This National Stalking Awareness Week we are focusing on raising awareness of the signs of stalking using the FOUR acronym, drawing attention to the rise in cyber stalking – especially during the pandemic, and sharing updates on our collaborative proactive work on Stalking Protection Orders and the Stalking Perpetrator Programme with partners Veritas Justice, Seetec Justice and the Sussex Police Crime Commissioner.

Spotting the signs

Stalking is

“A pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is unwanted, repeated, persistent or intrusive and causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress.”

A way to spot the signs easily is to think of the acronym FOUR:

If it’s

  • Fixated
  • Obsessive
  • Unwanted
  • Repeated

It’s stalking

This behaviour is malicious and unpleasant and something that no one should have to put up with.

If you are experiencing stalking, please do not suffer in silence – always report it.

We have dedicated staff and officers who have undergone specialist training to understand the nature of this debilitating crime, who will quickly risk assess your situation and put steps in place to protect you.

Even if there’s no physical violence or threat, it doesn’t mean that it’s not serious. Getting help early on will assist in protecting you, before it escalates.

For practical advice on how to stay safe online and in person, read our tips to prevent stalking and harassment, where you will also find contact details for national support services.

We know that stalking and harassment can cause long-lasting, psychological harm on victims and their families, and due to the repetitive nature of this crime, coping and recovering from stalking can be difficult. Victims often feel isolated, unable to turn to friends and family who lack understanding of the stalking behaviour and are often quick to dismiss this seemingly ‘harmless’ behaviour.

If you’re experiencing stalking, you are not alone. Local stalking advocacy service Veritas Justice offer free and confidential supportive advice.

Further local support services can be found at Safe Space Sussex.  

Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

Nationally and locally, there has been an increase in calls to stalking support services during the pandemic, with many perpetrators ramping up the frequency and intensity of stalking online. This change in stalking patterns since the pandemic hit, is thought to be down to perpetrators having more time on their hands in lockdown, being on furlough or having lost their job.

Your safety online is important - read the Veritas Cyber Safety Advice for steps you can take to protect yourself.

Stalking Protection Orders

Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) came into effect in January last year. We were the first force the country to obtain a court order that day, and we have now secured 30 to date with a further 5 cases awaiting court dates.

These Orders, which we seek from Magistrates, have been an important development in helping us to better protect stalking victims or anyone connected with them.

  • Stalkers can be prohibited from contacting, by any means, directly or indirectly, the named person on the Order. This includes but is not limited to contact in person, calls, letters, emails, messages and social media.
  • They can be prohibited from publishing any material, or making reference to any material already published, which references, refers or relates to the victim either directly or indirectly.
  • They can also be prohibited from entering into an agreed exclusion zone, be that an area within the town or county. This would include where the victim works, usual routes taken for example, walking children to school.

There are other conditions that can be considered by the courts, depending on the nature of the stalking behaviour. These can include monitoring software, giving us the ability to check devices, to help make us aware of emerging new relationships that present risk.

Our officers will consider applying for a Stalking Protection Order with every report of stalking, where applicable.

Sussex Perpetrator Intervention Programme for Stalking

Last month, a partnership project between Sussex Police, Interventions Alliance and Veritas Justice, was set up to identify and target specific stalkers for psychological therapy that will enable them to address and modify their own behaviour. 

Through the funding from the Home Office, secured by the Sussex Police Crime Commissioner, we hope that we can begin change behaviours of those individuals who have stalked their victims.  Helping address the root causes of obsessive, compulsive and unwanted behaviour is vital in driving down repeat victimisation and protecting future victims. 

The programme will be considered as a ‘positive requirement’ for those subject to the order. Thirty spaces have been made available for those with a Stalking Protection Order allowing for receipt of specialist intervention to address and stop their fixated behaviours, as part of a ground-breaking pilot scheme in Sussex.

The national Stalking Awareness Week campaign

The national Stalking Awareness Week campaign is run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and National Stalking Consortium, who are focusing on Unmasking Stalking: A Changing Landscape. They are sharing information about the changes in perpetrator behaviour since the outbreak of the Covid-19, notably a rise in cyber elements. Follow this campaign by using the hashtags #NSAW2021 and #UnmaskingStalking.