A SPECIALIST charity that helps victims of stalking is to receive Scottish Government funding for the first time to allow it to deal with cases which are becoming increasingly complex and traumatic.

The Scottish Crime and Justice survey 2017-18 reported that in 2016-17 and 2017-18, a combined 11.1% of adults experienced at least one type of stalking and harassment in the previous year.

More than two-thirds of victims (67%) had experienced unwanted messages by text, email, messenger or posts on social media, making it the most common type of stalking.

Now, growing charity Action Against Stalking is to receive more than £55,414 to establish an office space and employ specialist staff.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, said: “Stalking can be a traumatic crime for victims and social media can be exploited by stalkers to harass and track their victims from a distance, exacerbating its complexity.

“Victims are often vulnerable and have little escape, requiring an intelligent, compassionate approach to support from across the justice system and third sector partners, which Action Against Stalking can inform and deliver.

“We are stepping up our response to stalking with the needs of victims at the heart of our approach as we tackle more and more complex cases of stalking. This funding will ensure Action Against Stalking’s specialist support reaches more victims of stalking when they need it most.”

Campaigners have previously raised concerns that women don’t always report to the police, sometimes because they are not aware of what type of behaviour is criminal – and want to raise awareness.

News of the funding comes as the charity prepares to host its second UK conference in Glasgow on Wednesday. The event will have a focus on cyberstalking to give a greater awareness of the issue and the “iPredator”. It aims to highlight the world of social media and stalking – and the dark web – and will provide practical advice on cybersecurity.

Ann Moulds, chief executive of Action Against Stalking, initiated a successful campaign in 2009 that saw Scotland become the be the first country to introduce specific legislation for the prosecution of stalkers.

She said: “We are pleased to have received this funding from the Scottish Government. It provides an exciting and essential opportunity for Scotland to continue to lead the way in advancing the recognition of and response to stalking.

“This support will ensure Action Against Stalking has improved capacity to build on the excellent work that has already been achieved in this field and the sustainability to play an important role in addressing this crime and improving our response to victims.”

In April this year research by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) found non-violent stalking can cause lasting psychological damage to victims and should be treated as seriously as domestic abuse by the justice system. A survey of 128 stalking victims found the actions of the stalker had an impact on all aspects of their lives, with victims reporting suicide attempts, anxiety, depression, a loss of confidence and isolation.