'My stalker would wait at work with his face against the window'

Arabella Drummond taking a selfie Image copyright Photo from Arabella

"He'd stand outside my workplace pressing his face against the window. It was very unnerving."

Arabella is talking about the man who began stalking her in 2013.

She didn't know this person would have a lasting impact on her life, or that a chance encounter at her job would leave her needing to escape his unwanted attention.

"In 2013 I'd spoken to an unknown man, we had a brief conversation which had left me feeling a bit unnerved and then I didn't see him for a few years after," she says.

But, at the beginning of 2018, Arabella started to notice the man more regularly and he would appear up to 10 times a day at the building where she worked.

"He'd stand in the doorway of the shop. It's just very unnerving behaviour," Arabella tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Image copyright Picture from Arabella

Arabella realised that her stalker's behaviour made her feel frightened, but said she felt too "embarrassed" to go to the police.

A chat with her mum gave her the courage to tell them what was going on.

"It took me about two-and-a-half months to say anything. I ended up calling 999 pretty much every single day."

Despite being scared, Arabella followed the advice of police and kept a diary of everything that happened.

"It was terrifying. I was crying every day at work and I had nearly two months off because I didn't want to be there."

'All they had was pictures'

Coping with feelings of fear is common for victims of stalking.

Around eight in 10 victims of stalking experience the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study produced by Sussex Stalking Support and the University of Bedfordshire.

Investigating a stalking offence can be a complicated process for the police - something that Arabella is aware of.

"All that the police can really do when they come to a situation is take a statement from you," she says.

"I thought there would be databases of this stuff.

"All they had to go by was a few pictures that I gave them and keeping their eye out for him, so it took a long time."

Image copyright Photo from Arabella
Image caption Arabella was reluctant to report her stalker at first but says victims should seek support

Sussex Police was criticised recently for not investigating stalking complaints properly, after Shana Grice - who was 19 - was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.

She'd reported him to police on five occasions but they fined her for wasting police time. Sussex Police has said it "deeply regrets" Shana's death.

"All victims of stalking should be able to rely on the police to take their cases seriously and respond appropriately," says Suky Bhaker, acting CEO of anti-stalking charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

"All police forces should have appropriate procedures in place to handle stalking cases, including a robust risk assessment followed by a thorough investigation."

'Pick up the phone'

Even though Arabella was reluctant at first to report her stalker, he has now been issued with a tag and restraining order, and she is no longer being stalked.

Arabella feels strongly that other victims should seek support.

"The biggest help for me throughout this has been the National Stalking Helpline.

"They gave me great advice on how to document what was going on, how to approach the police, how to stay safe at work.

"Pick up the phone and call the National Stalking Hotline."

If you've been affected by the issues raised in this article, you can find advice here.

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