Stalking and Abuse Aren't Going Away. It's Time We Protect Victims
Unfollow Me is a new campaign investigating domestic and gendered violence in the UK—and what you can do to protect yourself and advocate for others.
In October 2016, Alice Ruggles was murdered when her ex-boyfriend Trimaan Dhillon broke into her house and slit her throat. The 24-year-old had twice reported him to police after he stalked and terrorized her relentlessly after their breakup, including placing spyware on her phone and harassing her with phone calls, texts, and emails.
Ruggles is not the only woman who was murdered even after seeking police help to deal with a stalker or abusive ex. An exclusive Broadly investigation reveals that 49 women in the UK were killed by their partner, ex-partner, or stalker over the last three years—even though they had previously reported their attacker to the police. If you live in the UK, you can visit unfollowme.vice.com to see the number of cases that occurred under the jurisdiction of your local police force.
All this week, Broadly will be looking into the dangerous and little-understood phenomenon of stalking. Stalking is not just something that affects celebrities or people in the public eye. It can be intimately linked with domestic abuse, and abusers can also go on to stalk their former partners. In Ruggles’ case, Trimaan Dhillon had isolated and alienated her from her close friends—a typical sign of coercive control and emotional abuse. In the most extreme cases, stalking can escalate into brutal violence and murder.
There is currently no system in place in the UK to track or monitor serial stalkers or domestic abusers. Police depend on their victims report the crime. Even when multiple women report the same perpetrator, police may not join the dots between their history of past offences. In Alice Ruggles’ case, Dhillon was the subject of a restraining order preventing him from contacting his previous girlfriend.
There is no way to bring back the 49 women who were killed at the hands of their stalkers and abusive partners or exes.
Broadly supports calls from anti-stalking Paladin and campaigners like Sue Hills, Clive Ruggles, and Nick Ruggles—Alice’s family—for the government to introduce a Stalkers Register. Under such a scheme, offenders would be tracked and monitored by police. This database would only be accessible to police and probation agencies, and, where appropriate, potential high-risk victims (such as the offender’s partner) would be informed of their criminal past. In our video, the Ruggles family explain why Alice’s life could have been saved if she had known of Dhillon’s history of abuse.
We will also amplify the voices of stalking victims and illustrate how often they are let down by the authorities in the UK. VICE staff writer Nana Baah was cyberstalked and terrorized online by her ex-boyfriend. When she approached the police for help, she writes later this week, she was told there was nothing they could do if her ex denied doing it.
Next week, our specially commissioned and nationally representative YouGov survey shows that many in the UK have deep and lingering misconceptions about stalking. Here, we will debunk common myths and stereotypes about stalking based on some of the feedback we received from our 1,500 respondents.
The situation may look dire for victims of stalking and domestic abuse, but all is not lost. We will also speak to Lee Bernard, the Metropolitan Police detective inspector who is pioneering a groundbreaking new agency that aims to rehabilitate stalkers.
There is no way to bring back the 49 women who were killed at the hands of their stalkers and abusive partners or exes. But we call on the government to do right by their families and tackle the issue of stalking and domestic abuse to prevent further deaths.