Stalking is a crime, yet it seems that increasingly the word is being used frivolously as a descriptor within articles or on products for sale. 


Take the examples of "We stalked the cast of Netflix's show 'Let It Snow' for you; you're welcome"  or in 2019, ASOS offered for sale a 'Stalker' keyring produced by Skinnydip - with a description: Designing fashion accessories with an edge, the squad behind Skinnydip's standout range knows gals just want to have fun. Since when has stalking been associated with 'having fun'? The keyring was removed from the website not long after it went on sale, after comments from our partners. We don't promote rape as a funny thing, yet stalking seems to be seen as less of a crime.


Stalking affects 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men (Office for National Statistics (2017), Crime Survey for England and Wales, year ending 2017) in the UK at some point in their life and there is an average of 1.5 million victims of stalking in the UK every year.  


Victim's wellbeing is drastically affected, including their physical, emotional, financial, and psychological wellbeing. It has a substantial effect on their day to day lives; many do not leave the house (or do not do so alone), and some move to a new home or job permanently to try to get away from their stalker. Many of the victims we work with are terrified about what their stalker will do to them or their families (Sussex Stalking Support and the National Centre for Cyberstalking Research (2019) Health Care Responses to Stalking: Implications and Recommendations). Unfortunately, these fears are far from unfounded: 30-40% of all stalking cases involve physical assault, and research suggests that stalking behaviours were present in 9 out of 10 femicide cases (murders of women, by men) Exploring_the_Relationship_between_Stalking_and_Homicide.pdf, Jane Monckton Smith et al. 2017.


I feel I am fighting for my sanity every moment of the day


Taking such a serious and heinous criminal behaviour and using it as a piece of 'fashion' ignores the very real impact that stalking has on victims. The use of the term stalker in such contexts is perhaps a reflection of the misunderstanding of the serious nature of stalking across society in general. People use the term in such a relaxed manner, without realising the connotations behind it. Running a search on twitter, it is worrying to see how many people use the term stalker or stalking in their posts. Without understanding the full extent of the crime and the effect it has on the victim and those around them, this will continue to happen. Stalking is not a one-off event, it can occur for years, involving a wide range of behaviours from texts to calls, visiting the victim's home or workplace, even asking the victim's friends and colleagues about them. It causes the victim to move to a new home, change routines, jobs, and relationships, and even if the stalking behaviours come to an end, the impact remains. 


The National Stalking Helpline supported over 3,000 people last year. We deliver training on stalking awareness, but without more people understanding what stalking is, and why it is a crime, this word will continue to be bandied around as a joke. The gender inequality in society perpetuates this kind of behaviour as acceptable, after all, 'gals just want to have fun'.