Stalking & Harassment

What is sexual harassment and stalking?

Stalking and Harassment. What health workers need to know

Although there is no statutory definition of stalking inScotland, stalking and harassment has been described by the Scottish Government as intentional repeated behaviour, which causes fear, upset and annoyance to the victim.

The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010,  provides for a new statutory offence of ‘stalking‘ specifically criminalising stalking and came into  effect on 13 December 2010.

These behaviours involve persistent, repeated and unwanted attention, often from someone known to the victim.  They are often used within the context of domestic abuse by a current or ex-partner.  Some examples include:

  • Following/surveillance
  • Repeated unwanted phone calls, texts, and/or emails
  • Unwanted gifts, cards, flowers etc
  • Damage to property
  • Physical or sexual assault

Who is at risk?

The key risk factor for experiencing stalking and harassment is being female.

19% of women and 12% of men have experienced stalking or harassment at some point in their lifetimes.

Lifetime experience of persistent and unwanted attention of the kind that might be characterised as stalking is relatively widespread inScotland among women, and among younger women in particular.

Health impact

The impact of stalking and harassment is considerable.  It typically has a highly disruptive and damaging effect on the lives of victims, often long after the behaviour has stopped.

Patients may present with physical, sexual and mental health issues.  Some of the signs to look out for include:

  • Issues consistent with domestic abuse
  • Anxiety, depression
  • Chronic sleep disturbance, nightmares
  • Eating disorders, nausea, indigestion
  • Skin disorders
  • Signs of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Self-harm, suicidality
  • Deterioration in physical health

Other factors may alert you to the possibility of stalking and harassment which include the patient making significant changes to their lives, such as:

  • changing jobs
  • moving home to a different area
  • reducing social and leisure activities

Your role as a health worker

As a health worker you are in a unique position to respond to a patient who is being stalked or harassed by treating them with respect and dignity and by:

  • Taking stalking and harassment seriously
  • Recognising signs and symptons
  • Initiating discussion
  • Assessing safety
  • Documenting your findings (not in handheld notes)
  • Giving correct information
  • Be sensitive to different needs and ensure all patients can access services equally, for example by providing professional interpreting services

Further information on what to look for and what you can do to help can be found in the guidance.

The presence of domestic abuse may also mean that dependent children are at risk of serious harm.  If you suspect this, you should follow local child protection procedures and seek a multi-agency response to increasing safety for those affected.

Help and Information

Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline:
08088 01 03 02 (daily 6pm – midnight)

Domestic Abuse Helpline:
0800 027 1234 (24 hours)

Women’s Support Project:
0141 552 2221

Survivors UK National Helpline:
for male survivors of rape and childhood sexual abuse
0845 122 1201

Survivor Scotland:
for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse

Scottish Government
Information and help after rape and sexual assault

Support for Survivors

If you are looking for support for your own experiences of GBV you can call:

Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline
0800 027 1234

Rape Crisis Scotland
08088 010302

or click on:

Scottish Womens Aid

Survivor Scotland

Galop National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline


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