A new campaign has been launched by Essex Police aiming to give victims of stalking the support they need to end their ordeal.

The campaign, which is led by the tagline ‘Stalking is a crime: if you see the signs, we’ll see the bigger picture’, is being spearheaded by Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board (SETDAB).

The campaign aims to help people recognise the signs of stalking both if they believe they are a victim or suspect someone else may be.

One woman from Maldon who became a victim of stalking at the hands of a former partner after a three-month relationship ended, has welcomed the campaign.

Speaking about her ordeal she said: “Even now with him in prison I’m finding it hard to feel safe.

“In the beginning he was charming and caring, but gradually he became more controlling and suffocating in our relationship.

“When I tried to break free things went really wrong - he broke into my house and walked into my bedroom as I slept.

“He even installed a letter box on my home while I was working abroad to intercept my post and was constantly messaging and calling day and night.

“Even when we broke up I couldn’t get away. Over time I found the strength to tell the police and now he has been jailed, but the mental and emotional abuse I endured will never leave me.

“If you think you are being stalked there is help out there – please don’t suffer in silence.”

The campaign was launched in response to a large rise in stalking offences in the county.

In 2018 there were 656 offences recorded in Essex compared to 207 in 2017.

In 2018 there were also 635 separate victims where 78 per cent were women – 77 per cent of the 508 named suspects were men.

Although the rise in offences is partly due to a change in crime recording, SETDAB is taking action to tackle the crime and support victims.

Stalking is defined as fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated behaviour. It may seem normal and ordinary in isolation, for example receiving a text or phone call, but when it is repeated and alongside other unwanted behaviour it may cause alarm and distress for the victim.

The most common behaviours carried out by perpetrators include; online abuse, leaving signs, following you, finding you, tracking you, using your kids to get to you, bombarding texts, unwanted gifts and obsessive calls.

Jane Gardner, Chair of SETDAB said, “Stalking is a complex crime and can be identified by a pattern of abusive behaviours.

“We want to raise awareness around some of these behaviours to help victims and those who have left controlling relationships and may now be at risk.”

If you think you’re being stalked and need help, visit www.setdab.org or call Changing Pathways on 01268 729707. In an emergency always call 999.