Stalking & Cyber Stalking

Stalking is one of the most frequently experienced types of abuse – and contrary to common belief, most stalkers are former partners of their victims. Over 50% of ex-partner stalking starts before the relationship ends

Stalking and harassment is one of the most common forms of domestic abuse and includes obsessive and repetitive behaviour that causes distress. This can include frequent telephone calls to your mobile phone, your home telephone or work telephone. It can include being followed when you are out and about in public places, or turning up to your place of work or the homes of family members or friends. Obsence calls, letters or direct emails can also constitute stalking and excessive text messages or emails through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are forms of stalking too. Given the advances in technology, it is now easier than ever for stalkers to obtain information on their victims, either by accessing details on the internet, by contacting friends and colleagues via social networking sites or by getting details from online public records.

Cyber-stalking

Cyber-stalking is a crime where someone who uses the internet, email or other forms of electronic communication devices to constantly threaten and harass another person. The similarities of cyber-stalking and physical stalking are similar in that most victims are women and most stalkers are men, the victim usually knows the stalker, and the stalker's motivation for these crimes are based on wanting to control the victim. Social networking sites are not secure and these can be used to obtain information about you directly or by a stalker gaining information from your friends via their photos, pages and posts. If you do use social networking sites, keep your password secure. Don't use obvious security questions that could could be used to change your password or gain entry to your account. Use different passwords for each account so they remain separate.

Think about the information that you and your friends provide via social networking sites and avoid posting any personal information or advance notice of locations or events where you will be. Only add trusted friends to your account and review your privacy settings on your account regularly.

Spyware - Spyware is software that can be used on your computer or your mobile phone to track your movements, listen to you conversations or access your email accounts. You will not necessarily know this software is on your computer or your phone. Normal anti-virus software won't prevent or work against the spyware. To check for spyware go to www.safer-networking.org and download and run their free software spybot's search and destroy' programme. Once your computer is clean, change all your passwords and security questions on all your accounts.

To remove spyware on your mobile phone turn off all of your geo-location services. Sync or back up your phone and do a full factory reset. Reinstall your information and apps but do not reinstall any apps that requires 'find your phone' or any other apps that you do not recognise. Also change passwords on your phone account and your pin number.

Things to consider

  • If you are experiencing frequent telephone calls consider changing your phone numbers. Ensure your home landline is ex-directory and use an answer machine to call screen. 
  • Don’t think stalking will stop if you ignore it. If you are a victim of stalking, inform the police, they your family and your friends and employer. They can assist and support you legally and emotionally.
  • Document everything that happens including telephone calls, letters, texts or emails, unwanted gifts, visits to your workplace or family and friends addresses and log any suspicious happenings, such as damage to property or personal belongings.
  • If you think you're being followed while in your car – do not drive home, go to the nearest police station.
  • When online use a filtering email program to block emails from a specific user; this goes the same for social networks. E.g. Facebook allows you to delete a person from your friends' list and secure your page so only friends can see your personal information. On Twitter, you can block a person from viewing your page and from contacting you further.
  • Don’t use apps that tell you where your friends are, or check you in. If you think you have any tracking app on your mobile phone go through your apps section and remove anything that you don’t recognise or seem suspicious.
  • Turn off any geo-location services in camera function and your mobile phone settings
  • If you are worried about the abuser posting information about you on the internet you can get free alerts advising you that new information has been posted. More information to set this up is available on ‘free google alerts’

For more information on any of the above, along with practical  tips and advice to keep you safe from cyber-stalking  visit www.womensaid.org.uk/onlinesafety     or www.ecrime-action.co.uk