Every year, women in the UK are murdered 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.
People typically associate stalking with high-profile celebrities and other public figures—but there are scores of ordinary people who experience it, too.
As part of Unfollow Me, our campaign highlighting the issue of stalking and domestic abuse in the UK, we partnered with anti-stalking charity Paladin and used the VICE UK Snapchat channel to survey our followers about their experiences of stalking. We also commissioned a survey from leading pollsters YouGov to look more deeply into the British public's own experiences and perceptions of the issue. Some results were shocking, while others confirmed how serious and widespread the issue of stalking is in the UK.
The VICE UK Snapchat audience is primarily composed of 13 to 24-year-olds and is equally split between men and women. As VICE editor Hannah Ewens notes in her Snapchat polling coverage of teen Xanax use, a survey like this is not the most rigorous method of data collection. But given the large sample size of our poll, it does suggest that stalking affects many, many more young people than one might expect—and that vast numbers of them are eager for the police to implement stronger measures to combat it.
To the question "Have you ever been stalked?" we heard from just over 12,000 respondents. Thirty-five percent told us that they had personally experienced stalking.
Almost 11,000 respondents answered the question, "Do you know someone who has been stalked?" Fifty-six percent said that they knew a victim of stalking.
Close to 10,000 respondents answered the question, "Do you support police actively informing people if their partner has been convicted of stalking or domestic abuse?" Eighty-five percent said that they would support such a measure.
Under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (also known as Clare's Law), police may disclose information about a partner's history of violence or abuse. However, it requires an individual to actively make this request. Broadly supports Paladin's proposals to create a Stalkers Register which would in part oblige police to identify and reach out to people who are at risk of harm by offenders on the database—such as new partners—to make them aware of their previous offences. Serial stalkers and domestic abusers would also be tracked and managed by police.
Watch: Unfollow Me: The Alice Ruggles Story
For more detailed results, we followed up on our Snapchat poll by asking YouGov to survey the British public on stalking. YouGov's survey is weighted to be representative of all UK adults and included 1,550 people.
It revealed that 52 percent of Brits believe that stalking is widespread in the UK today—and that the majority of the public think that the authorities are not doing enough to tackle the dangerous crime.
Fifty-six percent believe that the government does not take stalking seriously, and only 16 percent believe that they are doing enough to tackle it.
Fifty-three percent of people answered "no" when asked if they thought the police took stalking seriously enough, with only 24 percent believing that they did.
Approximately one in ten (9 percent) told YouGov that they had been stalked in the past, so it may be unsurprising that the majority of Brits feel strongly about the issue. The data shows that stalking is also a gendered phenomenon. Thirteen percent of women told YouGov that it had happened to them, compared to one in 20 men (5 percent). That makes women two-and-a-half times more likely to have experienced stalking.
Women are also twice as likely to be concerned that they may become a victim of stalking, with 15 percent of women saying that they had this fear, versus 7 percent of men who shared these concerns.
Even those with no direct experience of stalking have been affected by it in their social circles: One in five people (21 percent) reported that they knew someone who had been a victim of stalking.
Based on victims' responses to the survey, we found that Brits are most likely to be stalked by a former partner. Forty-four percent of those who had been stalked said that the perpetrator was an ex, while 17 percent said they were a stranger. One in ten victims (10 percent) said they had been stalked by a work colleague.
We also found that victims were likely to stay quiet about their experiences. Three out of five (61 percent) said they did not report their stalker to the police, and 32 percent said they confronted their stalker themselves. Men were twice as likely as women (47 percent versus 26 percent) to confront their stalkers, although Paladin advises that this can be “risky and dangerous.”
When asked how they would respond to online and ‘offline’ stalking, 60 percent of Brits said they would report ‘offline’ stalking to the police, though only 43 percent said they would do the same for online stalking—even though, as VICE staffer Nana Baah notes, online stalking can be just as terrifying and serious as IRL stalking.
Our YouGov data also highlighted widespread misinformation about what constitutes stalking, with 31 percent of people saying that they didn’t think that attempting to contact someone by any means possible counts as stalking. Though there is no legal definition of stalking in the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service lists “contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means” as a behavior commonly associated with stalking offenses.
Shockingly, some people also reported that they didn’t even know that stalking was a crime. Twenty-four percent of the Londoners polled by YouGov said that they did not realize that stalking was an offense punishable by law. Fourteen percent of all respondents admitted that, prior to taking the survey, they were also not aware of this.
The results of the YouGov survey, which was formulated with the help of Paladin, also highlight that the majority of Brits support the kind of measures that would be introduced as part of the Stalkers Register.
Four out of five (79 percent) are in favor of the police monitoring individuals with previous convictions of stalking and domestic abuse, while three out of four (77 percent) support the police actively informing people if their partner’s previous criminal history includes convictions for stalking or domestic abuse. Only 4 percent of people oppose being told if their partner has a history of stalking behaviour—of which the large majority are men.
These new statistics come at a time of increasing attention towards stalking. According to recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), stalking and harassment cases shot up by 30 percent over the last year. Though the ONS cautions that this may be due to improved police recording practices, it is clear that stalking afflicts many—and in some cases, even escalates to murder and serious injury.
Our Freedom of Information (FOI) investigation revealed the extent to which victims in the UK are failed by the authorities. Between 2015 and 2017, 49 women were killed by partners, ex-partners, or stalkers they had previously reported to police.
Paladin founder Laura Richards said: “We welcome the partnership with Broadly and our surveys of young people on Snapchat and via YouGov are illuminating. This is the first time we have surveyed young people and the answers really highlight how important it is to engage and work with young people about healthy relationships as well as work with tech companies like Snapchat and Facebook.
"Young people live their lives online. Jane Clough, Clare Bernal, Shana Grice, Molly McLaren, Alice Ruggles and many others were stalked online and offline before they were murdered, yet the risks and behaviours were not understood. The perpetrators had behaved in similar ways to other girls and women. No-one should have to go through what these young women did.
"Both surveys show overwhelming support for the register: 85 percent of the young people on Snapchat and almost 80 percent surveyed via YouGov supporting police informing people if their partner has a history of abuse or stalking. It underlines the importance of including serial stalkers and domestic abusers on the Violent and Sexual Offenders Register to better protect future victims and prevent murders in slow motion."
Note: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,550 adults from an overall sample of 1626 respondents. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th - 27th June 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
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.