Someone is stalking me, what can I do?
We know that lockdown measures can feel particularly isolating if you are experiencing stalking.
When staying at home and/or doing most of your activities online, there are many ways in which stalking can happen and we have written about stalking behaviours and how to identify them here.
In this blog you will find a list of practical steps that might be useful in your situation and ways in which you can get help and support.
The most important thing to remember is that there are organisations you can reach out to during the pandemic if this is your experience.
1. Know where you can get help
The first and most important step is to know which organisations and agencies can support you through this experience.
If you feel like your stalker might harm you and that your life is at risk, contact the police:
- Call 999 if you are in immediate danger.
- Dial 101 if you want to contact to the police or report a crime but you're not in immediate danger.
- Use the silent option if you cannot speak on the phone: call 999, answer the questions by coughing or tapping, then dial 55 if prompted.
- Use this online form to report the stalking: https://www.scotland.police.uk/secureforms/c3/.
Like any form of abuse, stalking can have an impact on your mental health and general wellbeing. The following helplines can offer a listening ear and give you some practical support:
The National Stalking Helpline is a UK-wide service specifically for victims of stalking.
Open daily 9:30am - 4pm except Wednesday, 1pm - 4pm
Call: 0808 802 0300
Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage helpline
Rape Crisis Scotland has a daily helpline that supports survivors of sexual violence and can support those experiencing stalking.
Open daily, 6 pm - midnight
Call: 08088 01 03 02
Text: 07537 410027
You can find more organisations available to support you during the pandemic here.
2. Talk to someone you trust about what’s happening
Stalking can be a very lonely experience, particularly if the abuse is not obvious to others. In this situation, it can be helpful to someone about what’s happening.
We understand it is not always easy to talk about abuse to people you know. The helplines we mentioned above offer a confidential, supportive and non-judgemental space to talk about how your are coping with the stalking.
You can also think about talking to people you trust and that you feel can be supportive. This could be a family member, a friend, your GP or even a colleague, among others.
Whether it is a helpline, a person you trust or both, talking about what you are experiencing is a way to relieve some of the stress and anxiety of the situation and it can help you feel less alone.
3. Create a support network
Stalking behaviours are used to frighten, control and isolate a person. To cope with the effects of the stalking, you can build a network of supportive people that you can turn to in order to feel less alone.
You can create a support network from a combination of people in your life and support services. For example, you could have Women’s Aid worker and a solicitor alongside a friend who can be there for you if you feel unsafe.
Having a network where you can share some of the feelings and stresses of experiencing stalking can also improve your safety and help you to plan if you feel that the stalking behaviours change or escalate.
4. Make sure your online accounts are secured
Whether or not you are experiencing stalking online or through technology, it is always a good idea to keep your online accounts as secure as possible. These are some resources that can help you secure your accounts:
- The Revenge Porn Helpline has a guide to privacy settings in most social media platforms.
- Report Harmful content has guides on how to report different types of abuse through social media platforms.
- The Cybersmile Foundation has a list of online safety tips to improve your online experience.
- The Cyber Helpline has many resources on recovering from cyberattacks, such as hacking, malicious software, etc.
- EIFF has some tips on making your zoom account stronger if you are using it for video calls.
5. Have a safety plan
Depending on the kind of stalking you are experiencing, you might want to make a safety plan. Some things to consider are:
- Identify services you can call for support or help (police, local Women’s Aid group, helpline)
- If you are being stalked at specific times, (for example, when you go for your daily walk), make changes to your routine where possible so it is less predictable
- Understand your rights and legal options to stop the stalking (see more in point 7 below)
- Find a person or service you can talk to whenever you are feeling most worried or anxious about the stalking
- Keep your phone close to you so you can call for support if you need to or in case you have to leave your home to find safety.
- Identify a safe place you could go to if you need to leave your home abruptly.
We have written more about safety plans and how to create one in our blog.
6. Record the incidents of stalking
If you’re experiencing stalking, it is a good idea to keep a record of the incidents, including the date, time, location, and how the incident made you feel. This information can:
- Help you regain some control over the situation
- Assist you in reporting to the Police if you choose to do so.
You can record the incidents in a phone or a notebook.
We have also created FollowItApp, a mobile app designed with special security features so only you can access the information you record. Using the app means you have the information in one place, it is stored safely so the information is there even if you can’t access your phone, and you can easily request to download all the data you upload.
Whatever you choose, make sure it is the safest option for you.
7. Know your rights
In Scotland the law defines stalking as a ‘course of conduct’ crime, that is 2 or more incidents that make a person feel fear and alarm.
For example, it could be that you got an unwanted bouquet of flowers and you keep getting unwanted messages in your social media. If these two incidents have happened, they came from the same person and they made you feel frightened or alarmed, then it is a crime.
If you want to explore options to stop the stalking, call our helpline. We also have written legal guides to help you understand your rights:
8. Trust yourself
Above all it’s important to remember that you’re the best person to assess the situation. Sometimes stalking can be difficult to identify as abuse, but if something doesn’t feel right, listen to yourself and get support.
The same goes for your safety. If you feel that you might be in danger or that the situation could escalate, contact the police immediately.
We understand that stalking can be a very difficult experience even if you have support. It is not always possible to plan for everything, but we hope that our suggestions make it easier to cope with the situation and to get the support you need. And if you are reading this because you are worried about someone, please share this blog with them and let them know where they can get support.