Shocking statistics show huge numbers of stalking and harassment cases in Lincolnshire
Soaring numbers of women are suffering from stalking and harassment – with shocking statistics showing an average of 21 cases every single day across Lincolnshire.
Police data shows there were 7,644 reports of the crime in 2022/23 alone – up by 72.8% in the last four years – as well as 917 instances of rape and 2,507 sexual offences. The latter two were up 21.5% and 23.9% since 2018/19, when changes were made to the way the crimes are reported.
DCI Rachael Cox, in charge of Lincolnshire Police’s safeguarding hub, described the numbers as ‘too high’ and vowed: “I am passionate about domestic abuse. It can be a hidden crime – something that spans across the whole of policing. A victim’s fear can’t be seen.
“We are determined to eradicate violence against women and girls and treat cases of rape, stalking and harassment extremely seriously.”
DCI Cox, who has been with the county’s force for nine years and in policing for 22 years, came into her new role in April this year and is determined to get the figures down.
Dealing with a broad portfolio covering stalking, harassment, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage which ‘fit hand in hand with the way we manage domestic abuse,’ DCI Cox said: “Domestic abuse is too high here in Lincolnshire. Our role is to understand how the victim feels but also to take the case to court and get an outcome.
“Many of the figures are in a domestic abuse setting – in a heterosexual relationship – male against female.
“Domestic abuse is such an emotive topic. Nobody should feel anything other than a happy and healthy relationship.”
Today’s figures look stark compared to those of 2015/16 – stalking is now 704% higher than seven years ago – but DCI Cox says Home Office changes to the way these crimes are reported explains some of this. However, the crime is still on the rise – and it’s a matter that can go under-reported, suggesting many more incidents fly under the radar.
DCI Cox said: “The effects of those changes can be seen beginning to make an impact on recorded numbers in 2019 and reflect a change in how we collate the data, rather than an enormous increase.
“These changes, alongside an increase in internal training and the shifting culture around reporting sexual offences, are among the driving factors behind the rise in stalking and harassment numbers.
“Sexual offences have typically made up between 3.5% and 4.5% of recorded crime in Lincolnshire – and that remains the case now.”
The police work closely with the Lincolnshire Domestic Abuse Service (LDAS), social services and children’s services and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust charity – and it is these partnerships that aid them in revealing the perpetrators.
DCI Cox said: “We tap into these to help victims and work with other agencies within our power to protect people from harm – which is at the core of policing.”
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, whose mission is to reduce the risk and prevalence of abuse, aggression, and violence with a specific focus on stalking and harassment - through education, campaigning, and support stated that, nationally, 5% of reports of stalking to the police in the year ending March 22 resulted in a charge by the Crown Prosecution Service.
DCI Cox said: “100% would be better.
“Any domestic abuse crime is one crime too many.”
The offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship makes up Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 and domestic abuse can be a complex issue for a victim.
The FOUR acronym helps to explain the warning signs – fixated, obsessed, unwanted, repeated – and internal police training is being used to help officers understand why victims might stay with an abusive partner.
DCI Cox said: “To understand the process of the victim we take a trauma informed approach. There are so many elements in staying – health, financial, children.
“Educating (the police) internally is essential – to allow the victim to understand that we (the police) understand.”
She added: “Someone may have been viciously beaten and when the cops arrive they are at the kitchen sink doing the washing up because they know how to keep themselves safe but I need to get it across to the cops that you’re going to jobs like this – they need to be trained and informed.
“The victim is best person to know themselves – the process means they will go through certain stages – thinking its them, being a victim, paranoia, preparing to leave – it is risky to leave as the biggest risk is when they leave.”
The force is currently in the midst of its 16 Days of Action campaign on this topic – which aims to raise awareness of the complex web of issues seen in domestic abuse.
A van with a big screen displaying the story of a victim will tour Spalding, Boston and Gainsborough, where domestic abuse cases are particularly high, highlighting where to get help.
DCI Cox explained: “We want to dispel the myths and uncertainty that can be barriers to people getting the support they need. We will do this using the voice of a victim, showing her journey from victim, to survivor, to thriver.”
The campaign runs until December 10 – and DCI Cox said: “We will be going for the perpetrators. We will be looking to arrest and deal with perpetrators.
“Internally we want to be dealing with perpetrators at an early stage to be able to give multi agency info to victims.
“The message we want to get out is – this is what is available to you.”
She added: “Everyone is an individual and we have to be careful in the language – the word victim and its connotations – weakness, being in the wrong. We have to get away from victim blaming.
“There is a lot at stake for the victim to get out of the relationship.
“People think stalking is like the Jill Dando case – domestic abuse is the reality.
“There is still a great amount of under-reporting - not everyone is able to make that call and incidents have often been happening over a prolonged period of time – we need to understand the word victim.
'Our push is on perpetrators, victims should not be isolated or interrogated by the justice system.
“We are working with the courts, partnerships, agencies to help the victim feel valued.
“The victim is at the heart of what we do but the perpetrator is who we need to be dealing with.
“Part of our role is to gather evidence – document it, keep a record whilst keeping yourself safe. We don’t want the perpetrator knowing they are keeping a record.
“Police officers are there to prevent and detect crime but some people might not want a conviction – it is about educating the victims about what is available, they may not want to prosecute but we want to speak to them at the earliest opportunity.
“It is not a seasonal offence – there are spikes – as there are with all offences.
“Lincolnshire Police are working tirelessly alongside our partners to identify risks, implement new initiatives to help safeguard the public and support victims in our county.
“The force’s Protecting Vulnerable People (PVP) team engages with victims of sexual assault – but these enquiries are often protracted and are intertwined with domestic abuse and other offences.
“These cases are complicated and multi-faceted, with the report of one crime often leading to the recording of several others.”
The fight to combat these crimes will also be taken to schools – with education work with boys and girls to help people to understand this issue.
DCI Cox explained: “We are committed to driving down these numbers and have been recognised regionally for our VAWG (violence against women and girls) work and initiatives.
“We now have a VAWG education coordinator in post and they will start delivering to schools.
“Additionally, we’ve also conducted a VAWG survey in conjunction with the police and crime commissioner’s office, which has seen nearly 3,000 residents aged 11 or over complete it.
“Our VAWG Voices group has been established, which gives us to the opportunity to engage directly with victims and survivors. This group meets every two months.
“Lincolnshire Police also continues to support StreetSafe – a website and app which allows people to report where they don’t feel safe – alongside our partners.
“We use a number of techniques and applications in order to safeguard our victims and we are also involved in a variety of partnership meetings to address how we protect our communities.
She added: “We’re always analysing crime to data to ensure our activity is targeted, effective and preventive where possible.
“And we will continue to work with our partners to make Lincolnshire the safest place to live, work and visit and would encourage anyone who has been a victim of a sexual offence to contact us.”
Case study – “He made me doubt everything"
This is the story of a Lincolnshire victim of stalking. We have removed her name to protect her anonymity, but her story helps to understand the signs and give people the confidence to come forward.
“When I met him, little did I know that although he seemed to be the nicest man I had ever met, it would turn out to be the worst mistake of my life.
“As friends, we spent nearly every day together, getting on really well but then he changed my life for the worst.
“When he called me one day he heard another man in the background and became really angry shouting at me down the phone. I told him that I would not put up with it, it was nothing to do with him who I was with.
“From that moment I spent my time terrified of what was going to happen to me. No matter what I did, he knew about it, and was there watching me.
“It began with nasty abusive texts and calls constantly all day, every day.
“Abusive messages followed by ones telling me that he was sorry. Phone calls telling me that I’m a slag and then that he didn’t mean it.
“The texts got worse. He threatened my life and the lives of my friends and family.
“He made me doubt everything I knew and everything I was.
“If he hadn’t been arrested then I don’t know how this would have turned out.
“Finally came the day I stood up in court. I barely got through the first two lines of the oath before I broke down as at that point I knew today would be the day I find out if anyone understood how he has made me feel and how he has impacted my life.
“After giving my evidence it felt like a weight had been lifted. The fear was still there but not as intense. It was like someone was finally trying to help me. I had the support of a Police Officer who also stood up and gave evidence for me.”
Where to get help
Lincolnshire Police’s guide on what to do when faced with cases of domestic abuse, stalking, harrassment or other sexual offences:
If you or your children are in immediate danger you should always call 999. If it’s not an emergency, you can call on 101 or report online.
You can also access help from specialist domestic abuse services – including the Lincolnshire Domestic Abuse Specialist Service.
The National Domestic Violence Helpline is a 24hr Freephone available on 0808 2000 247 operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you are a child or young person and domestic abuse is happening in your home or relationship, Childline is available on 0800 1111.
Safe spaces are available in UK pharmacies including Boots, Superdrug, Morrisons and many independent pharmacies. Go to the healthcare counter and ask to use the safe space where you can access support.
If you are abusive, get help. Call the Respect helpline on 0808 802 4040 or use webchat on the Respect website.
The charity Ending Domestic Abuse Now (EDAN) has also helped more than 13,000 survivors in the last year alone.
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