Lily Allen told The Observer this weekend that she was made to feel like a "nuisance rather than a victim” after she reported a stalker to the Metropolitan Police. Allen went on to reveal that police had destroyed letters to the star from the accused, named Alex Gray, 30, from Perth, and they did not permit her to keep a picture of him. Gray was convicted of harassment and burglary at Harrow Crown Court in April of this year after a series of abusive acts. In 2009, Gray set up a Twitter account called "@lilyallenRIP" where he mainly spoke about having written Allen’s smash hit single, "The Fear". His behaviour escalated when he began to send letters that included suicide threats to her home, her sister’s residence and her recording studio, which were all turned into the police. After a banner was flown at one of her gigs that read: “I wrote The Fear" officers issued Allen with a panic alarm before calling it back a few months later. Gray camped out in Allen’s garden, banged on her back door and once managed to break into her home in 2015, when a friend of Allen’s forced him out – but Gray had managed to take a handbag with him. It was only after the handbag was found that Gray was arrested, Allen told The Observer. When Allen asked to see the letters she was reportedly told that they had been destroyed "according to police protocol" and was not given an apology. Allen said the years of stalking and abuse had left her "a changed person" and that she had never seemed out for "special attention... [only] reassurance and validation.” Alarmingly, statistics would very much prove that Allen is not alone and her story raises the question of what technically qualifies as stalking under the law, and who – if anyone besides the victim – has to the right to assert as much. Stalking is of course not restricted by gender or age or reserved for celebrities. And can now take place both on- and off-line. According to The National Stalking Helpline, a report by Dr. Lorraine Sheridan and the Network for Surviving Stalking, where 2,292 stalking-victims were questioned, found that victims were both male and female, that their ages ranged from 10 to 73 and that the victims were from highly varied socio-economic backgrounds. Women are found to be more susceptible to being stalked in the UK, with the Crime Survey of England and Wales for the years 2009-2012 indicating that up to 700,000 women reported being stalked each year. In 2015, that figure had risen to over 1 million, according to the Guardian. One in five women and one in ten men will experience it in their adult lives, and yet only 1% of cases recorded by the police result in prosecution.
With social media long having been cited as a new and more convoluted medium for stalkers to target their victims, the ways in which one can be harassed are more complicated and difficult to define than ever. We have assimilated the idea of strangers being able to type our name in Google or track our behaviours and locations on apps like Instagram. Paladin, The National Stalking Advocacy Service, discuss the complex definitions of the crime, suggesting that there are "many misconceptions about what stalking is." They continue: "It is not romantic. It is about fixation and obsession." Disturbingly, very few cases are actually reported to police, according to the Suzy Lamplugh trust, who put in a large freedom of information request for all the cases of stalking formally recorded by police forces in England and Wales between the 1st of April 2013 and the 4th of February 2016. The number of cases reported was 7,706 – suggesting that very few victims of stalking actually report it, or that cases went unrecorded.
So, why are women reluctant to speak out? It's well known that stalkers are more than likely known by the victims. According to the British Crime Survey 2015, exes make up 45% of perpetrators of stalking, with 22% being acquaintances, 5% former colleges and 4% family members – which might make speaking out more complicated. Allen called for better treatment of victims of stalking by the police: “If they [the police] treat me like this, how the hell are they going to treat everyone else?”