What does it feel like to be a victim of stalking and harassment?
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After a Litherland man was sentenced yesterday (Monday 18 May) at Liverpool Crown Court, we hear from his victim and give advice for what to do if you or someone you know finds themselves in a similar situation.
31-year-old Michael Cook of Linacre Road was yesterday sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months; a five-year Restraining Order preventing any contact with his victim; and costs, which will go towards funding victim services.
Cook was arrested on Sunday after repeatedly contacting his former partner over a sustained period of time, and via family and friends.
Here, she describes the impact of this behaviour:
“For the past 12 months, since June 2019, I have had to live with stalking and harassment from an ex-partner. I have ended the relationship on numerous occasions through varying degrees. Initially, there was constant text messages and telephone calls, when he was blocked there was other avenues explored to contact me.
“I asked to be left alone, I asked him to get on with his life and let me live mine. I told him I was scared, my children were scared, but nothing helped.
“After not being left alone and constant attendance at my address, I informed police who started an investigation and put safety measures in place. I felt alone, vulnerable and scared of any potential physical assaults. Conditions were put in place by Merseyside Police, in hope that he would understand the situation. These were not abided to by my ex-partner. He constantly broke these conditions.
“I had constant threats of suicide, allegations made against me of a serious nature, I was hounded and persecuted at every point, on a daily basis, many times a day. Whether this be via social media, telephone, email, or any platform where I was reachable (including PayPal). This didn’t stop there, this also included my family members, my children, their partners and my friends and work colleagues. In fact anybody who was associated with me in any kind of way.
“Any male account on my social media received a message asking how they knew me. I was constantly added by false accounts and attempts to message me in pretence of being somebody else. All the while it was him making contact, seeing if I was ‘single’ or checking my social media.
“Contact was made to my family to say ‘that we’re trying again’ and that he was going to look after me, all the while I was telling him directly/indirectly it was over. At one point I even tried the ‘I forgive you’ as he was constantly asking for forgiveness. This did not stop the contacts, if anything it escalated the contact. In total I received over 4000 + emails, over 300 phone calls and hundreds of messages. Everyday there was contact.
“Although contacts were not of a threatening nature against me or my family, mostly against himself and were always presented in a ‘loving manner’. Declaring his love for me. His behaviours were always seen as acceptable to him as ‘he loved me’ seemingly excusing his behaviours and rationalising why he was constantly contacting me.
“Just because the messages were not direct threats or harmful, doesn’t mean it cannot have the same emotional impact. I have had to change my whole life to ensure that my children and I were kept safe throughout this. I still have to maintain this, and my life will never be the same again. Although there may be a restraining order in place and a suspended sentence, this to me is not a victory. This has had a tremendous impact upon mine and my family’s emotional wellbeing and my own mental health.
“I am only making this statement in the hope that any woman or man who has had or is currently experiencing similar behaviours from an ex-partner, recognises that this is wrong. Lies and deception are not a good foundation, and behaviours rarely change. I now know that in Michael’s case he has displayed these behaviours previously.
“I implore any woman to obtain a Claire’s Law disclosure on their partner, to inform them of any previous domestically violent behaviours.
“This behaviour is not appropriate and love does not cause you so much emotional harm and distress that your mental health is affected. There are services and laws in place that can assist and prevent this kind of behaviour. Stalking is a serious crime and should rightly be recognised as so.
“There needs to be wider recognition of the impact this can have upon a person, regardless of age, or gender. If you ever receive unwanted attention, please speak to somebody you trust who can advise and support you to get through the horrendous time inflicted upon you. As a victim I know how easy it is to blame yourself, but please don’t, reach out and get support. Don’t put up with it.”
Speaking after the sentencing of Cook, Detective Chief Inspector Siobhan Gainer from our Protecting Vulnerable People Unit said: "Stalking is a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour, which is intrusive. As the case of Cook so clearly demonstrates, stalking causes alarm and distress to victims and their families and friends. It is hopefully of some comfort that his victim will now be further protected by a Restraining Order, and can begin to move on from this ordeal.
“We understand that in the current lockdown victims of stalking may feel more vulnerable due to their own movements being restricted and potentially stalking behaviour continuing. We want to reassure them that we will continue to support them during this difficult time.
“I want to assure those who do come forward that we will investigate reports thoroughly and with discretion and our specially trained officers will be on hand to provide safeguarding, support and reassurance.
"Merseyside Police and our partners are acutely aware that the experience of being stalked can change people’s lives dramatically. Victims of stalking offences can quite rightly feel unsettled, distressed and isolated which is why it is important that get the message out that help and support is always available.
"We are also encouraging the Merseyside public to become familiar with ‘The Silent Solution’ system; a system in place which alerts police if you are in imminent danger but unable to speak. This enables a 999 mobile caller who is too scared to make a noise, or speak, to press 55 when prompted – to inform police they are in a genuine emergency.
"If you feel you have been a victim of stalking, please contact us on 101 or @MerPolCC. If you are ever in immediate danger always dial 999. If you do not want to contact the police at this time then seek support from other agencies, for example, the National Stalking Helpline, a project run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, on 0808 802 0300 or speak to friends and family about what is happening. But above all else: don’t suffer in silence."
Anyone who has information in relation to a stalking offence is encouraged to contact Merseyside Police on 101, @MerPolCC or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.