Survivors lend voices to ‘Ten Years On’ stalking research project

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An action research project led by the University of Huddersfield is helping to raise awareness about stalking in Kirklees, illuminating the effects of stalking on women in the area and the seriousness of the crime.  

The project started in September 2022, marking a decade since the introduction of new stalking legislation.  Funding for the project came via the Economic and Social Research Council’s call, ‘Partner with the police to tackle violence against women and girls.’

The findings of ‘Ten years on: Stalking in Kirklees , policing and support for survivors’ were presented at a seminar at the University on 23 November, with presentations from Alison Lowe OBE, West Yorkshire Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, lead Researcher Dr Rosie Campbell OBE, co-investigator Professor Jason Roach and women with lived experience of stalking. 

Stalking being reported more but victims not always listened to

The research reinforces wider national studies, showing that whilst aspects of policing around stalking have improved, there is still room for improvement with some victims feeling their experiences were not taken seriously.

Working with various stakeholders, examining police data and speaking to women with lived experience of stalking and police officers, the researchers found that there has been an increase in reports of stalking in Kirklees with the majority from women. 

The experiences of some stalking victims were used to put together 'Stepping out of silence'.

The establishment of the West Yorkshire Stalking Service (Victim Support), funded by the West Yorkshire mayor’s office in October 2022, has increased specialist support. In the same year, the establishment of the Stalking Coordination Unit by West Yorkshire Police provided a specialist team to advise district officers across the force, including Kirklees.

“One of our principle objectives was to capture the voices of women who had experienced stalking. We did that through establishing a group of lived experience ‘influencers’ who advised throughout the project, and by interviewing women, some of whom remain involved in the project,” says Dr Campbell.

Dr Rosie Campbell OBE

Senior Research Fellow, Department of Behavioural and Social Sciences

Like elsewhere in the UK, we have found that in Kirklees there is a strong relationship between domestic abuse/intimate partner violence and stalking, with stalking behaviours often escalating when a woman ends the relationship. Most of the women we spoke to have experienced stalking in that context, but for some their stalkers were not current or former partners, but professional acquaintances or friends.

“Digitally facilitated stalking or ‘cyberstalking’ is a major issue that was present in the majority of women’s experiences. Women stressed how repeated and unwanted contact through digital channels were as harmful to them as in person incidents. Plus, many women were effectively placed under surveillance by their stalkers, using a range of technologies.”

Discover more about 'Ten years on' and the Secure Societies Institute

The research has also inspired an animated short film, ‘Stepping out of silence’, that sums up some of the experiences of local stalking victims that contributed to the project. The film was funded by the Impact Accelerator Fund  at the University of Huddersfield.

“Survivors told us about the importance of support, and our research made visible the role existing services such as Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership have in supporting victims of domestic abuse related stalking in Kirklees. Women had also started to utilise the more newly established specialist West Yorkshire Stalking Team. They valued the advocacy, practical support, safety planning, peer and emotional support these provide,” adds Dr Campbell. 

A graphic showing a woman saying how her partner is obsessed with her A still from ‘Stepping out of silence’

West Yorkshire’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Alison Lowe OBE said: “We know that women in West Yorkshire are disproportionately affected by stalking offences, and it is vital that they have a voice in our partnership response.

"It is why both the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, and our Violence Reduction Partnership have invested in this work and have made it a priority. This research is a vital milestone in our efforts to support women and girls across the county and we must use the findings as a springboard for change.”

A stalking survivor added, "This research feels like an important step towards change for women in Kirklees. Having our voices front and centre is transformative and only the beginning. The value of our lived experiences informing policy and practice will undoubtedly save and improve lives. It feels as though the painful gaps in our lives are being turned into collective gains."

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