Ten years ago, the law in Scotland recognised stalking as a crime for the first time, making it clear that stalkers can face legal consequences for their actions. What’s more, the legislation acknowledged that this type of abuse occurs over the course of two or more incidents and its purpose is to make the victim feel frightened, intimidated and isolated.
Since the law came into force in 2010, we’ve seen some positive efforts to tackle stalking in Scotland; for instance, there is growing awareness of this form of abuse and specialist victim support services have prioritised work on responding to survivors of stalking. At the same time, stalking continues to be an underreported crime.
And although we know it is mainly perpetrated by men (usually partners or ex-partners) against women, the statistics available do not yet reflect the true prevalence among women nor the context in which it primarily happens (domestic abuse).
We want women to feel confident in reporting this crime to the police. This is why recently we consulted with women who have reported stalking in Scotland and asked them to tell us how it was for them to access the criminal justice process. And while they had a variety of experiences with the police, we identified some key elements that made (or would have made) the process easier to navigate:
Victims/survivors must have the space they need to talk about what’s been happening, their physical and emotional wellbeing should be considered when giving the statement and they should be given the option to have a friend, relative or advocacy worker present to support them through this part of the reporting process.
When reporting, women should be offered information about technology available to collect essential data about past and future instances of stalking. This technology can give them more control over the situation and confidence to seek support, including taking legal action.
Specialist organisations can be central in women’s journey to heal and recover from this traumatic experience. They can also help them to increase any safety measures that the police may have already put in place, like creating a safety plan if the woman fears that the abuse might escalate and put her life in danger.
We understand that reporting to the police and navigating the justice system is never an easy experience. Yet, feeling supported and informed throughout this process can make a huge difference for the victims/survivors and it can ultimately give them enough confidence and trust to come forward and seek justice.
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