Reporting Harassment and Stalking to the Police: A Qualitative Study of Victims’ Experiences

Taylor-Dunn, Holly; Bowen, Erica and Gilchrist, Elizabeth A. (2021). Reporting Harassment and Stalking to the Police: A Qualitative Study of Victims’ Experiences. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(11-12) NP5965-NP5992.



To date, there have been few studies with victims of stalking in the United Kingdom, and this is the first to have been conducted following the clarification of stalking as a criminal offense in 2012. In 2016, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Inspectorate (HMCPSI) announced the first ever inspection into harassment and stalking in England and Wales. This article presents research commissioned by HMICFRS as part of the inspection. In particular, we explore how victims described the response of the police and situate this within the context of changing legislation and previous research in the field. In total, 35 people shared their experiences of reporting harassment and stalking, 14 people completed an online survey, and 21 participants were interviewed. Responses were analyzed thematically and a series of themes were identified. The analysis suggests that despite the clarification of stalking as a criminal office in 2012, the majority of participants described poor responses from the police—with many describing police inaction, or inappropriate action—in addition to feeling blamed and not being taken seriously. The article considers possible explanations for these issues and concludes by calling for harassment and stalking legislation in England and Wales to be clarified, and for police training to shift the focus of the investigation from the behavior of the offender, to the emotional impact on the victim.

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