Switch on to stalking and harassment

24 April 2017
As part of National Stalking Awareness Week, Dorset Police is raising awareness that malicious communications is a crime and a form of stalking and harassment. 

Everyone should have the right to go about their daily lives in safety and without fear. National Stalking Awareness Week, starting today, Monday 24 April 2017, aims to raise awareness of stalking and how you can get help.

Stalking and harassment can be life changing and affects victims’ psychological and physical well-being, irrespective of whether they are physically harmed or not.

The most common and a particularly unpleasant form of stalking and harassment today is not physical but instead involves malicious communications through online channels such as social media or messaging services on mobile phones, as well as through the post and telephone.

Dorset saw an 81 per cent increase in harassment for the Office of National Statics (ONS) reporting period for October 2015 to September 2016, following the inclusion of malicious communications into this crime category.

Detective Sergeant Sarah Gillion said: “In today’s digital society there are more opportunities to contact people and the vast majority of stalking and harassment now takes place online or via telephone.

“Mobile phones, social media and other online channels can be used as tools for stalking and harassment. Online threats, ‘cyber-stalking’ and persistent or upsetting calls, voicemails and messages, can be just as intimidating and harmful as traditional forms of stalking and harassment.”

Stalking and harassment are criminal offences and both describe behaviour by a perpetrator which is repeated and unwanted by the victim. Harassment is contact and behaviour carried out with the aim of causing a person to feel alarmed, threatened, humiliated or distressed. This behaviour becomes stalking when it is fixated and obsessive, and it may place the victim in fear. It can often be linked to domestic abuse and sexual violence. 

Detective Sergeant Sarah Gillion continued: “Stalking and harassment are appalling crimes and the impact they have on victims can be devastating and long-lasting.

“Nowadays people just have to press a button to send a message or make a phone call. Perpetrators must be aware that just because they are not stalking or harassing their victim in person does not mean that it is not as serious. Malicious communications as a form of stalking or harassment is extremely distressing for victims and is a serious crime, punishable with prison time of up to two years.

“I would encourage anyone who believes they are a victim of stalking or harassment to have the confidence to come forward and contact Dorset Police. We are here to help and have officers trained to support victims and investigate these types of offences.

“Alternatively, members of the public can ring the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or email advice@stalkinghelpline.org.”

If you’re experiencing persistent and unwanted attention, and the behaviour is making you feel fearful, harassed or anxious, then please contact Dorset Police online at www.dorset .police.uk or by calling 101. Always dial 999 in an emergency. 

For more information visit dorset.police.uk/stalking 

Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, said: “Consultation with local communities tells us that protecting people at risk of harm is a key concern and this is reflected in the 2017-2021 Police & Crime Plan for Dorset. It is vital that victims of stalking understand that living in fear is unacceptable, irrespective of whether the offending behaviour presents an immediate physical risk. Our message is clear, stalking is not okay, it’s abhorrent. 

“We must raise awareness of the dangers of obsession and fixation which can drive this type of behaviour and help people recognise the signs of stalking at an early stage. Do not suffer in silence - please come forward and let the police and other agencies help you. If in doubt, ask the police, they will listen.”
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