See Stalking Clearly. That’s the theme for this year’s Stalking Awareness Week and Cleveland Police is joining UK forces and victim organisations to ensure victims remain visible to everyone supporting them during the COVID-19 period.
Stalking can take the form of a pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive and causes fear of violence or makes the victim feel alarm or distress.
Cyber stalking is another form where stalkers use a range of methods. These can by physical – for example following, intimidating and going to places where the victim is.
Or, they can use digitally enabled methods, including using spy technology on computers or phones, messaging via email or other platforms like Whatsapp, or using social media sites to contact and intimidate victims.
With a potential rise in on-line incidents, and perpetrators taking advantage of lockdown to alter their tactics, Cleveland Police is urging victims not to ignore early warning signs and to seek help before risk escalates.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Jayne Downes said: “We are realistic and acknowledge that sadly stalking will likely persist despite COVID-19 and lockdown.
“I want to reassure anyone who believes they are a victim of stalking or harassment that we take this issue extremely seriously and we will do all we can to deal with perpetrators and protect victims.
“Unfortunately even in lockdown, perpetrators’ behaviour is unlikely to be affected by the restrictions; they may just change their behaviour during this time, meaning the risk to victims remains the same - or even greater.
“Some may move their behaviour online which could have serious effects on victims and their mental health.
“And for those who physically stalk or harass victims, they may take advantage of knowing their victim’s whereabouts during limited periods of leaving the house or they may use children as an excuse for greater interaction or contact.
“I’d urge anyone affected by stalking or harassment to contact Cleveland Police via the 101 number. Always use 999 in an emergency.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “Being a victim of stalking or harassment is a harrowing and life-changing experience.
“We must recognise that the unique circumstances created by the Covid-19 virus may make people living through the nightmare of stalking feel even more vulnerable.
“My message to those suffering stalking or harassment is that your reports and concerns will be taken seriously – please reach out for support.”