So many years ago many of you will know I was stalked to the point it affected my mental health and left me in fear of violence being perpetrated against me. Now I recently had someone use the excuse “I didn’t want to be accused of stalking you” as a reason not to communicate, and then later actually partake in stalker like behaviour (jury is out if they will actually move to stalk me.) So I thought I’d write this post about what stalking actually is and isn’t.
First the legal definition:
Stalking is a crime. It is an offence under the
Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007.
Stalking is defined under this law and includes:
the following of a person about or the watching or frequenting of the vicinity of, or an approach to a person’s place of residence, business or work or any place that a person frequents for the purposes of any social or leisure activity’.
Stalking involves a persistent course of conduct or actions by a person which are intended to maintain contact with or exercise power and control over another person. These actions cause distress, loss of control, fear or harassment to another person and occur more than once.
Stalking can involve threats or sexual innuendo and the stalker generally tries to intimidate or induce fear in the person they are stalking. The person being stalked may only realise they are being stalked once they identify a pattern of strange or suspicious incidents occurring, such as:
messages left on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter etc.
notes left on the their car
strange or unwanted gifts left at their home
an awareness that they are being followed
being continually stared at or gestured to by another person.
The person being stalked can often develop a sense of loss of control over their lives and can be forced into changing their routine and behaviours.
What this means, and cyberstalking.
Basically, in very simple terms, if someone is engaging in following someone either in real life or ‘online’ they are likely to be stalking them… However, doesn’t that mean all our friends are ‘stalkers’ … no obviously it does not, there is the prerequisite to stalking, the stalker must be doing the following without permission. Friends have inferred consent and therefore the any following is not stalking. Similarly if someone follows your public posts on social media or a blog (such as this one) it is not stalking.
What is stalking though is if the person(s) following the posts have been told to stop their actions (very difficult to prove) or if they circumvent access controls to ‘follow‘ posts. This means that if you explicitly block someone on social media, and the person uses a second, unknown to you, account they are guilty of stalking. Similarly if they get a friend, relative or partner to view your posts and then relay the information to the person blocked this is stalking by proxy (legally ‘aiding and abetting an act of stalking‘.)
What stalking isn’t is the act of a person going to a place, social, home or other to communicate with another person, providing:
- They have not been told previously to stop (i.e. the ‘stalkee’ has told the ‘stalker’, I never want to see/speak/communicate with you again.)
- They don’t show up in any place where a reasonable person would consider it inappropriate. (e.g.turning up at a work place where they can reasonably visit a home and knock on the door.)
- They have a reasonable excuse to communicate (e.g. if there is a child involved and some illness or injury has occurred.)
- Emailing someone about an issue as a preference to seeking them out physically. (Note: emailing someone constantly can be stalking, this comes down to intent and frequency. Legal matters (attempts to resolve) are not stalking, but if you have a lawyer you should let them handle it as any direct contact can have legal implications. Matters about property or children (e.g. where custody is involved) etc are not usually stalking offences unless the ‘stalker’ has been explicitly told to cease contact… Using such an issue such as custody to include another matter such as comments on their personal lives, however are riding a very thin line than can turn either way, especially is the ‘issue’ is frivolous.)
Often issues of stalking come up where two people share the same area and make unwanted contact due to close proximity. This is often seen by the person that thinks they are being stalked as a stalking incident. It often is not… For example, if a couple splits and they both live in the same small town/village, it is quite reasonable to expect that they will be in the same physical location from time to time (e.g. a supermarket) What would be stalking though is if one party moves to another area and travels to the location of the other to visit services (again, e.g. a supermarket) where there are the same services local to them. Similarly if the person that feels they are being stalked changes services used/visited to avoid the other, and the other suddenly also changes to match their habits, this is very much stalking.
A recent issue of stalking…
A recent issue with me shows clear misconception of what constitutes and does not constitute stalking. I recently warned someone, via a third party, if the continue their actions, I would cut all social contact. They continued, I blocked their phone number, I ‘unfriended’ and blocked their social media accounts. They then did not contact me, as any good person wouldn’t, however there was an unresolved issue of property that had to be returned (in both directions.) I initiated email contact, which the resulting conversation was not pleasant to say the least, however it resulted in meeting twice where the second meeting was more level-headed and respectful on both parties. The last of the property (that I care about) was returned and I returned the remaining item that I was unable to locate previously.
The conversation that followed though brought up the comment about stalking. I had told the person that they could have contacted me if they had wished. They indicated they could not have as I had them blocked on all social media and messaging apps (phone SMS). I replied, they could could have emailed, could have knocked on the door of home, or failing wanting to travel the 25 minutes highway drive to my home they could have turned up at a couple of venues they know I frequent at a specific time and day of the week most weeks. They responded that they could not as this would constitute stalking. It would not… A single visit to communicate about the exchange of property is not stalking. In fact, based on their assertion the third-party had not given them the message (which I have since determined is actually a lie), turning up to have a reasonable conversation would not have been an issue as I had no issue with this person. If however, I had at that time or later told the person never to turn up again, any future acts would be actionable with the police.
What is interesting though is after that conversation and matters concluded, the person felt it was a good idea to email me with demands and additional personal comments. This email would not be considered stalking either (I have explicitly told the person until I indicate otherwise they can email me) however the content of said email contained information that would later be confirmed to be an act of stalking.
Their message indicated a ‘friend had forwarded‘ something to them from my social media that they were not happy with. Problem is they have at this point indicated they have a friend that is forwarding posts to them, which is ‘stalking by proxy‘. Further, after checking third-party information I have determined that they viewed the information via social media. As any shared post on social media is not viewable by anyone blocked by the original poster this indicates they have circumvented access controls by creating/using an account unknown to me with the intent of bypassing said controls.
This is both and act of stalking and a violation of the Telecommunications Act.
The stupid part of this is they could have easily turned up at that social place I mentioned earlier in this article to make their demands (which would have been denied as they were unreasonable, I have instead put said reasons in the same place as the original post they have indicated they have also read so they can also read the update) and providing they were respectful and non abusive they would not have been told never to show up again.
Finally, if you are victim of stalking…
Anyone can be a victim of stalking. People who engage in stalking behaviour do not necessarily need to be related to the victim.
If you are a victim of stalking, you need to understand that you are not responsible for the behaviour of the stalker and that you should not be blamed in any way. If you are a victim of stalking, you should report it to the police so that there can be an investigation.
If you have recently left an abusive relationship, you may be at risk of being stalked and you need to make sure you are aware of what to do if this occurs.
You may be a victim of stalking if someone is:
Repeatedly following or spying on you
Repeatedly calling your home and/or work
Repeatedly sending you unwanted or offensive emails, letters, text messages etc.
Leaving unwanted gifts or items for you
Vandalising or damaging your property
Threatening you or someone close to you
Repeated showing up for no legitimate reason at places you go to. For example, the gym, dinner with friends, shopping, movies etc
Stalking is a crime.
It needs to be reported to the police to prevent the offender from committing a more serious crime.
….as yet I have taken no action except to record communication in the event of the person escalating to threatening myself or others…