Every year, women in the UK are killed by stalkers and domestic abusers—despite previously reporting them to the police. Unfollow Me is a campaign highlighting the under-reported issue of stalking and domestic abuse in support of anti-stalking charity Paladin's calls to introduce a Stalkers Register in the UK. Follow all of our coverage here.
Being stalked doesn’t just affect your relationships, mental well-being, and peace of mind—it can also destroy your finances. It all adds up, like therapy costs to process the trauma, replacing your phone or laptop for fear they’re installed spyware, or relocation costs to escape their clutches. Broadly spoke to five survivors to break down exactly how much it costs to be a victim of stalking and abuse. All names have been changed to protect their safety.
Tamara, 32, from Bristol
I had a physical relationship with someone I used to work with when I was 25. The relationship ended and he took it really badly. He would walk past my desk and say, “cunt,” or see me coming down the corridor and slam the door in my face. Even after he left the company the stalking didn’t stop. He turned up at our Christmas party and started screaming at me in front of everyone. I had to run out of the door. At the time, it was so surreal. I thought, why is this happening to me?
I work in recruitment, so you get paid a pretty basic salary that you top up with commission. During the period he was harassing me, my performance dropped. I don’t think I did any deals for three months. I felt like he would target me even more if I did well at work. The lost commission was probably around £5,000.
I had to take unpaid leave to report him to the police. I told my bosses, “I feel like I can’t be in the office,” and they said, “just take your Christmas break early as unpaid leave.” At the time I thought, that’s nice of them to let me go early. Now I feel differently. I had to take about three days of unpaid leave, and I earned a £19,000 a year salary, so losing three days of salary cost me £188.
Because my route to work went past his house, I had to take the bus to work, whereas before I would have walked or cycled. I did that for around eight weeks, and my bus fare cost me £5 a day, so over eight weeks that came to £200. About three times as well, I’d be in town having drinks with my friends in a bar and he’d suddenly appear and pursue me. So I’d run to the nearest taxi rank and get a taxi home. That cost £15 a time, so £45 total. I also called a local stalking service for help once, but was on hold for a long time and that cost me £11.
It makes my heart pound a little bit, realizing how much I spent. It’s painful to hear those numbers, but it’s nothing compared to how tormented I felt at the time.
Total: £5,444 (approx. $6,974)
Kristy, 28, from London
I was in a relationship with a guy that I used to work with. When we started going out in 2015 he was really nice and charming, but by the following year he’d became controlling and abusive. He’d read all my messages and cloned my SIM card. He’d check my internet history and stand outside my flat and spy on me at work. Sometimes he’d lock me in his flat and shout at me all day long.
He bought me an iPhone and cloned the SIM card, so he was reading everything I said. I was so depressed I’d been searching for suicide methods, and he knew straight away. I deliberately broke my phone on purpose and bought a new one so he couldn’t monitor me. That cost £700.
He’d emotionally blackmail me into buying him expensive presents to show him how much I loved him. He was really scary when he was angry, so I’d just try and do anything not to antagonize him. I probably spent about £600 on presents for him from stores like The Kooples.
I became desperate to leave him, but because we worked together, I knew I had to find a new job first. I job-hunted secretly for a whole year which was really hard. I’d throw up every day from anxiety. Because I was desperate, I took the first job I was offered in January 2018, and took a pay cut. It’s a job I could have done when I was 20. I’m 28 now, and I’m too old to be doing this job at this level. At my old job, my manager wanted to train me and promote me. But at my new company there’s no career progression.
Before I was on £28,500, and my new job only pays £27,000. Because I moved to a much smaller company, I don’t have the same employee benefits I used to have, either. My pension is worse, I don’t get private healthcare like I did before. I have sports-related injuries and need physiotherapy, so I have to pay for private healthcare myself now, which costs me £50 a month. I’ve been doing that for four months, so £200.
When I was with him the only thing I was allowed to do was eat. Food became my coping mechanism. I’ve developed a binge eating disorder as a result. Every day for the last year, I’ve bought £10 of ice cream or chocolate and eaten it all in one go. I had cognitive behavioral therapy, but I still can’t seem to stop.
Total: £6,650 (approx. $8,517)
Nicola, 32, from London
I’ve never met my stalker in person; he torments me online. The stalking started in June this year. He contacts anyone he can find who is even tangentially related to me: whether it’s journalists who have interviewed me (I’m a writer), employers, or events that are hosting me. He makes crazy allegations about me that are totally untrue. Once he wrote to every literary festival that had booked me, telling them to cancel the event. He wrote to all of my publishers around the world, saying that they should pulp my book. He told the university I teach at that I’d lied about having a PhD. It’s actively malicious.
I had to get signed off from my teaching job for two months because of the stress. I fell apart. Luckily I got paid sick leave, as I have a salaried job, but I wasn’t able to take freelance commissions because of the stress, so I probably lost about £600. The biggest expense has been the lawyers. As he’s based abroad I’ve had to get lawyers in the UK and also in the country where he lives. In total, legal fees have cost me £3,354. Thankfully, after my lawyers sent him cease-and-desist letters, the stalking seems to have stopped.
The experience was so traumatic I had to go into therapy, which I’ve attended every week since mid-August. That costs me £55 a session, so I’ve spent £770 on therapy since then.
The worst part about all of this is that my partner and I had been planning on starting a family, but we can’t because my doctor put me on [specific] anti-depressants and you shouldn’t conceive whilst taking them. So it’s affected a massive part of our lives.
Total: £4,724 (approx. $6,049)
Niamh, 43, from Lancashire
I separated from my ex partner in 2014 because he was very controlling of me and my children, and also sexually violent towards me. Things were relatively calm until I began dating again in April 2017. That’s when it all went absolutely mental. He hacked my Google account and started tracking me using Maps. He’d send me text messages telling me exactly what time I got home. He posted on Facebook about how he’d picked the locks to my house and described things in my hallway you wouldn’t be able to see from outside. Once I bought underwear online and he emailed me and said, “Your life is about to get messy, nice underwear by the way.” He would wait outside my house and follow me as I dropped the kids off at school.
After he told his daughter (whom I was still close to) that he was going to kill me, I got scared. I took it very seriously. In April this year I decided that I needed to move house. There was an incident where a delivery driver opened the door of our house and my daughter thought it was him. She was absolutely hysterical with terror. It took hours to calm her down. I thought, we can’t live like this anymore, so we moved.
Watch: Unfollow Me: The Story of Alice Ruggles
The estate agents told me that I could easily have got £140,000 for my house, but I wanted to get out fast, so I sold it really cheap to the first person I could. They paid £100,000, so I made a £40,000 loss. I bought a more expensive house twenty miles away for £165,000.
The council tax on my new house is more expensive. It used to be £80 a month, and now it’s £130, so that’s an extra £50 a month. My fuel costs are higher too. I used to spend about £80 a month on fuel. Now it’s about £100 a week. I had to pay out my old phone contract and get a new number because he kept calling me, so that cost me £60 too. I also installed an alarm system on my house, in case he turned up. That cost £300.
If I could have moved to the other end of the country, I would have done. I’d have given up my job and everything. But my daughter is autistic and she’s settled in school and I couldn’t uproot her.
Total cost: £ 108,560 (approx. $139,375)
Robbie, 27, from London
My stalking situation started after a break-up. I found out my partner had been cheating on me and my natural reaction was to stay with a friend and switch off my phone. But she started messaging me constantly—maybe 50 times a day every day for the first week or so, despite me asking her to leave me alone. The more I pulled away the crazier she got. I deleted her family from my Facebook and she rang me to ask why I’d done that. There would be a barrage of abusive messages. I blocked her fairly early on but she’d find new ways to get in touch or even turn up at places she knew I’d be at with a thinly veiled excuse for why she was there. She’d write me letters and email my friends asking them to pass on messages. I had to ask my office’s IT team to block her email address because she emailed my assistant at work. She’d never just send one text saying that she wanted to see me; she’d send 40.
The stalking made me feel insane. How could the person I’d loved and trusted treat me with so little respect? All I wanted was space. I had to start therapy after the break up. My therapist encouraged me to get a restraining order, which I regret not getting. Therapy cost me £60 a week for a year. But there’s no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t have been able to rebuild or process my emotions if I hadn’t seen a therapist.
Total cost: £3,120 (approx. $3,996)
If you are being stalked and you are based in the UK, you can call Paladin on 020 3866 4107. If you are based in the US, you can call the Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime on 855-484-2846.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.