The Consequences of the COVID-19 Lockdown on Stalking Victimisation

Bracewell, Kelly orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4635-7489, Hargreaves, Paul and Stanley, Nicky orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7644-1625 (2020) The Consequences of the COVID-19 Lockdown on Stalking Victimisation. Journal of Family Violence . ISSN 0885-7482

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Stalking involves repeated unwanted communication, harassment, and intrusive behaviour. This brief report draws on a service evaluation undertaken immediately prior to and during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic creates a paradox when considering safety in the home, but it is important to recognise the dangers this presents to many victims of stalking. The information presented in this report is based on existing literature and early evidence from semi-structured interviews and discussions with 15 victims and six practitioners. Whilst lockdown measures might appear to be a time when victims are less accessible to their stalkers, early evidence from this study suggests that their vulnerability is increased. Technology has helped to facilitate stalking behaviours by providing stalkers with new approaches to control, humiliate, threaten and isolate their victims. Some lockdown restrictions have provided increased opportunities for stalkers to monitor their victims and the professional uncertainty and recognition around stalking has continued, coupled with delays in the criminal justice system. The COVID-19 crisis has reversed gains made by stalking victims and has imprisoned some victims in their homes making their whereabouts easier to monitor. Stalking behaviour has not ceased as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions and the risk of harm to victims remains significant. Effective practice, policy and legal responses are required for both the victims and perpetrators of stalking during the pandemic and afterwards.

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