In Gloucestershire, around 51,643 women aged 16+ and 19,524 males aged 16+ will have experienced stalking at some point in their lifetime in Gloucestershire. However, from June 2014 to October 2016, only 54 incidents of stalking were recorded. It is therefore clear that experiences of stalking are vastly underreported, and a clear response to these cases is needed.
We are delighted to be funding one of the few stalking case worker posts in the UK. We caught up with Gloucestershire’s Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworker (ISAC) who told us a bit about her working day…
I am really delighted to be working as an ISAC in Gloucestershire. There are very few of us in the UK and it’s a privelidge to be involved in such pioneering work.
There’s no such thing as an average day for me – except to say it’s very busy! Since I started taking clients on in July 2017, I have had 75 people referred to me for support. The vast majority of these cases have come from Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service – GDASS and the police. Most of these are people being stalked by ex-partners.
Whenever I have a person referred to me, I will start by going through our confidentiality policies and then carry out a Stalking Risk Assessment. I then flag any concerns that come to light with police and other relevant services. Some of the cases will be referred to our ‘Stalking Clinic’ process for consideration. This is a multi-agency forum which aims to improve the way stalking cases are dealt with and better protect the victims.
Once we’ve gone through the Risk Assessment, I then talk to clients about safety planning (which includes sending them details of the fab hollieapp). We’ll talk about their social media settings….it can be very tricky to ensure personal information is managed safely. We also discuss a client’s day to day movements and how they can ensure they’re not vulnerable. This involves talking about routines; work and also socialising.
I also work with clients to produce a ‘time-line’ to demonstrate what’s been going on. This can be very helpful when it comes to reporting stalking to police. It’s all about understanding the context in which things are happening; the bigger picture. For example, someone may have had their car tyres slashed – which in isolation may appear like a one off case of ‘criminal damage’ BUT when you realise that as well as the tyres being damaged, there’ve been dozens of malicious phone calls and emails and threats – you get a different picture and a different perspective on the risk they face.
Once I’ve carried out the risk assessment, safety planning and we’ve got a sense of the bigger picture, I then liaise with police – it can be like acting as a go-between – hopefully helpful to both sides!
Depending on what’s happening in any given week I spend most of my time making phone calls and sending emails but I do get out and about too! I go to meetings where I represent clients or raise the profile of stalking as an issue. I deliver training/awareness raising and also take part in some strategic discussions about how we can improve services for those affected by stalking too.
Last month I went to a national conference on ‘best practice’ in dealing with stalking cases held by Suzy Lamplugh Trust in London – that was so interesting and encouraging. I also was part of delegation from Gloucestershire who paid a visit to Hampshire’s Stalking Clinic too – we learned a lot. It’s great that the UK is finally waking up to the fact that stalking is a serious crime and should be dealt with as such and I am so excited to be part of this work.
As a supporter of Hollie Gazzard Trust, it will resonate with you if I quote the saying, ‘stalkers sometimes take lives – but they also steal lives too’. Truly, this is a horrible crime BUT I do believe this job is making a difference. Clients will often tell me they’ve felt so alone until they’ve spoken to me; that they feel they’ve been banging their head against a brick wall because no-one understands. They’re just so relieved they’ve finally found someone whose job it is to help them.
The Trust has been leading the development of the Gloucestershire Stalking Advocacy Service (GSAS) in conjunction with Gloucestershire Constabulary. This service will ensure a robust response to stalking behaviour and its victims, but also encourages reporting and raises awareness amongst multi-agency professionals on the risks and how to respond. The Trust will fund an Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworker (ISAC) to raise awareness and work with victims of stalking as a part of GSAS.