‘A stalker is a bully’: Cork centre helping stalking victims 

"Many believe that people are only stalked by someone they were close to or in an intimate relationship with, but it’s much more complex than that." 
‘A stalker is a bully’: Cork centre helping stalking victims 

Mary Crilly, Sexual Violence Centre director, promotes a website and service to help those dealing with stalking. The centre has been contact by a number of business owners in relation to stalking. Picture: Jim Coughlan

A NUMBER of business owners have turned to a service offered by the Sexual Violence Centre after falling victim to stalking at the hands of former clients.

The individuals in question turned to the centre, which now offers a dedicated service to help victims of stalking crimes, for support after being left terrified by the experience.

Centre director Mary Crilly said the organisation has been contacted by 130 people seeking urgent help with stalkers since the service was set up. Some have come from the corporate world where, Ms Crilly warned, people are becoming increasingly more vulnerable.

“I have seen people unable to cope with the business anymore because they are not eating or sleeping,” she said. “Many end up on medication because of the stress of what they are going through.

“Even though the victims of stalking are mostly women, there are also men who have contacted us.

"Businessmen in particular have got in touch as a result of being stalked by a customer or client who wasn’t quite happy.

“A stalker is in essence a bully. They decide that they are going to get what they want by whatever means possible.

“They will put an overwhelming level of fear into their victim,” said Ms Crilly. “The fear of what’s going to happen is almost as bad as the crime itself.

“The stories are varied. It’s very mixed. Many believe that people are only stalked by someone they were close to or in an intimate relationship with, but it’s much more complex than that. 

"People are getting stalked by strangers. For others, it’s a colleague or even a client.”

Ms Crilly spoke of the psychological abuse victims can endure from a stalker.

“There aren’t as many letters as there was before, because the perpetrators are clever and don’t want to leave a trail,” she said. “What the people we are speaking to are experiencing are incidents such as seeing the stalker drive by their house constantly, even when it’s situated on a cul de sac.

“Just like with sexual violence, it’s all about control for the perpetrator. Their attitude is ‘I’m going to do this and I don’t really care what they think’. It’s this kind of behaviour that often drives people to distraction or fear.”

Ms Crilly highlighted the effect this can have on the victim.

“It’s the most horrific thing to happen to someone, because it’s constant, and it’s deliberate. 

"You never know when you are being watched or followed.”

According to Ms Crilly, stalkers can be skilled manipulators.

“Stalkers are skilled at grooming everyone around them and leading them to believe they are a nice person who is not capable of a crime like this,” she said.

“That’s why people are very often not believed.”

New laws offer hope 

She stressed that there is hope for people affected by harassment.

Under new legislation, stalking victims will now have the opportunity to apply for civil restraining orders without a criminal prosecution. A bill on the subject will be introduced in the upcoming Dáil term and is set to become law sometime in the autumn. It was proposed as a means to tackle stalking at an earlier stage, in an effort to prevent serious harm.

“The great thing is that we can assure people that there is legislation there to protect them,” said Ms Crilly. “While this should have been there all along, it’s going to make an amazing difference going forward.”

To find out more about the new resource, visit www.stalkinginireland.ie.

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