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Posted on 9 May 2024

What Baby Reindeer Taught Us About Stalking and Abuse

Posted in Advice


It seems like everybody’s watching Baby Reindeer on Netflix. People at work are talking about it. It’s in the press. Inevitably, it has sparked rigorous discussion online.  

The show Baby Reindeer came out on Netflix on the 11 April 2024. At time of writing, it's less than a month since its release and yet it has captivated so many in that short space of time. Netflix has dubbed the programme “a captivating true story.” But it’s so much more than merely gossip-worthy entertainment. It’s a gritty insight into the reality of stalking and the long-term effects of sexual abuse.

Baby Reindeer is So Much More than a Stalking Thriller

Baby Reindeer was written by Richard Gadd and is based on his own personal experiences of being stalked and sexually assaulted. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper Gadd says of the show:

“It’s very emotionally true... I was severely stalked and severely abused.”

Spotting a forlorn-looking woman in the pub at his day job, Gadd takes pity on her and gives her a free drink. The two spark up a seemingly innocent conversation and the woman begins to pay more regular visits. While there is something slightly odd about this character, Gadd’s empathy wins out. Not seeing the harm in the interactions, Gadd continues to play into her narrative until he realises that he’s out of his depth. Something shifts in their offbeat friendship and when the woman begins showing up at his gigs to cheer him on, he begins to worry it’s gone too far. But it’s too late – she already knows too much about him and her delusion is in full swing.  

As we learn more about Richard Gadd, we begin to understand why he’s dealing with the situation in the way that he does. Although the show focuses on Gadd’s experiences with one woman who begins to follow him to all his stand-up shows, it also delves into another, equally as sinister, instance of past abuse. The way Gadd experiences the situation with his stalker is dictated by this history of sexual abuse at the hands of someone in a position of power.

Baby Reindeer is essentially the story of how a bleak past can influence a person’s future interactions. And how people who may not have another’s best interests at heart can infiltrate their lives so completely.

Patterns of Stalking and Sexual Abuse

Stalking and harassment is defined as a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention directed at a person, which causes them distress or fear. Sexual abuse is any sexual activity that takes place without consent.

With its fearless approach to these difficult topics, Baby Reindeer is helping to raise public awareness of both stalking and sexual abuse, and the effects it has on the people targeted.  

Stalking is much more common in England and Wales than generally recognised. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONF), about 7 million people in England and Wales have been stalked. However, there are certain criteria that have to be met in order for the authorities to take action. Stalking is often a precursor to violent crime, but that doesn’t mean the police can act in a pre-emptory manner.

Some Stats to Consider

Stalking is often not taken as seriously as it should be, both by the person being stalked and by the people around them. It’s rare that a stalker begins their relationship with you in full stalking mode. It’s a situation that develops over time. Sometimes, so slowly that by the time you’ve realised what’s happening, it’s too late to nip it in the bud.  

Once it becomes apparent that you have a stalker, it’s important to tread carefully. Stalking is usually accompanied by serious mental health issues and can escalate to a dangerous level, if not handled delicately.  

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 12 men will experience stalking in their lifetime.
  • Of those stalked by a former intimate partner, 74% reported domestic violence or coercive control during the relationship.
  • 81% of people who were stalked by an ex-partner reported that the stalking turned to violence.
  • Partner stalking lasts 2.2 years, on average.
  • 46% of stalking victims experienced one or more violent incidents at the hands of their stalker.
  • In a study conducted by Jane Monckton-Smith, Professor of Public Protection and Stalking Expert, 94% of stalking-related homicides were the end result of stalking.

Types of Stalkers

In a lot of cases, stalking victims don’t realise that what they’re experiencing is actually stalking. There’s a certain kind of stalker that is portrayed in the media. These are known as “predatory stalkers” and are what most people consider to be the benchmark for stalking. Predatory stalkers are usually very quick and violent in their approach. The slower, more insidious types of stalking may seem benign in comparison to begin with. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are less dangerous. While the stalker in Baby Reindeer is what is known as an “intimacy seeker,” she is still prone to violent outbursts as the stalking escalates.  

As the stats show, most stalking cases end in violence, rape or death. Whatever the stalking style, it is still important to take the situation seriously and take positive action to protect yourself.  

There are five main definitions of stalking:

Intimacy seeker 

These types of stalkers are searching for deep emotional connections. While that may not seem out of the ordinary, intimacy seekers will latch themselves onto you and become infatuated, convinced that you love them. It arises from loneliness and stalkers with this kind of pattern are often shy, or socially inept. They are likely to live alone and never been in a genuine relationship.

Incompetent suitor 

Similarly to the intimacy seeker, the incompetent suitor is seeking to make a connection. They are likely to have similar traits of social awkwardness and lack of personal relationships. However, they are usually after intimate friendships or short sexual relationships. Intimate suitors may not accept any rejections and continually ask someone out. Or insert themselves into a person’s social life without invitation. They are likely to have a history of stalking, but the good news is, the timeline for this typer of stalking is generally shorter than others. The stalker will move onto a new target after a time.

Rejected stalker 

These types of stalkers are out to rekindle a lost intimate relationship, usually with a former sexual partner. Although, they can also target other people they have had close relationships with. A rejected stalker often swings wildly between trying to find ways to reconcile and seeking revenge. Rejected stalkers are more likely to continue their campaign for long periods of time, often becoming violent. Your rejection of them will be seen as a personal affront and they are fuelled by their own humiliation.

Resentful stalker

The desire for revenge is what stokes a resentful stalker’s fire. Victims of a resentful stalker will often be acquaintances, strangers, businesses or services that the stalker feels has mistreated them. They will feel that an injustice has been done to them, whether it’s receiving bad customer service, or losing out on a promotion to someone else. Feeling that they need to even the score, a resentful stalker will damage property and take steps to make their victim feel scared. In this way, they feel they are regaining control of the situation.

Predatory stalker 

This is the type of stalker that is most often seen in Hollywood blockbusters and TV series. A predatory stalker’s motivation is primarily related to deviant sexual practices and interests. They are less likely to directly harass their victims and instead observe from a distance, gaining more information in order to prepare for their inevitable attack. Victims may have no idea that they are being stalked, or they may have a feeling that something is wrong, but can’t put their finger on why. Most predatory stalkers are male, and this kind of stalking case is most likely to involve physical violence from the outset.

If you are in a stalking situation, understanding what kind of stalker you have can give you the tools to protect yourself. That being said, you do not have to deal with this alone – you can contact the National Stalking Helpline for advice.  

What Can I Do If I Think I’m Being Stalked?

If you think you are being stalked, whether you have evidence or not, it’s important to ensure that you are taking steps in case things escalate.

  1. Document everything. Keep detailed records of all incidents, including dates, times, locations, and descriptions of the stalker's behaviour. Save any communications, gifts, or evidence related to the stalking.
  2. Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe, trust your instincts. Take threats seriously, even if they seem minor or indirect. Never give out your home or work addresses where possible, and never post your whereabouts on social media.
  3. Notify authorities. Contact local authorities as soon as possible. Provide them with all the evidence you have gathered and explain your concerns. While they cannot take action until there is enough proof of danger, they can help you to assess the situation and take appropriate action to protect yourself.
  4. Secure your environment. Take steps to enhance your security, such as installing locks, alarms, and security cameras. Avoid being alone in vulnerable or isolated areas.
  5. Inform trusted individuals. Share your situation with trusted friends, family members, or colleagues. They can provide support and assistance, and they should know what's happening for their own safety as well. Stalkers can sometimes target your loved ones or those close to you in order to get to you.
  6. Consider legal options. Depending on the severity of the stalking, you may need to pursue legal action, such as obtaining a restraining order or protective order against the stalker.
  7. Seek support. Being stalked can be emotionally exhausting. Consider seeking support from a counsellor, therapist, or support group to help you cope with the stress and anxiety. You can also look at this as another way of recording what’s happening to you.
  8. Stay vigilant. Even after taking steps to address the situation, remain vigilant. Stalking can be persistent and continue even when you think it’s blown over and you’re in the clear. Continue to document any further incidents and report them to the authorities.
  9. Take Care of Yourself. Self-care is crucial during this challenging time. Make sure to prioritise your physical and mental wellbeing by getting enough rest, eating healthily, and engaging in activities that bring you comfort and relaxation. Stalking can take over your life, so making sure you’re being kind to yourself can give you back some control.

Stalking is Not Recognised as a Violent Crime by the CICA

Stalking is a crime and will be noted if reported to the police. Unfortunately, under the terms of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICA), it is not recognised as a crime of violence in itself. Therefore, victims of stalking are not able to make claims for compensation through the scheme. Unfortunately, over half of stalking cases end in violence, sexual assault or death. This is why it’s crucial for you to take the steps above to protect yourself and build a case, so that you’re prepared should things turn nasty.  

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are recognised as crimes of violence and, as such, claims for compensation can be made through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. Whether as a result of stalking or any other means, we can help support you through this difficult time.

Hopefully, one benefit of the Netflix drama and its popularity will be to raise awareness of both stalking and sexual abuse.

Winston Solicitors have specialists who deal with Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme claims. If you have been affected by these issues and would like to discuss making a claim, you can contact us on 0113 320 5000 or email @email.