As Valentine’s Day approaches and thoughts turn to love and romance, many of us may be looking forward to cuddling up with our loved one on Friday night, a glass of wine in hand, ready to watch a romantic movie.
We’ve all seen the Hollywood story before – boy sees girl; is instantly infatuated with her and can’t get her out of his head. Boy approaches girl but is turned down and told to go away, but boy won’t take no for an answer and pursues girl – ‘accidentally’ turning up at her work, ‘bumping into her’ at parties or working out at the gym when she just ‘happens’ to be there too. Eventually, due to his persistence, girl gives in and agrees to go on a date, where she falls madly in love with him and they all live happily ever after.
But in the real world – would that be the case? Would it feel so innocent and romantic to the girl or would she feel like she was being stalked?
If you look at the story from a different angle, it’s starting to look quite sinister. She initially said no and turned his approach down, but he persisted and pursued. He started turning up uninvited at her place of work and at social occasions. He kept pursuing and trying to get her attention.
In reality, he is displaying the FOUR signs of stalking behaviour – fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated behaviour. In reality, the girl is scared as he won’t leave her alone and she’s constantly in fear of where he will pop up next.
Stalking causes untold damage to a victim’s physical and mental health. Victims has described being stalked as if they have been mentally raped. Anyone can become a victim of stalking.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising to hear that a recent study found eight in ten victims of stalking experience symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)*. Victims also reported feelings of phobia, anxiety, depression and being unable to sleep, eat or work. Some reported that they had experienced panic attacks, self-harm or been driven to feeling suicidal, due to the behaviour of their stalker.
However, other research has shown that, on average, a victim suffers about 100 incidents before they contact police, for fear of not being taken seriously or being told they are overreacting.**
Detective Superintendent Allan Harder of North Yorkshire Police said:
“Pursuing someone and continually contacting them when they have turned you down is not romantic. If your obsessive behaviour is causing a person to feel fear and distress, it’s stalking and it’s a crime.
“Stalking victims have told us of their experiences and how stalking invades every area of their life. They feel powerless and are reluctant to leave their home to go to work, visit friends or family, leaving them feeling scared, isolated, anxious and depressed.
“If you are a victim of stalking, please do not leave it until the 100th incident to come forward and report it to police. Contact us on 101 and report your concerns. If you do not want to speak to the police, there is help and support available from the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.
“And if you are ‘pursuing’ someone this Valentine’s Day, please take a minute and stop and think about your behaviour. If you think they are playing hard to get because they said ‘no thanks’ to a date, if you’ve been blocked by them on social media, or had no response to the numerous letters, cards and gifts you have sent – and you don’t take no for an answer and continue to contact them, you may be committing a crime.”