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What is stalking?

Stalking is when someone keeps contacting you or following you, in a way that makes you feel that they’re watching you all the time or letting you know that they’re there.

It can include messaging you, texting, emailing, calling, commenting on your posts, following you or turning up in places they know you will be. The person stalking you might behave in threatening or abusive ways, or they might make compliments or say things that seem nice on the surface, or give you gifts.

But if you don’t want the person to contact you, and if you feel worried, frightened, alarmed or angry about it, it’s not OK.

You might worry that you’ve given them ‘mixed signals’ – perhaps if it seemed like they were being nice at the beginning you might have smiled or said something friendly back at some point. But that doesn’t mean you’ve invited their attention or that you want it. People often don’t know how to respond to stalking behaviour and can feel anxious, embarrassed or not want to make the person angry, so they can respond in all kinds of ways.

It could be anyone – someone you know, or someone you don’t know. We often think of stalkers as being older but it could be someone your own age. It can happen as part of controlling behaviour in a relationship, where one person makes the other one feel they don’t have any space or privacy, maybe messaging them all the time, reading their texts and emails, finding out where they’ve been or who they’ve seen, or even using an app to track their movements.

These kinds of behaviours can make you feel alarmed and you may find yourself looking out for that person all time. On the other hand other people may not understand what’s happening and think there’s nothing to worry about. Or they may say the person is just paying you attention because they like you. This can make you feel powerless, or like it’s ‘all in your head’ and there’s nothing really happening.

But your feelings are real, and if you feel something is wrong then it probably is. No one should keep contacting you or following you if you don’t want them to.

What does the law say?

It’s against the law for someone to stalk another person, in a way that is likely to make the other person feel afraid or alarmed. Stalking behaviour includes things like following the person, contacting them, watching them, leaving gifts for them, publishing comments about them (could be online), and interfering with their property. It counts as stalking if any of these things happen two or more times (it could be the same thing or different things.)

Find out more from the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.

What if it has happened to you?

If you are in immediate danger call 999. 

It’s important to try and tell someone else what you are experiencing. 

It can also be really useful to note down and keep a record of everything that has happened. This could include screenshots of phone calls, texts, or messages on social media platforms. You could take photos of things you have received. 

If you’re over 18 you could download the FollowIt app. It lets you keep a log of stalking incidents.

Where can you get help and support?

You could get in touch with the National Stalking Helpline. Their services run Monday – Friday 9.30am-4pm. On Wednesday’s the line opens at a later time of 1pm.

Find out where to get additional support.

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Visit the That’s Not OK campaign page for more information.

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