Lily Allen is brave for speaking out. She feels strongly about raising the awareness of stalking and highlighting how lonely, isolating and terrifying stalking is when it happens to you. She has been battling the stalker and the system for seven years. Her case is not exceptional. It is sadly the norm and all too familiar and victim blaming and shaming is common place. I, for one , am thankful to Lily for her honesty, strength and courage, speaking out on behalf of many who cannot or no longer have a voice across National Stalking Awareness Week #NSAW16.
Paladin, the National Stalking Advocacy Service published a report highlighting the figure that only 1% of stalkers are prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions for the CPS subsequently invited us to attend a roundtable discussion to present our recommendations, most of which were adopted, including us offering training to CPS lawyers and police. However, take up has been patchy and it is estimated that less than 1% of stalking cases are even recorded as a crime. Alarmingly these dangerous and risky situations are being allowed to escalate and victims are not receiving the life-saving advice they require.
It is the 'drip drip drip' of direct and indirect stalking behaviours over time that makes it so insidious and damaging - psychologically and physically. Many victims say stalking is like mental rape. I call it murder in slow motion. It's a war of attrition yet many fail to see or understand it. Victims pay with their lives. It's a war on many fronts - to retain your sanity and stay safe whilst simultaneously fighting the system and those in it who blame and judge you, creating secondary trauma as well as placing you further at risk by their ignorance, inertia or dangerous action.
Anne-Marie Birch reported nine times to Kent police before she was stalked and murdered. The stalking was not identified and no risk assessment was completed despite a threat to kill being made. We know through research that one in two of domestic stalkers, if they make a threat will act on it.
Hollie Gazzard was stalked and murdered in her hairdressing salon. She reported to police and yet again the stalking and history of stalking and abuse towards other women was not identified.
Helen Pearson reported to police on more than 125 occasions over five years. The stalking was not identified and it escalated when the stalker left a dead cat on her doorstep and two weeks later stabbed her multiple times. She survived due to a member of the public intervening but lives with the physical and psychological scars.
All these cases were subject to Independent Police Complaints Commission investigations, sat along side many others over the years including Maria Stubbings, Christine and Shania Chambers, Jeanette Goodwin, Arsema Dawit, Clare Wood, Alison Morrison and Rachael Slack. And yet the lessons are still not being learned and victims continue to be placed at risk.
We have an opportunity to intervene and prevent serious harm and murder in stalking cases. This is the vital life-saving work that Paladin undertake - it is the only national stalking advocacy service in the world. Our team of trauma informed specialist case workers are lifelines to the one in five women and one in ten men who experience stalking - and we know this is tip of the iceberg and will only increase with the advent of new technologies.
Our team of Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers are on hand to answer calls, advise, support, advocate and co-ordinate the response to keep victims safe. But there is no ring fenced funding for stalking - despite the fact these are the most dangerous cases where women and children are much more likely to be murdered.
We have a risk assessment tool called the DASH (www.dashriskchecklist.co.uk ) for domestic abuse and stalking cases - and yet the questions about stalking are rarely asked by police and other agencies. Training is sketchy or non-existent in many agencies.
If stalking is not a priority in your local policing plan or counted - police will continue to fail to record it or be trained to understand it. Currently, only nine Police and Crime Commissioners have commissioned any services for victims of stalking. We need your help to change this.
Stalkers steal lives and they take lives and with the elections upon us we owe it to the victims to ask Police and Crime Commissioners what they are doing about stalking in order to prevent these murders in slow motion.
This is why we launched our joint campaign with Lily Allen and the Women's Equality Party called 'Join the Dots'. We are calling for tougher measures to reduce the risk to victims of stalking including funding for specialist services like Paladin, training for professionals and a register for serial stalkers.
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