Victims of stalking are to receive dedicated specialist support right across Kent.
The Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott explained:
‘One of the key findings from my Violence Reduction Challenge last year was that there were gaps in the availability of support for stalking victims in Kent. Established charities were working with victims in some cases but the delivery of this support was inconsistent.
‘To fix that, my office has worked with Victim Support to develop a bespoke stalking advocate service to be based out of Compass House in Ashford. This will ensure that all stalking victims, wherever they live in Kent and Medway, and whether they choose to report offences to Kent Police or not, will receive the same high-quality, sympathetic support.’
Victim Support’s new independent stalking advocate is Ellie Buckingham.
‘I am excited to be working on this innovative new project to offer support to people across Kent and Medway who have been subjected to stalking behaviour. I will work with them to understand the impact that stalking has had on their lives, get them the support that they need, and my ultimate goal is to empower victims of stalking to feel able to live their lives as they want to.’
Support can be provided face-to-face, or over the phone if the victim prefers. Advice can be provided to family or friends to help them understand how to support the victim.
Ellie and Victim Support’s team of trained volunteers can also offer help and advice about police-led Stalking Protection Orders.
The new service will go live from next month, initially running as a 12-month pilot. Victim Support anticipates it could help hundreds of victims of stalking offences in that time, but the actual numbers may be higher given the growing confidence of victims of stalking to come forward.
Mr Scott added:
‘It is less than eight years since stalking became a specific criminal offence in England and Wales and unfortunately many victims are still reticent to report offences to police. The latest published crime data shows Kent Police recorded 20,197 incidents of stalking and harassment in the 12 months to September 2019 – a 5% rise – but this figure may still be the tip if the iceberg.
‘What is important is that victims know, whether they choose to go to the police or not, that there is help available. I encourage them to contact Victim Support in Kent on 0808 168 9276, or to make use of their live chat facility.’