Norwich victims urged to speak out in bid to tackle stalkers

Victims of stalking in Norwich are being urged not to suffer in silence as part of a hard-hitting campaign aimed at highlighting the emotive issue.

Today, as part of National Stalking Awareness Day, people who believe they are being targeted, or have been targeted by stalkers, are being encouraged to seek help as part of the initiative.

Stalking is a repeated pattern of unwanted behaviour which causes victims to feel distressed or scared and it can be perpetrated by men or women.

In Norfolk there were 195 crimes recorded under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 between April 2011 and April 2012 - with 74pc being detected with a positive outcome for the victim.

Despite the statistics a lack of reporting is an issue and officers hope the launch of a campaign in the county on the back of the national initiative, themed Talking Stalking, will encourage victims to seek help.

Detective Inspector Ross McDermott of Norfolk Constabulary, said: 'Stalking often has a huge emotional impact on the victim who can feel very much alone and unable to seek help for fear of repercussions or that they will not be taken seriously.

'Only by increasing reporting can we gain a full understanding of the extent of stalking in the county and it is for such a reason that I urge victims to take the brave step to come forward and to report incidents to the police or any of the third party support groups available.

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'We would like to stress that no-one need feel alone, they should not just accept that this is something which is happening to them and that no-one can help them. This is simply not the case. There are people they can turn to for help and advice and we will take all such reports seriously.'

National research shows one in five women and one in 10 male victims age 16-59 experience stalking in their lifetime with 80pc of victims knowing their stalker.

DI McDermott added: 'We need to ensure police forces follow set procedures to warn perpetrators and record those warnings, in turn working together to share information.'

Bus company First have agreed to display posters on buses across the county, free of charge, in a bid to push the message to as many people as possible.

The campaign, which fits in with the Evening News's Don't Suffer in Silence initiative aimed at raising awareness about domestic abuse, comes on the back of the Government announcement last month (March) that two new specific criminal offences of stalking will be introduced.

The new offences of 'stalking' and 'stalking where there is a fear of violence' will be created to sit alongside existing offences of harassment in the Protection of Harassment Act 1997.

Victims can get more advice and support from:

<t> Norfolk Constabulary on 101.

<t> National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0800 2000 247.

<t> National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.