Victim’s Voices Survey

‘Victim’s Voices’ – A survey by Network for Surviving Stalking (NSS), today reveals the significant impact that stalking has on the health and wellbeing of victims. The survey, funded by ‘Awards For All’ asked people experiencing stalking in various scenarios, to share their experience of the crime. It highlights the urgent need for specialist services which can address victims’ multiple needs.

The 2017 Network for Surviving Stalking ‘Victim’s Voice’ survey found that:

  • 95% of respondents said stalking had a negative effect on their mental health and wellbeing, with issues including panic attacks, difficulty sleeping and a loss of confidence.
  • 88% of respondents experienced physical problems, such as headaches, stomach problems and worsened existing conditions.
  • Nearly 80% of respondents reported that stalking had an effect on their professional life or studies, and 32% of respondents lost wages due to sick leave, leaving jobs or changing career.
  • Over 70% of respondents did not feel safer after they had reported their stalking to the police, and many victims reported that police officers did not take their experience seriously.
  • Just 50% of respondents who were stalked by a colleague, and 61% of respondents who were stalked by an ex-partner, said that the GP or health professional they spoke to recognised the impact that stalking had on their health and wellbeing.

 

The survey highlights the prevalence of health problems for stalking victims, as well as the multiple gaps in service provision and understanding which perpetuate these issues.  In response to the survey, the National Stalking Consortium has demanded an end to the postcode lottery which stalking victims face. Currently, there are only a handful of areas in England and Wales where victims have access to local specialist services, and these are under significant strain.

The Consortium believes that integrated community responses led by stalking specialists should be the norm across England and Wales, so that victims in every police force area receive the joined-up responses they need.

Ian Johnston, Chair of the National Stalking Consortium, of which Network for Surviving Stalking is a member, said in response to the findings:

“These findings reiterate what we already know: stalking has serious health implications for victims. In fact, with one in five women and one in ten men estimated to be stalked over their lifetime, it is no exaggeration to say that stalking is a significant public health issue.

“It is incredibly worrying that such a large proportion of victims experience stalking for more than one year. Studies have shown that early intervention in cases of stalking is key to stopping the crime continuing and protecting victims. However, as this survey shows, victims often suffer for prolonged periods of time due to fear, or a lack of understanding from the professionals they report to. This greatly increases the risk of harm to them, both in terms of physical violence from their stalker and stalking related health problems. To reduce these risks, there is an urgent need for expert stalking support services across the UK.

“The long-term impact of ongoing trauma and unease cannot be underestimated. The psychological stress that stalking causes is substantial, and the crime can lead to a number of mental health problems, such as hypersensitivity, hypervigilance and PTSD. It can also lead to physical health problems, such as headaches, digestive disorders and fatigue.

“95% of victims who responded to this survey said the crime had had a negative effect on their health and wellbeing. This huge percentage cannot be ignored. Urgent investment is needed in specialist services so that victims of stalking can access the protection, support and care they need- both at the point of reporting the crime, and afterwards.

“Victims need to be treated holistically, and not just in a criminal justice setting. We must therefore ensure that specialist services are available to them wherever they are in the country. Advocates, who can recognise stalking and the health and legal complications that accompany it, are a crucial resource in creating integrated community responses to stalking which can provide consistent responses for victims. It is vital that this crime is taken seriously and that victims are given appropriate support in health as well as the criminal justice system.”

Lucy Kay, stalking advocate at Aurora New Dawn in Hampshire, said:

“Working as a stalking advocate at a local level means I’m able to forge close working relationships with colleagues across public protection and safeguarding agencies. As a specialist, I am able to advise and assist other professionals so they can build knowledge and reassure those experiencing stalking that they are being taken seriously.

“Stalking is a unique, isolating and hugely distressing crime. I do not think the support I can offer would be successful without the local multi-agency team that works with me. As with other professionals working with victim-survivors of interpersonal crimes, my aim is to ensure that stalking victims feel they are not facing the situation alone.”

A stalking victim, who chose to stay anonymous, said:

“Being stalked has taken over my life. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the situation I have found myself in. At best a day is difficult, filled with fear and tiredness due to the never-ending nightmares and constant headaches that stalking has caused me. Every part of my life has been impacted: my marriage, my employment, and my social life to name just a few parts. At low points, I thought my only release would be to end my life.

“It is often difficult to talk about the stalking I have experienced, but I am fortunate to have the service of a stalking advocate who listens, understands and has the knowledge to help and support me. This support has allowed me to seek a route of action that will enable me to return to full time work and live again, and that is indescribably valuable.

“Sadly, I am all too aware that we are in a current climate where funds are limited and services are being cut. However, in my four years of being stalked, I have had numerous police interventions, booked numerous medical appointments, attended occupational health and accessed mental health services. Therefore, I believe the service a stalking advocate can offer a person who is being stalked can ease the pressure on other public services and, ultimately, save money.”

Read the full ‘Victim’s Voices’ survey here: NSS_Survey_Report_Final-2

Read the full National Consortium media release here: Press Release- Network for Surviving Stalking Victim’s Voice 2017 FINAL