Violent Ex
November 27, 2011 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: her unhinged, stalker ex-boyfriend's behaviour has escalated into violence. We are all very concerned. Any help would be appreciated, particularly if you know any details about dealing with this kind of situation in London.

I'm asking for a friend as she doesn't have a MeFi account, but I will refer her to this thread.

In a nutshell: she broke up with him a few months ago. In that time, his behaviour has consistently escalated from merely being an asshole to, most recently, outright violence.

It started initially with harassing texts and phone calls, eventually moving into e-mails claiming that he would destroy her reputation, which were then followed by vague, bizarre threats.

She told him never to contact her again, changed her phone number, and went to see a lawyer. About a week after all of this, he started leaving notes in her mailbox. Shortly after that, he started showing up at her house.

This is all alarming enough in its own right, but what has really tipped thing over the edge are the events of the past week (less than a week after the notes in the mailbox): at one point during the day, my friend thought she had seen this ex-boyfriend watching her from somewhere across the street near her house (this is in a non-central part of London.) She has recently started seeing a new guy, and they were hanging out at her flat one night when suddenly there was a loud shouting and pounding on the door. It was the ex-boyfriend.

Somehow, somebody opened the door and the ex-boyfriend forced his way inside; there was a confrontation, and in the midst of it, the ex-boyfriend punched the new guy. Of course the police were called, but they were...less than helpful. The ex-boyfriend was told to never contact her again and let off with a warning. My friend was told that in order for an injunction to be filed, he would have to try something again.

Already, he has e-mailed her several times, most recently threatening suicide. My friend has said that he hasn't physically hurt her 'yet', but of course, that 'yet' hangs in the air like a pregnant pause. Both her and her flatmate are staying at different houses for the moment, and the ex-boyfriend doesn't know where they are, though he does know where she works.

I've tried to relate the facts as dryly as possible, but of course we are all very troubled by this situation. The police have been no help whatsoever. WITHOUT EVERYBODY FREAKING OUT, what are some good, concrete steps that can be taken to alleviate the danger and deal with this situation?

Some points:

1) This is in London, so any specifics of UK law, or London-based resources would be particularly appreciated.

2) The ex-boyfriend is here on a visa that specifically forbids him from engaging in any kind of criminal behaviour. Is deportation a realistic option? (For the record, this would be deportation back to another first world country.)

Thank you in advance for your help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total)
The ex-boyfriend was told to never contact her again and let off with a warning. My friend was told that in order for an injunction to be filed, he would have to try something again.

This is really, really, really messed up and disgusting.

But I found this link to an organization called Women's Aid which has lots of links.

And, particularly, the National Domestic Violence Helpline.

(I think it would be helpful, in your search for resources, to search for "domestic violence" because violence from ex-spouses often falls under that umbrella term in describing available resources for help.)
posted by jayder at 9:20 AM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

because violence from ex-spouses often falls under that umbrella term

I meant to say "ex boyfriends"
posted by jayder at 9:22 AM on November 27, 2011

The Gift of Fear is popular advice around here, and for good reason. She has to cut off all contact and be consistent in this, and eventually he will stop trying to get through. Please get your friend this book. Good luck.
posted by mochapickle at 9:27 AM on November 27, 2011

What about going to the CAB? Getting a new phone number? Calling the immigration department?

On a side note- I read "The Gift of Fear" a few years ago and it discussed violence and stalkers... and the author has created a Threat Assessment online. Maybe check it out.
posted by misspony at 9:27 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

2) The ex-boyfriend is here on a visa that specifically forbids him from engaging in any kind of criminal behaviour. Is deportation a realistic option? (For the record, this would be deportation back to another first world country.)

Well he'd have to be convicted before he can be deported, which means he'd actually have to do something to get convicted for. And clearly that's what you're trying to avoid. So that's a red herring for the time being.

Other than the above resources and recommendations I'd print off all emails, copy all messages and take everything to the police and file a complaint. You need to get a trail documented here. Unless your friend can demonstrate the trail she'll struggle to get any legal come back.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:35 AM on November 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Does your friend live in the jurisdiction of the Met? Because they have specific advice for stalking victims. A warning is always their first step, so unless your friend has delivered the emails sent since that incident as evidence that he is continuing to harass her, I'm not really sure they are being useless.

On the other hand, "Try to get photographic or video evidence of your stalker (especially if they are someone already warned by the police not to come near you)" seems unwise and problematic to me.

I would at this point gather all of the emails and phone logs into a chronological folder and walk it down to my local station during normal business hours and basically camp out there until someone dealt with me.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:45 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Has the ex made specific physical threats to her and/or her new boyfriend? Even if the threats are non-specific, normally they can be reported to the police: Reporting Crime, which apparently you can even do online in Greater London.

This is really important: creating a written trace with the police. I've had a threatening neighbor here in France, for instance (the laws are roughly the same for this sort of harassment), and consistently reporting her threats was key to convincing the police that she was actually dangerous when she upped her ante. She moved from verbal threats to cutting my wire fencing and putting, um, human feces on my patio through the hole. (Yeah. That was great after a long day at work.) Thanks to the written traces over a period of a year, her feces-placing didn't look like a one-off weirdo thing, but part of a pattern. I was able to join a group suit against her (she'd also been threatening neighbors in her own building) in which the judge ruled a sort of restraining order: he fined her a hefty sum and told her that for each following complaint, he'd fine her the same amount each time. She's been "quiet" ever since (if by "quiet" you count "screaming inside her apartment"... at least she no longer does it directly to her neighbors).

Don't give up because of the initial police response. Report his threats. Verify that a factual report was filed concerning the physical aggression. In my neighbor's case, she had previously hit someone in public too, on the streets... the police let it go since it was the first they'd heard of her. But, it was on her record. So, the bad news is yes, it may have to get worse before the police can help. But the good news is, your friend can take concrete action by filing complaints: factual, with dates, preferably with the printed emails he's sent.

In the mean time, for goodness' sake do NOT let the ex onto her property. Call the police for trespassing if he does. Is she responding to his emails and phone calls at all? If yes, at all, she needs to stop. Completely. You do not want to get to the "worse" part. It may end up that he'll taper off by himself if he's left cold. He really, really needs to be left freezing cold no response whatsoever, I cannot emphasize that enough. ("Gift of Fear" goes into this too.)
posted by fraula at 9:47 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Harassment is a criminal offence under the Protection from Harassment Act. Your friend needs to be persistent and insist on speaking to an officer from the local Domestic Violence Unit.
posted by essexjan at 9:52 AM on November 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

She must document all contact this creep makes. Save all emails. Record all calls. She must not respond to him, not even a little bit. Persist, persist, persist with the police. Lawyer. The works. These people are dangerous and wicked, and they need to be stamped on. Hard.
posted by Decani at 9:58 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is the person who got assaulted not interested in pressing charges? If a criminal offense would get him deported, it seems like an assault charge would do it. I am confused as to why the police told the ex not to contact your friend again, but didn't address the assault? If the new guy would press charges, that might be an easy way to get the ex sent away. (just a guess, I am no expert)
posted by Vaike at 10:13 AM on November 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

Be aware that the Gift of Fear is focused solely on American law and systems. While it has a lot of useful advice, be cognizant that it discusses legal issues from the perspective of the America, not British, legal system.
posted by dfriedman at 10:17 AM on November 27, 2011

The National Center for Victims of Crime runs the Stalking Resource Center. While the legal resources are all about the US, there is a lot of other information, including a downloadable incident log that your friend can use to track the kinds of things that Decani suggests.
posted by Gorgik at 10:18 AM on November 27, 2011

This sounds extremely worrying and it's good to hear your friend is taking it so seriously even if the police aren't. For good all round advice and support I'd recommend either Women's Aid, which someone already linked to or Refuge.
posted by Dorothia at 10:45 AM on November 27, 2011

The advice to create a paper trail at the police and courts is good. Any police officer and any judge is going to base his or her decision on the paperwork. A binder full of threatening e-mails, alphabetically organised, police reports and times, dates and content of text messages is a very convincing weapon in a criminal procedure.

So build a case: for every separate e-mail, file a complaint. Every text message, every live contact. File a complaint, get a police report. Did the police make a report about the violent incident? If not, harass them until they will give you a paper that says they intervened in a situation where boyfriend gained access to your house.

This goes in the binder as well. Every time you contact the police, you can refer to the "prior violence" of ex-boyfriend.

Also, find a criminal lawyer and check if you can't start a criminal procedure at the courts even if the police think a slap on the wrist is enough. In most countries, this should be possible.

I think the danger of this escalating into something are quite real, and I do think the police know this. And of course, never ever ever answer phone, reply e-mail, open the door. And please don't ever let him in to "talk things through".
posted by NekulturnY at 12:14 PM on November 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

And that's chronologically organised, although presenting it to a judge alphabetically organised would be awesome, I guess.
posted by NekulturnY at 12:16 PM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might be able to do this with an ASBO. harrassment and intimidation are 2 o f the behaviors which qualify:
To obtain an ASBO, a two-stage test must be satisfied by the applicant authority (see s.1(1) Crime and Disorder Act 1998). The first is that the defendant has committed acts causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress within six months of the date of issue of the summons. The second is that an order is necessary to protect persons from further anti-social behaviour.

The applicant has to satisfy the court that the individual has acted in an anti-social manner. That is to say, in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself.[21] A court may order an ASBO only if such an order is 'necessary'.[22] Further, each prohibited act will usually be an act preparatory to a criminal offence rather than the offence itself, but not always: Rabess v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2007] EWHC 208 (Admin). In addition, each prohibition itself must be necessary. It may be inappropriate for a condition to be not to spray graffiti – the final act as opposed to prohibiting the carrying of a paint-spray can in a particular area, marked on a map. This would only be necessary if the court was sure that the respondent continually created graffiti with spray-cans in a specific area.

posted by zia at 12:23 PM on November 27, 2011

Was it the responding police officers who told her that ex-BF "would have to try something again" before she could get an injunction? If so, take that with a grain of salt --- they're cops, sure, but the police are not the final arbitraters of who gets an injunction: that would be the courts and a judge. Please tell her to ask a lawyer about an injunction or, as zia mentions, ex-BF might qualify for an ASBO.
posted by easily confused at 1:15 PM on November 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

I've been in this situation before: for several weeks one of my exes stalked me at home and at work, tried to enter my house in the middle of the night once to "talk", confronted my new boyfriend, and finally he tried to run my friend and I off the road one night when I wouldn't get into his car. I kept all emails, letters and voice-mails and took a witness with me to file a police report the next day.

The only thing that finally stopped him was when I filed a police report, and then he presumably heard from detectives. I also received a luke-warm response from the cops (they would only file a report for phone harassment rather than for the road attack because I was "safe" in another car), but I went through with it anyway. All calls, visits and harassment stopped on his end because he was afraid of what he would lose if I followed through with charges. Your friend MUST go to the police and create a legal record of his actions.

I remain convinced that my ex wanted to kill me, and would have if he had gotten me alone. Your friend loses nothing in demanding legal action to keep her safe.
posted by swingbraid at 3:35 PM on November 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nthing GIFT OF FEAR. very good resource! you should read it too! and NekulturnY's advice is right on!!

If your friend is ever told again that her ex "would have to try something again" before she can get an injunction, a) this is not true, as above commenters have noticed, and b) I'd advise her to make sure she has the name and badge number of who told her that, and to confirm it in writing by sending a letter to the police and/or putting it in a complaint or police report of the incident. This type of record-keeping by crime victims puts law enforcement on alert. It says to them: if something happens to this person thanks to the harasser, they will find themselves sued them for personal injury or wrongful death (god forbid!!) and she will show up to court with a paper trail showing they were on notice of the situation and did nothing. It is also a good idea to always remind police officers you have retained a lawyer to assist you with the harassment, and are documenting everything as per your lawyer's instructions, in order to take further legal action. Keep copies of all police reports and copies of correspondence.

On a more practical note, here are some other ideas. These are a bit last minute for her ex but they are skills and tools that might come in useful in the future if she ever finds herself in another unsafe situation. Your friend should perhaps consider some self-defense training, or installing alarms/surveillance in her apartment if she returns there. She should notify her neighbors in the apartment building who her ex is, what he looks like, and that if he is ever seen on the premises the neighbors should immediately call the police and report him for harassment, WITHOUT confronting him physically or verbally. Same goes for the people at her job -- they should know who he is, not to let him in, and to contact authorities if he shows up looking for her or asking around.

If she is concerned about being followed or attacked/harassed on her way from place A to place B, you can help her by setting up "check ins" with text messages or phone calls. it might also be a good time for her to be telling trusted friends or close family more about her itinerary so people will be able to check in with her -- but make sure this doesn't get back to the Ex.
posted by zdravo at 4:28 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry you and your friend are going through this. My situation was in the U.S., but when I had a (certifiably) crazy neighbor stalking the house and making threats to me and, worse, my cats, the police were useless. UNTIL I sent a registered letter (cc:ed to the local paper) to the chief of police, the mayor, AND the city council, so that they were officially on notice and liable if anything bad happened. Miraculously, the next time he trespassed he went away for a long, long time.

Another upside: the poor man was truly ill, finally got proper treatment, is doing well as far as I know.

tl;dr: make noise, and make it higher up
posted by cyndigo at 8:01 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

He came to her house, got inside, and hit someone. She should not be at her house or any place the ex knows of. Seriously. She needs a safehouse of some sort. If there is anyway she can work remotely, she should not go to the office.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:49 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

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