When you think of stalking what comes to mind? Scrolling through your ex’s Facebook? Seeing if your date is actually real? Someone sending you unwanted gifts? Someone following you home from work?
All of these are seen as “stalking”, but the effects of each of them are very different. You can harmlessly look at people’s public information on social media and this will have no effect on them, aside from maybe the odd notification from an accidental-like on a picture from 2012. We call it “stalking” because you are, unbeknownst to them, checking their details, and scrolling through years of pictures, but the overuse of this term can normalise and reduce the very real distress that victims of stalking actually incur.
Stalking actually is a lot more serious than you might think. It is marked by the obsessive behaviours that cause a fear of violence in the victim: a very real fear that anything could happen. You could be stalked if you get unsolicited messages or unwanted gifts from someone or they turn up to at your house uninvited. The stalker could also blackmail you to contact them by threatening to share your private images across social media. A little bit more dangerous than a scroll through Facebook, right?
Stalking is a serious criminal offence and can have huge, long-lasting impacts on the victim. The victim can experience paranoia, sleep problems, a fear of going outside, to name a few, all as a result of being stalked. Victims of stalking often need long-term emotional support to overcome the distressing experience. So, it is important to remember that although the term “stalking” is now commonly used to describe harmless acts, it is extremely harmful for the person who experiences it in the most real of ways.
If you believe you are being stalked, or someone you know, do not hesitate to contact the police on 101 or the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.