Employer Awareness: Stalking – How Serious Is It?
Stalking is a crime that is far more serious than many people realise. In April, Scotland Yard reported a 300% increase in reporting of stalking incidents, and the charity Suzy Lamplugh’s report UnmaskingStalking identified a huge increase in both on-line and off-line stalking incidents throughout the pandemic with 61% of stalking perpetrated by an ex-partner and 7% by a stranger. Currently 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will experience stalking and it often takes over 100 incidents of stalking before a victim will report it, why? Because they fear it will not be taken seriously or they will not be believed. This needs to change as Jess Phillips Labour MP demonstrated by reading out the shocking list of 120 women and children who were murdered by men; a partner or ex-partner in the last year. Statistics state that stalking offences are present in 99% of domestic abuse homicides and a perpetrator of domestic abuse who uses coercive control is more likely to stalk – so yes, let’s start taking this horrendous crime seriously.
It is encouraging that the need to address domestic abuse is being more understood by employers and that they have a duty of care to prevent harm for their employees, but stalking is often not recognised as another tactic of domestic abuse. Stalking never happens in isolation, it is always part of a continuous pattern of behaviour, which includes on-line and in-person stalking and is behaviour which is Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted and Repeated.
Signs of an employee who is being stalked:
You may have heard that an employee’s/work colleagues’ relationship has recently ended
They seem to be receiving an unusual number of texts messages, phone calls, emails
You notice they are becoming increasingly anxious or fearful when they receive them, or defensive if you comment on them.
They may be off work more often due to ill health, stress, anxiety
You may notice they are reluctant to leave work at their usual time, or to leave the workplace on their own.
Stalking behaviour is often triggered by the threat of, or the actual ending of a relationship and your employee or work colleague is very vulnerable at this time. Remember domestic abuse is always about power and control and the rejected partner cannot tolerate the risk of losing power and control over their partner. A stalker does not respect another person’s boundaries and no area is off limits to them, including the workplace, which then becomes a high-risk environment. In some cases, the only access a previous partner or stalker has of their victim is the workplace and they will often wait outside, whilst texting threats to the employee. 1 in 2 threats are acted upon, with serious consequences for the victim. Your employee/work colleague may need to close all their social media accounts, move house, leave their job and leave the area entirely. Stalkers will also target their victims’ friends, family and work colleagues. With awareness of these behaviours there are many simple steps that an employer can put in place to protect their employee, in the first instance, training on understanding domestic abuse and stalking in the workplace and implementing domestic abuse and stalking policies.
There are many types of stalker and those that occur more often in domestic abuse relationships are the Rejected and Predatory Stalker. Two very high-profile homicides have been in the news recently, sadly the murders of Sarah Everard by a predatory stalker and more recently with Community Police Officer, Julia James. Whilst these were not their partner or ex-partner, it is important to remember that stalking, along with domestic abuse is recognised as a gender crime and linked to misogyny.
Progress is being made and recently the new Domestic Abuse Bill achieved Royal Assent although there’s still more work to do such as the inclusion of a Serial Perpetrator Register.
Please support the drive for a Serial Perpetrator Register and sign the petition here
The On-Line Harms Safety Bill was mentioned in the Queens Speech (May 2021) and will include all forms of Cyberstalking. This is good news but not before time and is the result of tireless campaigning and lobbying by survivors of domestic abuse and domestic abuse and stalking charities over many years.
Prof Jane Monckton Smith has carried out extensive research on stalking and as a result created the 8 stage Homicide Timeline (see illustration). Early warning signs are flagged up in step one, please don’t ignore these, use Clare’s Law – the domestic violence disclosure scheme, recognising and acting upon these signs early, will literally save lives.
Safe Space Consultancy can support you by providing on-line and in-person training, for further information, please click here
Further help and support for domestic abuse and/or stalking can be found on Safe Space Resources page here