Stalking while ‘staying at home’
Stalking is a form of abuse that is often misunderstood and minimised. The lack of awareness in our society means that stalking often goes under the radar.
Current lockdown measures have meant that our movement is more restricted, making it easier to monitor and/or predict our routines. This, in in turn, could increase or worsen stalking incidents
In this blog we discuss how stalking behaviours can continue for women during the pandemic and include details of where to seek support.
Where and how can stalking happen during ‘lockdown’?
With the current social distancing measures, many of us find ourselves at home working, studying, caring for our family, self-isolating or shielding from the virus. This can be particularly difficult for women living within close proximity from their stalker (whether at home or in the same neighbourhood).
At the same time, many of our activities have now moved to online spaces like video calls, chats and social media. These are spaces that can also be used by stalkers to continue the abusive behaviour or even to start stalking someone.
There are many different ways in which stalking can take place, and below are some examples of ways in which stalking behaviours can happen
Stalking at home
A common misconception is that stalkers are strangers hiding behind the bushes. However, the reality is that a majority of stalkers are, in fact, known to the victim and they often live close to or with them. They can be a partner or ex-partner, a family member, a roommate or a neighbour.
At home, stalking can include:
- Having your phone calls, social media or email monitored
- Being followed when you leave the house
- Repeatedly parking his car near your home for no apparent reason
- Sending you unwanted letters, text messages or gifts
- Interfering with your mail
- Vandalising your property
- Entering your home when you are away
- Using recording devices like cameras to follow your movements.
Stalking online and through technology
In times of social distancing, technology has appeared as a useful tool to continue some of our routines, from work and studies through to exercise and social gatherings. Yet, some stalkers can use these platforms to continue or start the abusive behaviour.
Just because this behaviour happens online and you cannot see the person doesn’t make it less serious or mean that is not classed as stalking.
Some ways in which stalking can happen online or through technology are:
- Hacking your online accounts (social media, email, banking, documents)
- Making fake accounts to harass you on your social media channels or to impersonate you
- Sending you threats through your social media, email or mail
- Joining your video calls without consent or permission
- Stealing your personal images and threatening to publish them online
- Disclosing your personal information online without your consent
However it happens, if you are experiencing stalking you might feel frightened, helpless, intimidated and that you have little or no control over what’s happening.
It is natural to feel this way and often survivors of stalking tell us that this is compounded when those they turn to for help don’t understand the impact of behaviours that may on the face of it seem harmless.
This is my experience, where can I get help?
Many organisations in Scotland and the UK work to support victims/survivors of stalking by offering practical and emotional support. We want to reassure you that support is available if you need it during the pandemic:
- Call the National Stalking Helpline for support on 0808 802 0300 (open daily 9:30am - 4pm except Wednesday, 1pm - 4p)
- You can find a list of organisations that can help you during and after the pandemic here.
- Read our blog with steps you can take if you are experiencing stalking.
- Get in touch with us at the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre if you want to explore some of your legal options.