It’s Time to Take Stalking Seriously
by Onjali Raúf
Ahead of this year’s National Stalking Awareness Week (18th-24th April 2016), singer Lily Allen released details of the terrifying ordeal she underwent at the hands of a stalker who followed, harassed and even attacked her over a period of SEVEN years.
But whilst the actions of her stalker are harrowing enough, it is the fact that police agencies ignored her reports and saw fit to treat her more ‘like a nuisance, not a victim’ that are really the most disturbing aspects of her case.
Disturbing, but unfortunately, not surprising.
Just as in cases of rape, domestic violence, and abuse, the golden trifecta for how stalking victims / survivors ought to be dealt with by the very agencies in place to protect them, seem as entrenched for stalking as for any other crime that can potentially lead to a woman’s murder: firstly disbelief / doubt; secondly, jaw-dropping insensitivities to the seriousness of the case, and thirdly, dumping the onus of retrieving all evidence against the perpetrator upon the victim (not that her care to do so will help her case it seems).
The seriousness of what stalking means and the impacts it can have upon a woman’s everyday life has yet to be truly understood by us all. So here are some facts about what stalking is, and who the “targets” often are:
- WHAT IS STALKING?
Stalking is a pattern of repeated and persistent behaviour that is intrusive, threatening and undertaken to engender fear. It is when one person becomes fixated on or obsessed with another and begins to follow, hunt and pursue their target with a goal of controlling or impacting their daily lives.
- 1 in 5 women are stalked here in the United Kingdom.
- 1 in every 2 “domestic stalkers”, when they make a threat, will act on it, whilst 1 in 10 “stranger stalkers” will act on a threat.
- 80% of victims of stalking are women and 70% of perpetrators are male.
- In those few cases brought to trial, statistics show judges favour compensation orders (ironically strengthening the relationship between the stalker and their victim as it enables another form of access).
Stalking is a game of control – and one that is often a pre-curser to physical violence. Yet it continues to be dismissed – or worse still, romanticised as a compliment. Whether it be through the domain of films (have a long hard think about Ben Stiller’s character in Something About Mary, or the guy in love with Keira Knightley in Love Actually, or Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades series) or the non-actions of our police and judges, women being stalked are expected to not only endure it, but enjoy or be flattered by it – and ultimately accept it as a display of “love”.
Even when they have said no. A hundred times.
So let’s begin by questioning any sort of romantic idealism that perpetrators attach to stalking and expose it for what it is: a form of control that can lead to emotional, psychological and ultimately, physical harm. Harm that can even lead to murder: such as that of Clare Bernal, 22, who despite countless pleas to the police, was shot four times by Michal Pech, a former boyfriend who refused to accept that their relationship was over and was on bail after pleading guilty to stalking her.
Let’s believe women when they say they are being made to feel uncomfortable and fearful because they are being followed or harassed.
And let’s signpost those women that are too afraid to talk about their ordeals – and those who need help in letting go of their obsessions – to those agencies that can help and will most importantly, believe them.
It’s time to take stalking seriously and recognise it as horrific a form of abuse as any other. Not an “act of love” that should be put up with.
Onjali Rauf is the Founder & CEO of Making Herstory and a freelance writer, editor and bidwriter.