A new national helpline for the two million people stalked in the UK each year prepares to launch later today
It’s one of the country’s most under-reported crimes because victims fear they won’t be taken seriously, but the UK’s first helpline for people being stalked hopes to change all that.
The confidential phone service, being funded by the Home Office and private donations, will allow operators to pass important information on to the police – against the person’s wishes if necessary – if they believe the stalker is dangerous.
The hotline has received the support of Tricia Bernal, whose daughter Clare, 22, was shot dead in London Harvey Nichols store by her ex boyfriend in 2005.
Speaking about the importance of this new helpline, Tricia says: ‘Clare would never have gone to a domestic violence helpline. She would never have seen herself as a victim of domestic abuse.
‘It has to be specific to stalking so that anyone who feels at risk – men, women, teenagers – they know exactly what it is, stalking.
‘Then they can be signposted and advised on how to deal with it, how to recognise the danger signs.’
During each phone call, the victim will be talked through a 12-step risk assessment used by the police to determine how dangerous the stalker is.
Following a 2005 study by the University of Leicestershire, it has been revealed that 18% of stalking victims have been sexually assaulted, 19% had their homes broken into, and 12% said their children had been threatened with violence.
Alexis Bowater, chief executive of the Network for Surviving Stalking, says it is important for people who think they are being stalked to have someone to turn to.
‘Of course the first point of contact if you are being stalked or think you’re being stalked should be the police. But some people feel they can’t talk to the police about it and this is where the helpline will come in.’
If you have been a victim of stalking, or know someone who has, Marie Claire would like to hear from you by either posting your comment below, or sending a confidential email to firstname.lastname@example.org.