6. Responding to people who experience stalking

Introduction

6.1 In this chapter, we look at how the system responds to the needs of people who have been stalked. We ask how well existing programs support people, how future reforms to victim services might improve support, and if there is a need for specialist support services.

6.2 We would also like to know how other services and systems work to support people experiencing stalking.

The needs of victim survivors

6.3 In general, victim survivors have four categories of needs:

• practical support needs such as safety and security

• therapeutic needs, including early access to specialist trauma recovery support

• justice needs, such as understanding how the system operates

• information needs, including timely and accurate information about supports and entitlements.[190]

6.4 People who experience stalking have specific needs, including:

• the need to be believed

• the need to have their feelings validated and given proper weight.[191]

6.5 There are also practical support needs such as:

• safety planning

• help with relocating

• advice on how to document the stalking

• advice on how to get the behaviour to stop

• help with getting personal safety intervention orders.[192]

Support for people who have experienced stalking

6.6 In Victoria there are general support programs for victims of crime (see Table 2).

Table 2:General supports for victims of crime

Program

About the service

Target group

Victims Support Agency, Department of Justice and Community Safety

The agency runs the Victims of Crime Helpline and funds the Victims Assistance Program (VAP) across the state to support victims, including through counselling and referrals to other services.

Victims who have experienced crimes against the person. This includes people experiencing physical injury, emotional injury or financial loss.

Victims and Witness Assistance Service, Office of Public Prosecutions

This service supports victims through the process of giving evidence, including by giving them information about how courts work and providing practical support.

Adult victims, with priority to victims in sexual offence and family violence matters, and others who need more support.

Court Network

Trained volunteers provide information, support and referral within courts across Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Victims, accused persons, witnesses and their families and friends.

Translation and interpretation services

Victorian courts provide translation and professional interpreter services on request.

All victims.

6.7 There are no specific specialist support services for people who experience stalking.

6.8 There are specialist support programs for people who have experienced sexual harm and/or family violence. Some of these programs result from the reforms that followed the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence (see Table 3). They include:

• a national 24-hour support helpline

• tailored support for people from diverse backgrounds

• crisis support and accommodation.

Table 3: Examples of some specialist supports for family and sexual violence

Program

About the service

Target group

Safe Steps

24-hour family violence response centre for crisis support, information and accommodation.

People who are experiencing or afraid of family violence.

The Orange Door

A range of family violence and family services in a ‘one stop shop’.

Adults, children and young people who are experiencing or have experienced family violence and families who need extra support with the care, wellbeing and development of children.

With Respect

Resources and advice.

LGBTIQ people on having and maintaining healthy relationships as well as support for those experiencing family violence.

InTouch—Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

Free and confidential support services.

Migrant and refugee women experience family violence.

Djirra

Legal and non-legal support.

Aboriginal people who are experiencing or have experienced family violence.

Sexual Assault Crisis Line

Crisis counselling service.

People who have experienced both past and recent sexual assault.

National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Help 1800 RESPECT

Information, counselling and support service.

People experiencing sexual, domestic or family violence.

Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA)

Support and intervention.

Women, children and men who have experienced sexual assault.

Seniors Rights Victoria

Confidential support services.

Older people experiencing abuse.

6.9 In general, people who experience stalking but do not also experience sexual harm or family violence cannot access these support programs.

6.10 In contrast, the United Kingdom has a national support helpline specifically for people experiencing stalking.[193] (See box).

6.11 In 2020, the Centre for Innovative Justice at RMIT University published a review of Victoria’s victim services. The review identified the following problems:

• some victims who could not access support through specialist services also had difficulty in getting appropriate support from generalist services.[194]

• not all victims access victim services and the response does not always match their need.[195]

• the Victims of Crime Helpline response is focused on victims of violent crime against the person.[196]

6.12 The review proposed a new service model ‘that is flexible enough to respond to a range of circumstances and needs’.[197]

6.13 As part of this inquiry, we are considering a program that directly advocates for people experiencing stalking and helps them navigate the criminal justice process. Scotland and the United Kingdom have services of this kind (see box).

6.14 We want to hear how well existing programs support people who have experienced stalking, and how they can be improved. We are interested in how well support services respond to the diverse needs of people who have experienced stalking, including people who face greater barriers in accessing justice.

Action Against Stalking[198]

This is a not-for-profit organisation in Scotland that focuses exclusively on helping people who experience stalking. It offers a Stalking Support Service all the way though a person’s experience with the justice system. It acts as an intermediary between the victim and justice system. The intermediary;

• provides information and advice

• directs people to support agencies

• works with multiple agencies to provide a wholly integrated service.

The National (United Kingdom) Stalking Support Service[199] operated by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust has a national stalking helpline. The service also provides an advocate who acts as a representative for people who experience stalking in London. The advocate:

• makes sure that the police investigate, collect evidence and apply for protection orders

• undertakes a risk assessment and safety plan

• links the person experiencing stalking with any other support as needed.

Some advocates are being trained to provide trauma-informed psychological support.

Question

21 How can we improve victim services so that people who experience stalking have their needs met?

Financial needs of people who experience stalking

6.15 People who are victims of crime can apply for financial assistance from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). Financial payments can be made for expenses such as:

• counselling

• medical needs

• personal safety

• lost income (from not being able to work because of the crime)

• some other reasonable expenses.[200]

6.16 In 2018, in an inquiry into the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic), the Victorian Law Reform Commission made recommendations to improve the way the government provides financial assistance to victims of crime.[201] We recommended that a more flexible state-funded compensation scheme be established to replace VOCAT, administered by the Victims of Crime Commissioner. This scheme would also provide a forum for acknowledging the harms caused by the crime.

6.17 The government accepted our recommendations in principle and committed to progress them. VOCAT is now being replaced with a more accessible, trauma-informed system.[202]

6.18 We want to hear your views about the new scheme that is being introduced to provide financial support to victims of crime, especially as it relates to people who have been stalked.

Question

22 How can the financial support scheme for victims of crime be improved so that it better meets the needs of victim survivors of stalking?

Working with other services and systems

6.19 People who are stalked often need to deal with a range of services and systems to address their needs. These include services provided by government agencies, for example:

• eSafety (advice on technology facilitated stalking)

• the health system, including mental health services, drug and alcohol services, general practitioners and hospitals

• the legal system

• institutions, such as schools and universities (which can be places where people experience stalking)

• services specific to groups (for example, settlement services for refugees, disability services, or Aboriginal-controlled organisations)

• housing services.

6.20 People who are being stalked might also access services provided by private companies, for example:

• security system companies (CCTV and home alarms)

• mobile phone companies and repairers (spyware removal and debugging).

6.21 These services and systems can support someone while they are being stalked.

6.22 We want to hear if there are ways to improve how these services and systems work together to support people who are being stalked.

Question

23 How can we better integrate victim services with relevant public and private services and systems so that people are supported while they are being stalked?


  1. Centre for Innovative Justice, Strengthening Victoria’s Victim Support System: Victim Services Review (Final Report, November 2020) 222 https://cij.org.au/cms/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/strengthening-victorias-victim-support-system-victim-services-review-centre-for-innovative-justice-november-2020.pdf . See Figure 16.

  2. Tim Boehnlein et al, ‘Responding to Stalking Victims: Perceptions, Barriers, and Directions for Future Research’ (2020) 35(7) Journal of Family Violence 755, 760.

  3. Ibid.

  4. ‘National Stalking Helpline’, Suzy Lamplugh Trust (Web Page, 2019) https://www.suzylamplugh.org/pages/category/national-stalking-helpline .

  5. Centre for Innovative Justice, Strengthening Victoria’s Victim Support System: Victim Services Review (Final Report, November 2020) https://cij.org.au/cms/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/strengthening-victorias-victim-support-system-victim-services-review-centre-for-innovative-justice-november-2020.pdf .

  6. Ibid 14.

  7. Ibid 85.

  8. Centre for Innovative Justice, Strengthening Victoria’s Victim Support System: Victim Services Review (Final Report, 2020) 26 https://cij.org.au/cms/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/strengthening-victorias-victim-support-system-victim-services-review-centre-for-innovative-justice-november-2020.pdf .

  9. ‘Action Against Stalking’, AAS Website (Web Page) https://www.actionagainststalking.org/about .

  10. ‘National Stalking Helpline’, Suzy Lamplugh Trust (Web Page, 2019) https://www.suzylamplugh.org/pages/category/national-stalking-helpline .

  11. Office of Public Prosecutions (Vic), Financial Assistance, Compensation and Restitution for Victims of Crime (Brochure, 2013) http://www.opp.vic.gov.au/News-and-Media/Newsletters/December-2013/c-Financial-assistance-brochure-for-victims .

  12. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Review of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Report No 36, September 2018) https://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au/ .

  13. Natalie Hutchins, Minister for Crime Preventions, Minister for Victim Support and Minister for Youth Justice, ‘Better Outcomes or Victims and Young People’ (Media Release, 20 May 2021) 1 https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-05/11a%20-%20Better%20Outcomes%20For%20Victims%20And%20Young%20People.pdf .

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