Yorkshire stalking victim tells of her experience after man held her captive for 12 hours

A woman who was stalked by a former partner bravely recounted her story as part of National Stalking Awareness Week.

Sarah - not her real name - from York, was subjected to seven years of harassment and fear from a man with whom she had ended an abusive relationship, with the stalking culminating in her being held captive in a room in her home for 12 hours.

She has told how the terrifying experiences have meant she has never been able to fully recover and feels she will never get into another relationship, saying, "once you have seen cold-hearted cruelty and violence, you are never the same".

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It comes as police in Yorkshire this week reiterated calls for victims of stalking to come forward, telling perpetrators they will not be able to hide.

Stalking victim Sarah, from York, was stalked and harassed by a former partner for seven years. Picture posed by model (Adobe Stock Images)

Stalking is defined as "a pattern of fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repetitive behaviour", with victims often fearing for their safety or even their lives. It carries a maximum of 10 years in prison for those convicted of the crime.

In January this year, the Home Office brought Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) into force, allowing courts to move quicker to ban stalkers from contacting victims or visiting them.

Despite the lockdown restrictions in place amidst the coronavirus pandemic, authorities have said the risk to victims is "unlikely to change".

There was a 62 per cent increase in the number of reports of the crime in Yorkshire in the year ending December 2018, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). This was the biggest increase of any crime.

Stalking victim Sarah, from York, was stalked and harassed by a former partner for seven years. Picture posed by model (Adobe Stock Images)

A Freedom of Information request sent to West Yorkshire Police revealed there were 2,001 reports of stalking made to the force between April 2014 and March 2019, with 121 repeat victims.

Sarah, who has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from her ordeal, said: "For the most part of our relationship, I could not go anywhere without his turning up or phoning every 15 mins.

"After he left, I was stalked by surveillance, emails, chased in my car, tyres slashed, break ins, recording devices, as well as through unwitting friends and colleagues and online, for seven years after this very abusive relationship ended."

Once, Sarah said, her ex-partner came to her workplace and bashed her head against a door.

Stalking victim Sarah, from York, said her stalker would sometimes call her phone every 15 minutes.

Read More

Read More
How Yorkshire detectives identified a girl being sexually abused in videos downl...

She added: "I wouldn't go anywhere, other than work. I had no one to the house for 18 months, and changed locks and phones – the latter frequently. I changed routes back and forth from work and stayed alone mostly as I was afraid that other people would be targeted."

Sarah reported the perpetrator after the incidents escalated and culminated in her being held prisoner for 12 hours.

"He got tired after approximately 12 hours – that’s all I can put it down to. He told me to not speak to anyone and to go to bed before he killed me. The windows and doors were locked and he had my phone. The next day he moved out and I told the police."

Stalking victim Sarah, from York, was stalked and harassed by a former partner for seven years. Picture posed by model (Adobe Stock Images)

Despite this, she says police were unable to charge the man, although she has since sought help from York-based charity Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS).

"IDAS helped me so much. The police less so in my case, but things are getting better with the police and domestic violence.

"I suffered PTSD for five years but it gradually faded. I won’t have another relationship. I don’t ever let a man be alone in a room in my house, now I know about surveillance and how easy it is to install.

"Neither I or my family have trust anymore in the systems we thought could protect me.

"I think the biggest misconceptions around stalking are that it can be stopped easily. That it is flattering. That it isn’t terrifying – it is and the fear never really completely goes.

"Once you have seen cold-hearted cruelty and violence, you are never the same. I think many people will resonate with this. It’s like you are changed forever and you want to go back to innocence but can't."

Detective Superintendent Allan Harder, lead for Safeguarding at North Yorkshire Police said: “The risk that stalking presents to victims is unlikely to change in the current climate. Stalking victims who we have previously supported have told us that this crime can already make them feel isolated and alone.

“That’s why it’s so important that we use National Stalking Awareness Week to reach out to victims to ensure they know they are visible – we see you and we are here for you, around the clock. Through raising awareness of stalking and ensuing victims know they can come forward to police, we are shining a light on this crime and giving it nowhere to hide."

Anyone who feels they may be in danger is urged to call 999. If you are in a situation where you cannot speak, pressing "55" will alert police and they will be able to use technology to find you.