Terrified stalking victims are seeking help on a weekly basis in Fife as cases in the region rocket.
Women fearing for their own safety and that of their children and even pets are turning to Fife Women’s Aid for support when incidents escalate.
Ellen McCance, the organisation’s fundraising and communications worker, said many people were suffering significant alarm and distress as a result of being stalked.
“We are definitely experiencing an increase in calls to us from women asking for support around stalking,” she said.
Ms McCance was speaking after a freedom of information request by The Courier revealed Fife was in the grip of a stalking surge, with cases at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court alone more than tripling in the last two years.
The number of people appearing before a sheriff in the town jumped from 22 at the end of 2013 to 72 in 2015.
At Dunfermline Sheriff Court cases more than doubled from 15 to 32.
“Cases of stalking have indeed been on the increase in Fife and we get many calls every week from women asking for support in dealing with perpetrators,” said Ms McCance.
“Stalking can take many forms. In addition to following or watching a woman, it can also include such intrusive behaviours as verbal abuse and public humiliation, unwanted letters and texts, Twitter trolling, the spreading of rumours, threatening a victim’s family or even their pets and physical violence.
“Stalking curtails a victim’s freedom and causes significant alarm and distress.”
Ms McCance urged women who feared they were being stalked to keep a diary of their experiences.
“I would really encourage women to record everything that happens and then report it because what they want to do is build a case,” she said.
“If you can establish a pattern of behaviour you can get your lawyer to apply for a non-harrassment order which has powers of arrest attached.”
Fife Women’s Aid believes more women have been willing to report crimes following the Scottish Government’s introduction of a specific stalking law in 2010.
“That’s had a real impact on women’s confidence to report it because the law now defines what stalking is and the police understand much better what is upsetting them.
“Sheriffs are treating it as unacceptable as well, which is to be welcomed.”
Anyone in Fife affected by stalking can contact Fife Women’s Aid 24 hours a day on 0808 802 5555 for confidential support.