By Hadia Mansoor

On the 20th January 2020, the UK Government introduced new orders enabling police forces to better protect victims of stalking. Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) are civil orders applied by the police, and if breached it is seen as a criminal offence.

Regulations regarding stalking and harassment have changed throughout time, with new amendments seeking to tackle all issues that victims of stalking and harassment may face. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 stipulates harassment as actions that can cause alarm and distress or putting people in fear of violence. Moreover, additions to The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 has also created new legislations in which stalking can too be seen as a criminal offence.

Any behaviour that fits the laws above is considered an action of stalking and harassment if repeated more than once by the perpetrator. Many are often confused as to how long a behaviour must continue before it is a serious crime, and as a result many individuals suffer in silence hoping that the abuse will stop. As we may know from personal experiences or through observing others, victims are often left feeling isolated, vulnerable and scared with uncertainty of who to trust and how to ask for help.

But this crime is more common than believed. Data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales suggests that:

4.9 million adults will have experienced stalking and harassment in their lifetime.

Women are twice as likely to be victims than men.

Those aged 20-24 are the most susceptible to be victims.

62% of people were stalked by a current or former partner.

37% of victims were stalked for more than 2 years.

Some behaviours of stalking and harassment include being followed, being spied on through cyberstalking, having tracking devices installed on electronic equipment (usually apps on phones) or acts of vandalism on the victim's property and belongings, in which the impacts on victims are detrimental. The UK Network for Surviving Stalking conducted a survey of 321 victims of stalking and harassment and found that 31% of victims had to take sick leave, showing us the negative implications that victims face, and how it has profound effects on one's physical and psychological health. It was also reported that 25% of individuals had to move homes; this further exemplifies how a victim's security and personal space can become endangered.

Acts of stalking and harassment are more common than we think, with it affecting people's lives in numerous ways. Therefore, it is important for us to familiarise ourselves as to what the law says about stalking and harassment, as well as what actions we can take to protect ourselves. It is vital that you do not suffer alone and should seek help if you find yourself experiencing acts of stalking and harassment.

Further information:

If you or someone you know have been affected by stalking and harassment and would like further information, you can contact the Suzy Lamplugh Trust - Stalking and Harassment Helpline at:

https://www.suzylamplugh.org or call the helpline on 0808 802 0300

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