National Stalking Helpline and Paladin Young People Services (for young people between 16-25).
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