There is a lot in the media about stalking but I think equally it is often minimised as “something and nothing”. I wanted to share my story and also raise some awareness of what the reality of stalking is and share some ways to get support if find yourself being stalked.
Stalking in the media
Generally, we only hear of the worst cases of stalking in the media because there has been a serious crime such as murder committed as a result of stalking.
How often do you hear about someone who is stalked and scared but the perpetrator gets sent to prison for weeks or months? I suspect the answer is very rare.
I was recently reading a local Facebook page in which an article was shared where a man had been convicted of stalking and sent to prison.
I was shocked to read some of the comments in which people were saying “we don’t know both sides to the story” and “well maybe she deserved it and led him on”.
Can you believe this went to court and the man was convicted yet still people didn’t believe he was guilty of the crime of stalking?
Worst case scenario
Of course, we all know that the worst possible scenario could be that a stalker kills their victim. Sadly this does happen and I recently watched a documentary about a lady called Alice Ruggles who was murdered by her former boyfriend.
She had asked the police for help on a few occasions with very little support from them. Her torment didn’t happen overnight from stalking to murder, her ex hacked into her social media to keep a check on where she was, sent numerous messages and videos to her and even sat for ages outside her flat insisting he didn’t want to kill her.
I never knew Alice but I can imagine how scary that must have been. Alice lost her life when her ex took his obsession with her to another level entirely.
There is no excuse for what he did. He has been convicted but that will never bring Alice back. Sadly this is not a one-off case, people die at the hands of stalkers far too often.
What stalking is, and isn’t
According to Wikipedia “Stalking is unwanted or repeated surveillance by an individual or group towards another person”.
I think this is a great description and covers all that stalking really is. It can be online, in-person and even by proxy ie getting someone else to do it for you. Whilst many of us joke about stalking someone on social media we all know the truth is having a nosey for your ex or someone you went to school with on social media is just that, nosey not true stalking.
A stalker could be known to the victim such as an ex-partner or a stranger. Any link to the perpetrator should not matter and the police should take it seriously if you are concerned and/or the contact is repeated and unwanted.
Stalking – my experience
Whether stalking is accompanied by violence/fear of violence or not it is still really scary and worrying. I wanted to share my story with you after reading the articles I mentioned above and just give another example of how stalking can be.
When I was at university and around 20 years old I was out with friends one night and noticed a man of a similar age staring at us. Nothing odd about that you would think we were a group of girls on a night out.
He appeared to be alone and was there just staring for an hour. This started to make us feel uneasy. One of the other girls went over to speak to him and ask why he was standing staring.
The following conversation, which was then brought back to where we were sitting, was really disturbing. The man, let’s call him F to make this easier to explain, explained he knew me.
I definitely did not know him. Initially, we thought this to be a chat-up line but soon discovered it wasn’t and was a scary case of stalking for a number of years.
Before I continue by telling you about this you need to be aware this was 2001, the internet was nothing like it is today, there were no social media platforms, no friends reunited and I had no online presence.
I was at university in a city 125 miles from my home. F told me he had “known” me since I was about 13. He told me that I moved house when I was 14 from where he “knew me” in Hull to Nottinghamshire.
F could describe some of the clothes I wore around that time which were quite distinctive and I know could not have been guessed (too specific). He described my best friend at the time and even knew her name.
He knew which school I had gone to, that I had a paper round and that my best friend from Nottinghamshire had gone back with me to Hull to the fair one weekend (this is where he described her and my clothes that weekend).
F could tell me various other things too. I must say I was very spooked by the whole thing. My university friends didn’t know most of those things and there is no sensible reason he would too.
I can honestly say to my knowledge I had never seen F before. He even told me his mum liked me and thought we would make a good couple, how crazy is that! I didn’t go to the police, there seemed to be nothing to tell them.
I did spend the next few years of my studies constantly seeing F pop up in places I was and watching me. He sometimes said hello and was never threatening. This didn’t stop it from being strange and me feeling very a bit spooked by the whole thing.
In 2004 I moved away from the area, I saw him a few days before I moved for the last time. He was with a lady who I assumed was his girlfriend as they were holding hands.
She was my double, she looked like me, dressed like me and I felt like I was looking in the mirror! I have never seen him since to my knowledge! I do wonder why he seemed to have spent years following me and whether he knows where I am now!
Thinking about yourself
Hopefully, this has just given a little reminder you are not alone, the courage to ask for help or maybe just something to talk about!
If you do talk about it though please do remember to share with any children/teenagers you feel are old enough to understand to help keep them safe.
We are quick to talk to them about stranger danger but not always how situations can be worrying but seem not dangerous or that crimes can be committed by people we know (I have been followed by an ex previously too, luckily a police warning got rid of him!).
There are laws in the UK to stop stalking and harassment. If you are in any doubt whether the police can help give them a call on their non-emergency number 101. If you are worried about a situation occurring at that moment and feel your life may be in danger of course call 999. Be sure to tell them how you feel and if you are scared then you must tell them this.
Other places you may get some help or support are:
National Stalking Helpline 08088020300
Women’s Aid – 08082000247
There are also more websites and helplines here.