Almost a quarter of women in Scotland say they have been stalked, survey finds

Almost a quarter of women have been a victim of stalking behaviour, according to research.

The survey also found that more than two-thirds (68%) of men and women who were victims of stalking said it had a moderate to huge impact on their mental health.

Victim support charity Action Against Stalking (AAS) spoke to 1,970 men and women in Scotland to understand the extent of the problem.

They found that 23% of women reported being targeted with fixated, obsessive, unwanted, repeated behaviour at some point in their lives, but only 24% of these victims reported the behaviour to police.

One in seven men (14%) reported being stalked, according to the research, which was released ahead of National Stalking Awareness Week on April 25-29.

AAS chief executive Ann Moulds said: “We had anecdotal evidence from our helpline that stalking is a far bigger problem than people realise, but these results provide hard evidence that this type of unwanted and criminal behaviour is happening on a massive scale.

“Regardless of gender, stalking is a devastating crime that can have a huge impact on the mental, physical and financial health of victims.

“It’s vital that the public, employers and institutions understand just how damaging stalking is, and how insidious perpetrators can be.

“Greater understanding will help make sure victims are believed, supported and directed to expert help like that offered by Action Against Stalking.

“The growth in social media and new technology has undoubtedly fuelled the problem in recent years, giving stalkers additional tools to pursue their unwanted behaviours.”

The survey found that 33% of respondents who reported stalking behaviour to the police said it failed to stop them being targeted.

Comments from victims ranged from “I now suffer anxiety around unfamiliar men” and “I haven’t socialised since 2008, I keep to myself” to “I don’t trust myself to make new friends” and “I really don’t have a life any more”.

The research, carried out last autumn, was made possible through funding from the Scottish Government.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown MSP said: “The Scottish Government recognises the hugely damaging impact that stalking has on its victims. In 2010, Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to recognise stalking as a crime in its own right in law.

“We support Action Against Stalking to deliver expert support to victims of stalking and appreciate its efforts to improve both the understanding of, and response to, stalking behaviours.”

Anyone who has been a victim of stalking can get confidential support from Action Against Stalking by calling 0800 820 2427 and a member of the team will be in touch.

Detective Chief Superintendent Sam Faulds, head of public protection for Police Scotland, said: “Stalking causes fear and alarm and can have a devastating and long-term impact on victims, their families and friends.

“Every stalking situation is unique, but stalkers usually demonstrate the same four behaviours: they are fixated, obsessed, their attention is unwanted and is repeated.

“Stalking is a crime. We are committed to working with partners like AAS to improve our response to stalking, including our online reporting form.

“If you think you are being stalked or are suffering harassment, or know someone who may be a victim, then please report it to Police Scotland. Every report will be investigated.

“You can do this at your local police station, by phoning 101, reporting online or calling 999 if it is an emergency.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Freepik.