Stalking is a crime that is often regarded as not particularly serious, yet it can be just as devastating for the victim as a crime of physical violence. Many stalkers are also ex-spouses of the victim, making the situation even more distressing and complicated.
But what is stalking and how could a family law solicitor help you?
What is stalking?
In the eyes of the law, stalking can involve many different types of behaviour, including:
- sending gifts or flowers
- making malicious or unwanted phone calls
- sending emails, texts or letters
- damaging property
- following or watching the victim
- sitting outside the victim's home or place of work
In a nutshell, any behaviour directed towards you that is persistent, clearly unwelcome, and causes you anxiety, fear or harassment, can be described as 'stalking'. Such behaviour is a crime and it's not something you should have to put up with.
Can stalking only be done by a stranger?
Contrary to what many people assume, stalking is not usually the work of a shadowy stranger. Many stalkers are former partners or acquaintances of their victim, and just because you know the stalker doesn't mean that their actions are in any way your fault. What they are doing is still stalking and it is not acceptable.
How long does stalking last?
Stalking can last from a few weeks to many years. The duration of the stalking tends to increase in tandem with the stalker's emotional investment in the relationship. This is why ex-spouses are commonly involved in stalking incidents. In many cases they are unable to accept that a former intimate relationship is over, and it is often these cases that can escalate to physical abuse and violence.
Can stalking without violence still be damaging?
Absolutely! Stalking can cause depression, sleep disruption and severe psychological distress to the victim. Common side effects of stalking also include paranoia, post-traumatic stress disorder and even agoraphobia.
Advice for stalking victims
Early intervention can stop stalking before it becomes a serious problem. Unfortunately, blanking the stalker and hoping they will just go away does not usually work. It's important to tell them once only, clearly and firmly, that you do not wish to have any further contact with them whatsoever. After this, try to avoid having any engagement or contact with them again.
If the person stalking you is an ex-spouse, you should have a chat with your family law solicitor, as it may be possible to apply to the court for an injunction to prevent the stalker from approaching or contacting you in the future.
Stalking is a real crime. If someone is stalking you, don't hesitate to tell your friends and family what's happening, report the matter to the police and discuss the possibility of court intervention with your family law solicitor.