Persistent, unwanted attention isn’t romance
This year National Stalking Awareness Week (NSAW) focuses on young people and invites us to take a stand to support them. Stalking and harassment are serious issues that can have severe and long-lasting effects on young people aged 16-24 in the UK. According to a study conducted by The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, 1 in 5 young people in the UK have experienced stalking or harassment, with 1 in 10 being stalked online.
Another report “It’s Just Everywhere: A Study on Sexist Bullying in Schools” states that stalking and harassment are prevalent issues in schools in the UK. The report notes that girls are more likely than boys to be the targets of stalking, which often involves repeated, unwanted attention such as following them, waiting outside their house or classroom, and sending persistent messages. Harassment, on the other hand, can take many forms, including unwanted sexual advances, comments, and gestures.
The report highlights that these behaviours are often dismissed as “just a bit of fun” or “boys being boys”, perpetuating a culture that normalises and trivialises them. The impact of stalking and harassment on young people’s mental health and well-being can be significant, leading to feelings of anxiety, shame, and isolation. The report calls for schools to take a more proactive approach to tackling these issues, including providing education on healthy relationships and consent, and taking reports of stalking and harassment seriously.
The short film above called “Following”, has been created by the multimedia team and youth engagement officer of the Derbyshire police force to highlight the impact of stalking and harassment. It tells the story of two teenagers, Jack and Beth, and will be shown in all secondary schools and colleges in Derbyshire during a lesson curated and delivered by police officers and staff. The film aims to raise awareness among young people about stalking and harassment, the consequences of escalating behavior, and how their actions can affect others. It will also be used as a training tool within the force. Detective Chief Inspector Kerry Pope, who leads the force’s work on tackling violence against women and girls, emphasizes that the film is not about criminalizing classroom relationships, but about highlighting the potential danger of refusing to take “no” for an answer and continuing to pursue someone with unwanted attention.
Young people aged 16-24 in the UK are particularly vulnerable to stalking and harassment, as they are often more active on social media and may be more willing to share personal information online. This can make them an easy target for individuals who are looking to harm them. In particular, cyberstalking has become an increasingly prevalent issue in the UK. According to the study by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, 47% of young people who reported being stalked experienced it online.
The effects of stalking and harassment can be wide-ranging and long-lasting. Young people who are victims of these behaviors may experience anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may also suffer from physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches, as well as sleep disturbances and difficulty concentrating. In addition to the mental and physical effects, stalking and harassment can also have a significant impact on a young person’s social life. They may feel isolated and alone, and they may find it difficult to trust others. This can lead to difficulties in forming relationships and may impact their ability to pursue their education or career goals.
It’s important for young people in the UK to understand that stalking and harassment are not acceptable behaviors, and that they have the right to seek help if they become a victim. There are a number of organizations in the UK that offer support and advice to those who have been affected by stalking and harassment, including the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the National Stalking Helpline. You can find out more about them here.
There are also steps that young people can take to protect themselves from stalking and harassment in the UK. These include being careful about the information they share online, using strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication, being aware of their surroundings and trusting their instincts if they feel uncomfortable in a situation. It’s also important to report any incidents of stalking and harassment to the relevant authorities, such as their teacher or safeguarding lead at the school or college, the police or a helpline like ourselves.
This has been crucial to the work we do with our MENgage and EmpowHER Project. The work we do in schools explores young people’s attitudes and behaviours in relation to things like stalking, with the aim of raising awareness and sparking conversations that can lead to a change in mindset. By educating young people on how to stay safe, protecting their rights and reporting any incidents, we can work to reduce the incidence of stalking and harassment in the UK and create a safer world for everyone.