Stalking has been happening for many years but the internet (cyber stalking) is making it easier for stalkers to do this and access information about their victims. Waiting for the stalker to act, and being constantly on alert from an unwanted visit or contact, is something that only those who experience it, can understand how terrorising it can be. Friends and family may show lack of understanding, and a “just ignore him/her” attitude, not understanding the impact it has on your life. The majority of witnesses will pull away as they do not want the stalkers attention on them, and find the whole thing “creepy”. Due to the shame and lack of support on this, it can isolate those affected and create a hyper vigilant, mis-trusting and fearful existence. A victim may feel isolated recognising that no one understands them, and in fact, this is likely the case unless others have experienced it themselves. Life seems like it can never be the same again.
The fear is created when the victim feels they’re being watched all the time, and their life is no longer private or their own. It’s as if a black cloud is following everywhere, and while life is going on for everyone else around them, they have a very limited sense of freedom and safety, and feel to watch over their shoulder everywhere they go. If there is a criminal record of violence towards others, or/and the victim has already endured violence from the stalker before, this will heighten anxiety levels also. There may even have been death threats, direct or indirect, but just enough for the victim to know that this could be a possibility. No one knows when, or if a person with this level of obsession, may have a psychotic episodes, and if alcohol is taken the combination can be very dangerous. Every contact attempt ensures the stalker’s presence is there, chipping away at the victim’s sense of safety, and may not seem significant when isolated, but when added together can gradually cause serious alarm to the victim.
Getting the Right Help
Up to an average of 100 incidents can occur before a victim will make a first report to the PSNI, for fear of seeming over reactive. Going over the the door of the PSNI station, or to a solicitor’s office is very daunting, and those who deal with it on a professional level needs to understand the level of fear that is present. The victim will be understandably emotional, finding it difficult to rationalise an account of events when asked to explain it. If the professional you are talking to, isn’t trained or experienced in the psychological impact of stalking, or psychological abuse this can cause a feeling of being misunderstood and belittled. Seeking a solicitor known for dealing with domestic violent crimes will have more insight and understanding.
If you have experienced stalking a good start to regaining your control back is to recall and collect an account of what took place, with accurate timescales from the start of the stalking, and the sequence of events that followed. Documenting this and putting it into order is the first step to regaining empowerment, as it always starts with understanding. Beginning to make sense of it all is the start to your journey of recovery.
Impact on Victim
As a result of stalking, you may experience a variety of physical, emotional, and financial consequences. The emotional trauma of constantly being on alert of the stalker, or the next unwanted contact, may use up all the energy you have, which makes it hard to find any more for evidence gathering and the safety changes that are needed. Lack of interest in things you once enjoyed is not unusual, and you may experience at least three of the following: sleep disturbance, PTSD, anxiety, depression, loss of self esteem, paranoia, anger, and feeling powerless. These are all normal, emotional reactions to this level of constant fear and alertness. There may be shame and frustration involved also, as the victim can’t understand why they have been singled out like this, and didn‘t see this side to their stalker’s character before, or may feel guilty because others around them have been dragged into it, as often the stalker will also harass the victims’ supports.
Should the victim be a parent this further creates fear for their children’s safety also, and reduces the chance of being able to pack up, move away and start afresh. Someone going through this level of fear, is unable to hide it from their children, as much as they want to, as safety precautions have to be implemented, in the event of an approach. If this is the case nursery/preschool and teachers have to be told and warned, giving a description of the stalker’s vehicle and personal features, and asked to dial 999 straight away if there is a sighting near their school or nursery.
If you have been affected by stalking please help create much needed statistical understanding and evidence, to evidence need for law change to protect you, your family and others. Please complete the anonymous survey attached to this site.