Are you worried you're being stalked? We know it's scary but you can take steps to stop your stalker.
What is stalking?
Not all stalkers physically stake out their victims, looking shifty and vaguely unhinged. Any form of persistent harassment can bring fear into your life, from phone calls to unwanted visits and letters. Often the stalker can be someone you know, such as an ex lover or co-worker. They may be focused on a particular aspect of your life, but unaware that their behaviour is a threat to you.
Even so, you have every right to protect yourself and seek help in order to feel safe from harm. Here's how:
What to do if you think you're being stalked
Stalking has now been made illegal in UK law to recognise the severity of the crime. So don't be scared of telling the police for fear you won't be taken seriously.
- Get in touch with your local police: Don't worry if there isn't much to report - so long as you feel you're personal safety is at risk then your complaint will be taken seriously - and the sooner you speak up the easier it'll be for the cops to start building a case.
- Start a diary, and record every incident in detail. Also think in terms of evidence, and be sure to get hold of anything that may prove you're being stalked - an answer machine tape with their voice on it, letters they may have sent, even video footage if you can - just don't put yourself in danger to collect it.
- Inform friends, family and neighbours of the situation, so they can keep an eye out for you.
- Check your home security. Be sure that every door and window in your place has locks, and all keys are accounted for.
- Reconsider your daily routines: Try to vary your movements. The less predictable you are the harder it is for anyone to track you down.
- Avoid being alone: You'll feel less vulnerable in company, while limiting the opportunity for people to make advances.
Don't engage with your stalker
There are many complex reasons why someone becomes drawn to stalking. Every situation is unique, but whatever motives your personal-botherer may have, aim to keep all contact to a minimum. Any form of communication risks fuelling their conviction that their attention is justified. Even attempting to reason with them could make things worse, which is why the most effective thing you can do is notify the police and let them handle it. If at any time you think you're being followed, head for a public place immediately and call the police. You won't be wasting their time, even if it turns out to be a false alarm.
What if my stalker keeps ringing me?
If you pick up a creepy call, try not to sound startled or alarmed. Simply put the receiver to one side, leave it like that for a couple of minutes before replacing it - that way the caller gets a taste of his/her own medicine without any encouragement from you.
Report malicious or nuisance calls by phoning BT on Freephone 0800 666 700. Alternative service providers will have their own procedure for dealing with such calls, so contact them in the first instance.
I'm getting threatening letters
Whether you're receiving threatening mail using letters cut from newspaper headlines, or fabulous gifts in a bid to buy your love, avoid the temptation to return to sender and hope that'll learn 'em. Instead, keep any correspondence/presents, and try not to handle too much as it could be useful as evidence.
Blackmail is the act of extorting money or something else valuable from a person by threatening to expose information about them. Like stalking, it's a criminal offence and if you feel you're being blackmailed, contact the police immediately.