National Stalking Awareness Week 2021 If you’ve made the difficult and brave decision to leave an abusive relationship, you might have believed that would be the end of it. But for many, this is when another type of abuse can start; Stalking. This might be a continuation of how your ex-partner behaved during the relationship (coercive control), or it might be new, or worse. Maybe your ex-partner won’t stop calling and texting you. Maybe they find other ways to get to you, such as calling your friends, family, and neighbours to ask after you, pass on messages, and ask if you’re seeing anyone new. Maybe they make up lies to Police or Social Care, or order presents to your address. They might try to hack your bank account to find out where you are. They might cause problems online, turn up at your work, follow you, or loiter. Unfortunately, the list of Stalking behaviours goes on and on. It’s hard to make others understand how much of an impact this has on your life, especially if they see your ex-partner being nice, wanting to reconcile, and they may even feel sorry for them. You may feel like everyone you turn to is questioning whether this is real because it sounds so unbelievable, but with Stalking, there is no such thing as coincidence. Some might say “just block them” or “just ignore them” but this actually doesn’t help. The first can actually lead to your Stalker getting more dangerous as they find another way to get to you. If they were calling and texting a lot and this option is taken away from them, they might choose to turn up at your house instead, for example, and this is obviously not what you’d want, and can be far more dangerous. A Stalker is someone who spends a lot of time thinking about how to Stalk someone. We describe this behaviour using the acronym FOUR; Fixed, Obsessed, Unwanted, and Repeated. Stalking is not ok, it’s illegal. If you have chosen to end a relationship, you do not deserve unwanted contact, or threats, or to have your ex-partner turn up uninvited or harass others in your life. Stalking is really hard to deal with; both getting it to stop and coping with the relentless barrage of unwanted contact. But it is possible to do. Reporting to the Police is important because they can take action to stop the Stalker. We at Next Chapter can support you with this, liaising and advocating to the Police on your behalf to urge them to take it seriously and ensure they are aware of everything your Stalker is doing. But we will never tell you what to do and we know this is individual choice; that not everyone is ready to report, and that’s absolutely ok. We can also talk to you about other safety measures you can take to reduce the Stalking, avoid the Stalker escalating in their behaviour and posing more risk to you, and support you with dealing with it all. We are specialists in Domestic Abuse so we will listen, we will understand, and be there in supporting you to make your own decisions and give you advice as needed. The Stats: 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men have experienced Stalking over the age of 16 1.1m people last year experienced stalking 77% suffer 100 incidents before reporting The average number of people directly affected (around the victim, such as friends, family, neighbours, etc) is 21 1 in 2 domestic abuse stalkers if they make a threat, act on it Stalking is serious and needs to be taken seriously. It is something a perpetrator/ex-partner spends a lot of time thinking about and therefore they are unlikely to stop unless they are forced to. If their behaviour towards you changes, or they make threats, or you are fearful and suspicious, then please seek advice, we can help by listening and supporting you with what you want to happen. Types of Stalking Behaviours: On separation – calls, texts, emails (unwanted) Following Watching/spying Unwanted gifts Subtle messages – eg the brand of cigarette butt left outside the front door & beer can, leaving dead animals or rose heads chopped off Social media – multiple fake Facebook accounts used for messaging/following, hacking Revenge Porn (this is very common in Stalking cases so speak with Revenge Porn Helpline on https://revengepornhelpline.org.uk/help-and-advice/ Indirect – changing Facebook status to reflect threats, sending threatening messages without mentioning victim’s name Vandalism to car, garden, doors or property Using others around you wittingly or unwittingly Trackers on cars Using the family courts Turning up at your house or place of work – if it is more than 3 times a week, this could lead to serious harm or homicide Making vexatious complaints Breaking & Entering – this can be an early predictor of homicide What you can do if you are being Stalked: Don’t block, get advice first. Contact COMPASS at www.essexcompass.org.uk or us at Next Chapter on 01206 500585 or at www.thenextchapter.org.uk where you will be allocated a Specialist in Domestic Abuse who can assess risk, advise on appropriate safety planning, and help Cyber Helpline: https://www.thecyberhelpline.com/ will help you check all your devices for any tracking, whilst preserving evidence and avoiding escalation by making sure you are safe prior to blocking.