Stalking and harassment
Stalking or harassment is extremely unpleasant and malicious behaviour that causes upset and distress – and it’s something no one should put up with.
Here, you'll find information about stalking and harassment and how to report them.
Remember, we're always here to advise you and if you feel you're being stalked or harassed, report it.
What is stalking?
Stalking is when someone shows persistent and unwanted attention towards you or makes contact with you in ways that make you feel distressed or restricts your freedom. When individual incidents are put together they can reveal a pattern of obsessive behaviour.
The incidents can cause a lot of distress, often because they are carried out by someone who knows about your movements, habits, likes and dislikes and your friends and family.
Stalking behaviour might appear innocent at first, but if it keeps happening, it could mean something more sinister.
Unwanted contact can include phone calls, letters, emails, text messages, and messages on social networking sites, graffiti or sending or leaving gifts.
Some examples of stalking:
- Waiting for you.
- Spying on you.
- Approaching you.
- Going to your home.
A stalker may also order or cancel your goods or services, make complaints to organisations about you, damage your property or try to talk to you online (cyber stalking).
What is harassment?
Harassment is when someone you know, or a stranger, behaves in a way that makes you feel threatened, vulnerable or upset.
For it to be considered as harassment the same person, or group of people, has to have behaved this way towards you more than twice and the two incidents must be related.
Some examples of harassment:
- Abuse or threats, these can be in person, via phone or letter, or online.
- Unwanted visits or contact (eg phone calls, emails, letters, texts).
- Damaging your property.
- Standing outside of, or driving past, your home or workplace.
Both stalking and harassment are offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
What you should do if you're being stalked or harassed
- If you’re being stalked or harassed and you feel you're in danger, call 999 immediately.
- For non-urgent issues, report online or call 101. We’ll arrange a convenient time to meet you and take relevant details so we can give you more specific safety advice. It’s important that you tell the officer everything that’s happened, even if you think it may sound trivial.
- You can also call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.
If you think you're being harassed or stalked because of your disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation, you can report it as a hate incident or crime.
You should also
- Speak to your friends and family about what’s happening.
- Keep a diary of incidents, including what happened and how it made you feel.
- Trust your instincts.
- Keep all of the messages and items given to you (eg gifts) as evidence.
Find other steps you can take at Protection Against Stalking.
If you know or find out who's stalking or harassing you
Follow this advice from Protection Against Stalking:
- Do not confront your stalker or even engage them in conversation.
- Do not, under any circumstances, agree to a meeting to talk about how you feel about them constantly bothering you.
- Do not respond in any way to calls, letters, or conversations. If you ignore the phone nine times and pick it up on the tenth, you will send the message that persistence pays. Once they have your attention, they will be encouraged to carry on.
- Seek advice from the police, a solicitor or the National Stalking Helpline about what you should do.
Taking a civil action against a stalker or harasser
A stalker or harasser can be prosecuted in the criminal courts, but you can also take action against them in the civil courts.
You need to make your claim within six years of when the harassment happened and you can take civil court action even if the person harassing you hasn't been found guilty of a criminal offence.
Find out more from Citizens Advice.
Other useful websites
A local organisation that gives practical support, advocacy and advice to victims of stalking and to professionals.
Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Provides practical personal-safety advice.
Supports high-risk victims of stalking with their specialist independent stalking advocacy caseworkers and makes sure local protection is available for victims.