Stalking often co-occurs with intimate partner violence and can be an indicator of other forms of abuse. Many abusers use stalking to intimidate and control their victims.
Stalking does not just occur when a woman leaves the relationship. Women can be stalked while still in the relationship with a controlling partner, which can make separation very difficult.
Clare* had been in a relationship with her boyfriend for a few months. She had recently been promoted in her workplace and loved her job. At first, she welcomed the attention from her boyfriend; the phone calls and texts to her mobile to see how her day was going, when he offered to collect her from work her work. Her colleagues would say things like “how lucky you are to have a supportive boyfriend”.
But then he started to get angry when she didn’t answer his calls. When she didn’t reply he would text her multiple times each hour wanting to know where she was and what she was doing. She had noticed that he was driving past her workplace, and she was starting to feel anxious and fearful of his unpredictable behaviour. Things then started to escalate to the point where he would phone and email her colleagues at work to find out what Clare was doing and where she was. His behaviour was starting to impact on her physical and mental health, leading to her taking time off and making excuses to not to go into work.
With the support of her employer Clare disclosed her abuse and was signposted to Women’s Aid. Her workplace had a Domestic Violence Workplace Policy which supported her with special leave to attend appointments and other supported measures to ensure her safety within her work environment. Clare met with her Outreach Worker at Women’s Aid who provided her with emotional and practical support to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and stalking. A safety plan was created tailored to her needs and risks at home and at work; she was advised to keep a diary and report incidents to the police. She was also referred to a solicitor to explore her legal options and choices.
Clare is now safely out of the relationship and has started counselling to help her with the physical and emotional impact. Support from her Crime Prevention Officer has enhanced her safety at home which has helped Clare feel more secure. She has also returned to work – knowing that she had the support from her employer and Women’s Aid allowed Clare to take the first step to reach out for help and talk about her experiences.
Stalking behaviour is often persistent and unpredictable and can take place over a long period of time, causing repeated trauma. Stalking can affect a person’s physical and emotional health, their relationship with their family and friends, financial stability and their job. A healthy relationship needs mutual trust, respect and boundaries; stalking does not include any of these things.
We understand that you might feel alone or isolated if you are experiencing stalking behaviour from a current or ex-partner, but we can help. We are here to listen and provide the help and support you need.
*Name changed to maintain anonymity
Although stalking specifically is not yet a crime in Northern Ireland, harassment is. You don’t have to go through this alone – we can offer free and confidential support. Please reach out to us:
Phone: 028 9066 6049
Web Chat: www.belfastwomensaid.org.uk (Mon – Fri 9am to 5pm and til 8pm on Thursdays)