Stalking and harassment involves persistent, repeated and unwanted attention, often from someone known to the victim. It can take many forms, including

  • following or surveillance
  • repeated unwanted phone calls, texts and/or emails
  • unwanted gifts and cards, such as flowers
  • cyber stalking on the internet
  • damage to property
  • physical and/or sexual assault
  • making or threatening to make an intimate photograph or film of another person public.

Here you can find information on the link between stalking, harassment and health inequalities, as well as information on national and local actions that can be taken to address this.

  • 20% of women and 10% of men have experienced stalking from the age of 16.
  • Women, and younger women in particular, are the most likely victims of stalking and tend to experience severe and lasting effects.
  • 36% of stalking and harassment cases had also experienced domestic abuse.
  • Stalking lasts on average between 6 months and 2 years but could last considerably longer.
  • The most common period for stalking to take place is both shortly before and after a relationship ends.

Stalking, harassment and health inequalities

The impact of stalking and harassment is considerable. It typically has a highly damaging effect on the lives of victims, which can last long after the behaviour has stopped, as well as on their families and friends.

Victims report the need to make major changes to their lives such as

  • changing jobs
  • moving to a different area
  • restricting social and leisure activities.

There is significant potential for physical violence and the health effects associated with that.

Victims can also suffer long-term psychological effects. They may lose confidence in themselves or lose trust in other people. Some people become withdrawn or have nightmares.

We have created a guidance document for health workers that explains the nature of stalking and harassment and the impact on health. It also covers how staff can identify and respond to those who have experienced either.

View our guidance on stalking and harassment for health workers

National action

Stalking and harassment should be taken very seriously given the risks to women affected by domestic abuse. The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 acknowledges the psychological impact and the statutory offence of domestic abuse recognises the role of coercive control in abusive relationships.

Scottish Women's Right Centre

The Scottish Women's Right Centre developed the FollowIt App for women experiencing stalking. It provides a quick and safe way to record incidents of stalking and their impact. They also have information on women's rights and what to expect if an incident is reported to the police.

Download the Reporting stalking to the Police: Your rights (PDF 112 KB) for more information.

Police Scotland

As with domestic abuse and some other forms of crime, stalking can be reported online with Police Scotland. Victims, or someone acting on their behalf with their consent, can complete the online stalking form.

Visit Police Scotland for the stalking form

Local actions

Routine enquiry

Stalking and harassment is a serious health issue and staff have a duty of care to those affected. The introduction of routine enquiry of domestic abuse in healthcare settings can help frontline staff to identify stalking and harassment and take appropriate action. Staff can improve the person's long-term health and well-being by intervening sensitively and appropriately.

Go to our routine enquiry of gender based violence page

Suzy Lamplugh Trust

Information on identifying and dealing with stalking and harassment is available from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which also runs the national helpline.

Visit the Suzy Lamplugh Trust for resources

Local contacts

Each local NHS Board has an Executive Lead and Operational Lead for gender based violence (GBV). You can contact your local lead for information on local policies, training opportunities and support for staff.

Support services for the public

Information on support available to the public is available on the site.

Members of the public can also be directed towards Scotland's Service Directory on NHS inform which provides information on

Last updated: 02 October 2023
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