‘Mute, don’t block your stalker’
Local stalking advocacy service, Veritas Justice, have seen a 26% increase in referrals over the last couple of months with 75% of their clients reporting a change in their perpetrator’s behaviour, moving online, to cyberstalking.
Stalkers now have 24 hours in the day uninterrupted to bombard their victims and are finding new and innovative ways to reach out to them digitally. As a result, many victims are receiving over 100 social media messages, texts, WhatsApps, emails etc. every day.
Most people’s reaction to this display of fixated obsession would be to block their stalker’s number or delete them on social media. This may seem like the easiest options, but in fact the police are saying that this is exactly what you shouldn’t do and here are the reasons why:
- Communications can be used as evidence in a police investigation and subsequent charge
- Blocking a perpetrator may increase the risk of them trying to seek the victim out in person
- Blocking may also elevate the perpetrator's level of anger
- Victims often feel better prepared knowing what perpetrators are doing and where they are
Mrs Bourne comments: “There’s nearly always a digital element to stalking cases normally, but with the strict social distancing measures currently in place we are seeing a worrying increase in this behaviour locally and nationally.
Now, during the ‘lockdown’, we need to keep in touch with family and friends more than ever and we use technology to do this. So, it’s not easy for a stalking victim to just turn off their phone or power down their laptop.
“Many aren’t aware of the simple methods they can use to keep themselves safer online. For example, using the ‘mute’ button, which doesn’t block a perpetrator, still allowing you to gather evidence that could be used in a case against them.
“Also, by blocking a stalker you are making it known to them that they can no longer reach out to you digitally. This is when their behaviour can escalate and lead to a more sinister outcome.
“It is so important to ensure that victims know that the police and specialist support are still there for them when they need them. We are encouraging victims to still report to the police and giving them advice that could help safeguard them.”
Mrs Bourne has funded Veritas Justice £40,000 to launch a new online chat tool on their website this week to ensure that help and support is easily accessible to victims at this time. This can be found at: https://veritas-justice.co.uk/
Advice has also been shared on how to mute and save digital evidence here: https://safespacesussex.org.uk/about-different-types-of-crime/cyber-crime/cyberstalking/
Think FOUR. Is the behaviour;
F – fixated
O – obsessive
U – unwanted
R - repeated
Always report to the police, stalking is a crime and you will be taken seriously. Getting help early will assist in protecting you. This can be done at www.sussex.police.uk, by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency.