Stalking or harassment is extremely unpleasant and malicious behaviour that causes upset and distress – and it’s something no one should put up with. Follow this advice to minimise the chances of becoming a target and prevent people accessing your information and finding out about you and your routine. Remember, we're always here to advise, and if you feel you're being harassed, report it.
Eighty per cent of victims who contact the National Stalking Helpline are female and the majority of their stalkers are male, according to Out of Sight Out of Mind, a report by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Stalkers can be any age – the helpline has dealt with cases where the stalker was under 18 and others where the stalker was over 70.
Victims can be stalked for years with the average case lasting 15 months. But many cases last longer – 30 per cent of people who contact the helpline have experienced stalking for over two years and 13 per cent have been stalked for over five years.
The unfortunate truth is that most victims know their stalker: the largest group of stalkers (45 per cent of all cases) is ex-partners. But whether you know the person or not, there are a number of measures you can take to disempower stalkers and help protect yourself from being targeted and tracked.
In this age of digital communication and social media, your safety online is paramount. Here are some useful pieces of advice designed to help you protect yourself:
- restrict your social media posts to your friends and not public
- check privacy settings on social networking sites and limit the amount of information you supply
- Google yourself frequently to check your digital footprint
- don’t use the same password for everything
- be aware of geolocation and tagging on social networking sites and ensure that it’s disabled on your smartphone
- keep your antivirus software up to date
- report stalking to website administrators
- if you believe that your smartphone or computer has been hacked or compromised, stop using it immediately and take it to your mobile phone provider or computer repair experts for advice
Answering the phone
- Don’t answer the phone with your address or phone number.
- If the caller is not known to you, avoid answering questions about yourself, no matter how genuine they sound.
- If you have an answering machine, it’s advisable not to include your name or number in the outgoing message.
- The message should never tell people that you are out or away; try to give the impression that you are only temporarily unable to answer: eg 'Sorry, I can’t get to the phone right now, so please leave your name and number and I’ll get right back to you.'
- If you’re listed in any directories, you might want to give your initials and surname rather than your full name.
- Never show anger or fear over the phone: just remain calm, confident and if necessary, assertive.