Over the past few years, the number of stalking offences has increased. And a further increase has been measured in the last year. There may be many factors behind the recent rise in offences, but weâ€™d like to draw particular attention to two of them: the Coronavirus Pandemic and developments in technology (including the ever-increasing use of social media platforms).
The Impact of the Pandemic
Police have reported an increase in the number of stalking offences over the last year, with more than 80,000 incidents recorded by forces.
The pandemic has restricted what people can do and has meant that for long periods of time we have had to stay at home. This has made it easier for perpetrators to target people as they will know where the person they are stalking will most likely be: at home, or leaving the house for essential shopping or exercise.
Even though restrictions have now been relaxed, many people will still be working from home and will not be socialising in the same way that they were pre-pandemic, highlighting the importance of continuing to raise awareness of stalking and the support available.
The Impact of Technology
Social media has had a big impact on the numbers of stalking offences seen in recent years as platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are used by perpetrators to harass and stalk people.
Recent reports have also highlighted that stalkerware and spyware are being used by perpetrators to monitor what their partner or ex-partner is up to.
Readily available software is being downloaded onto their phones, which enables the perpetrator to see any messages that they receive, as well as their location.
There have also been examples of people placing trackers on their partnerâ€™s car to monitor their movements via a linked smartphone, following where they go and who they see.
Tougher action is required to tackle the increases in stalking offences in recent years, particularly making it harder for perpetrators to use technology to their advantage. It needs to be harder for perpetrators to purchase spyware software.
Social media platforms also need to be more proactive in banning accounts that are harassing or stalking people online. It is far too easy to simply keep creating a new account when an old one is blocked and continue to stalk and harass.
We hope that the Domestic Abuse Act will work to highlight the issues surrounding stalking and create a safer environment for people who experience stalking and domestic abuse, with greater repercussions for perpetrators.
If you would like to know more about any of the services that we provide to support people who are experiencing domestic abuse, including stalking, please get in touch. You can call Leeway on 0300 561 0077 or email firstname.lastname@example.org