Improving support to victims of stalking
Yesterday I visited the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, as part of the 16 days of action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Trust is an organisation that I have known for many years, as they work to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through campaigning, education and support. It was an emotional visit as I haven’t been back for some time and I was overwhelmed to see how many volunteers and advisors they now have manning the National Stalking Helpline. I was there the day the helpline launched in 2010 and to see it now, seven years later, fully operational and assisting over 4000 victims this year, was quite incredible. It was good to talk to the advisors and to discuss the many issues victims of stalking face, especially the complex issues of the use of the family and civil courts, an issue I have campaigned on for many years.
We also discussed the Trust’s work to support the Stalking Protection Bill, which aims to introduce Stalking Protection Orders allowing police officers to restrict suspected stalkers and better protect victims of these crimes. I am very clear that although this early intervention is definitely required to safeguard victims and offer better support during an investigation, this new initiative must provide police officers with training to ensure they are used properly and not used in place of robust investigations. I am also clear that Police need to be better trained to identify the victim as many stalkers will pose as victims and make false allegations and vexatious complaints. It is therefore vitally important with this order that Police are using them for the right person and that we don’t see them being placed on victims which I have seen too many times with PINS in stalking cases.
The Trust discussed their plans on developing a ground-breaking new Stalking Threat Assessment Centre in London in collaboration with police and mental health, probation, and crown prosecution services which aims to tackle the root causes of stalking. The centre will review incoming cases on a daily basis, carry out risk assessments and offer psychiatric and psychological treatment to perpetrators, as well as handling referrals to other local support services. From my own experience, I always knew that early intervention and psychiatric assessments could have reduced the longevity of my case, so I welcome and support this new centre.
All the work that the Trust is doing is absolutely vital as we must ensure a more effective response to stalking by breaking that cycle of abuse, reducing reoffending and providing victims the support they need to feel safe, cope and recover. It’s also equally important that we look at what therapeutic services are being made available to stalking victims. Many are not suffering from classic PTSD like many other victims of crime but they suffer from ongoing trauma and risk that can be present in their lives for many years.
Last month I held London’s first ever Victims’ Summit and the Mayor has made improving the support and services available to victims a firm priority, committing over £9m in the last year alone for services to ensure that victims have the confidence to come forward.
Whether it is stalking, harassment, harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, upskirting, revenge porn and illicit livestreaming - every victim deserves the best possible response and support. I am determined to do everything we can to root out violence against women and girls and improve services to tackle the problem and better protect victims across the capital and offer them services to help them survive