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  1. ITV Report

What to do (and not to do) if you are a victim of stalking

You should not engage with your stalker in person, online or on the phone. Photo: PA

Cases of stalking in England and Wales have nearly doubled in the past year so much so that the National Stalking Helpline have been overwhelmed by calls.

Reported cases of stalking went up from 4,500 in 2016 to 8,300 in 2017.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the helpline, received more than 7,000 calls and emails in 2017 and, on average, responds to over 3,500 requests every year.

Help and advice is widely offered online to anyone who is affected by unwanted and persistent behaviour both in-person and online.

Here are 10 tips on what to do to stay safe if you have a stalker or know someone who is a victim of stalking or harassment:

Talk to someone

Around 40% of people who get in contact with The Suzy Lamplugh Trust have experienced some form of cyber or digitally enabled stalking. Credit: PA

It is important that you make your friends, family and neighbours aware about what is happening so they can make sure you are safe and provide support.

Victims of stalking can contact the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or email advice@stalkinghelpline.org to get detailed advice.

Do not contact your stalker

You should not engage with your stalker in person, online or on the phone.

Once a stalker has been told in a firm and clear manner to stop all contact, the victim should not contact them again.

Friends and family members should not engage or confront the stalker.

Record any incidents

It is not necessary to collect evidence to make a report to the police although it can help to log any patterns of behaviour for them to investigate an incident.

Recording how the offender looked or sounded, what happened, and when and where the incident took place soon after it happens will help.

Do not throw away any letters and parcels or delete any emails received. If you recognise the handwriting, you can keep letters or parcels as evidence without having to open them.

Do not throw away any letters and parcels or delete any emails received. Credit: PA

Review your digital safety and privacy settings

Around 40% of people who get in contact with The Suzy Lamplugh Trust have experienced some form of cyber or digitally enabled stalking.

The National Centre for Cyberstalking Research revealed 90% of cyberstalking goes under-reported, and 40% is not prosecuted due to "evidential difficulties".

Victims of stalking should check all social media settings and ensure friends and family do not reveal information such as your location online, even inadvertently.

Protect your personal information

Information about how you are feeling should not be shared with your stalker and it is important to shred any paperwork to keep your home and work address private.

Only give out your personal information to those you trust.

90% of cyberstalking goes under-reported, and 40% is not prosecuted due to Credit: PA

Avoid unwanted calls

Do not answer the phone with your name and number. If you do answer a phone call to a landline, dictaphones and other devices can be used to monitor phone conversations as well as dialling 1471 Call Return to tell you the last number that called - unless the caller withheld their number.

Alternatively, seek help from your telephone company to screen malicious callers.

Vary your routine and use a buddy system

For personal protection, changing your routine can prevent a stalker from following or contacting you.

A victim should never meet a stalker alone, so implementing a buddy system or entrusting friends and family members to be on alert can help prevent this from happening.

Additionally, carrying a personal attack alarm and keeping a mobile phone with you at all times can keep you safe.

Call the police

You should not obtain a weapon to use against your stalker. If you feel in imminent danger contact the police by calling 999 immediately.

Incidents can also be reported to the police by calling 101.

Carrying a personal attack alarm and keeping a mobile phone with you at all times can keep you safe. Credit: PA

Seek emotional support

A survey conducted in 2017 by the Network for Surviving Stalking showed that as many as 95% of victims suffer effects on their mental health, physical health, and their professional life.

Contacting your GP or a charity like the Samaritans can help victims to cope with any distress caused by stalking.

Improve home security

Many police stations offer home security checks and many changes can be implemented to keep your home safe such as installing deadlocks and alarms, removing hiding places from your property and getting a locked letterbox.

Victims make common mistakes by sharing too much information, responding to their stalker and blaming themselves.

Who are most commonly stalked?

Stalking affects both men and women but 67% of callers to the National Stalking Helpline were women with males stalkers in 2016/17.

Younger women aged 16-24 are more likely to have experienced domestic abuse than women aged 45-59, the most recent reports by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed.

A ONS Crime Survey examining a three-year period to March 2017 found 985,000 women aged 16 to 59 had experienced partner abuse in the previous 12 months.