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Understand stalking better
Stalking is often misunderstood. Stalking behaviours taken in isolation can appear innocuous but when taken together demonstrate a course of conduct intended to terrify and intimidate. Understanding stalking better is essential to challenging the stalker's behaviours and supporting victims.
Men can stalk women but can also stalk other men. Women can stalk men, but also stalk other women. A stalker can be a partner or ex-partner, a friend, a work colleague, an acquaintance or a stranger. Stalking behaviour isn’t restricted to any one kind of person, race, group, sex, gender or sexual orientation, although men are more likely to stalk than women. Some stalkers keep their identity hidden, some let their victims know who they are.
Stalking is a serious criminal offence under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act (Scotland) 2010. There is a wide range of behaviours that can be classed as stalking under the Act.
The legislation states that:
“An offence occurs when a person engages in a course of conduct on at least two separate occasions, which causes another person to feel fear or alarm, where the accused person intended, or knew or ought to have known, that their conduct would cause fear and alarm.”
In other words, if someone targets another person in a way that is repeated and unwanted – regardless of whether their actions are threatening or not – but where the intention or outcome is to cause distress then they could be guilty of stalking.
In the absence of explicit threats, individual incidents on their own, may appear harmless. But police and courts will assess them together and may conclude they form a ‘course of conduct’ that intended to cause, or resulted in, fear and alarm
Recognising the Behaviours
Stalking behaviours can often be identified by certain characteristics. A key question to ask is, are the actions of the person:
Common stalking behaviours
Stalkers seek to intimidate their targets through one or more of the following:
Sending unwanted letters or cards
Sending unwanted emails or text messages or posts on social media sites
Making unwanted phone calls
Delivering unwanted gifts to a workplace or home
Waiting outside someone’s home or workplace
Following someone or spying on them
Sharing intimate pictures of them without their consent, for example by text, on a website, or on a social media site
Posting information publicly about someone, making public accusations or contacting someone’s employer
However, stalking is highly individual and certain actions may appear innocuous to others, but hold significance to both the stalker and the person they are targeting.
Some stalkers will recruit other people to target their victim. Sometimes these third parties don’t understand the potential consequences, sometimes they’re manipulated into fulfilling the stalker’s wishes, sometimes they’re willing participants.
Stalking can be offline, online or a mixture of both. Online stalking, also known as cyber-stalking (or technology-assisted stalking), can include:
Contacting someone through social media and messaging apps
Tracking social media accounts
Hacking into a computer, including installing tracking apps or devices
Taking control of someone’s social media profiles
Accessing a phone to view personal information
Making unwanted calls, sending unwanted texts or messages
Sharing or threatening to share photos, videos or personal information
Impersonating an online identity and attacking others
Using someone’s image online
Creating a website to attack someone
Attacking someone’s relatives online.
Care should always be taken in the digital world. Reduced inhibitions online have been linked to offending behaviour. People form relationships more quickly, causing them to disclose more information than they normally would, which can pose a risk if someone is being untruthful about themselves and their intentions.
How do I know what I am experiencing is stalking?
Ask yourself the following questions:
Am I being contacted by or in some way bothered by this person?
Are these contacts or behaviours unwanted?
Have I been threatened with or experienced any violence?
Are the experiences I am having making me feel frightened, anxious or distressed?
If you have answered yes to 3 or more of these questions then it is likely that you are experiencing stalking behaviours and we would strongly advise you to contact us for support. You can email, phone (0800 820 2427) or fill out the contact form. If you are being threatened or believe you are in immediate danger you should contact the Police immediately.