If you’re one of the many people in Britain who rent out one or more properties to tenants, I advise you to step into the shoes of your tenants and think along with them. It will pay off. Continue reading
When this is what your life is like, your world shrinks very rapidly, and with it, your opportunities disappear too, and it’s not your fault.
There have been experiments, also in TV series, in which they gave a family £26,000 so that they could finally DO something and turn their lives around. You see people blossom, find jobs, start businesses and keep them going.
The Supreme Court has just undone benefit cuts dubbed the bedroom tax for severely disabled people. This issue has been playing for years.
This is the umptieth court case to do with the UK government betraying its own citizens, and the government loses about 99% of them.
Something I ran into on Twitter a while back…
= When the conditions in a place are of such a nature that (modern) life in it is impossible.
It means that the inhabitant has no choice but to leave.
(Once explained to me by a legal aid lawyer in Florida)
Never had any problems with landlords in the Netherlands. Never.
Had three in Florida. The first and the third were fine, but the second one was not and his attorney was rumoured to have mafia ties, I kid you not. But I heard that later. I think it was actually a legal aid lawyer who told me that who I talked with later, long after I’d moved out and his lawyer started pestering me. I’ll spare you the details.
My third landlord was the husband of the person I volunteered with on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. (He was a builder, built huge places, the way they are in Florida. Nice guy. I think he was in the US Army for a while, and they lived in places like Morocco. ) She stopped by one day – to bring me two birds – and was appalled and suggested I move in to one of their places. They owned a small apartment building that was mostly used by snowbirds (people from for example Canada who take winter vacations in Florida).
Some time later, I moved to Britain.
In Southampton, I knew several landlords. (Only one of them was mine.)
One said that only educated people were decent human beings, and I was too shocked to respond. He called tenants who rang him because the washing machine or heating wasn’t working (properly) “bad tenants”. This was not my own landlord, but someone I met within a business context and was friendly with for a while. Wasn’t actually a bad guy at all, strangely enough.
I also knew one who proudly told me how he had tricked an elderly woman with beginning Alzheimer’s out of her flat, I kid you not.
On another occasion, the same guy was talking with me about a new building he was constructing and then added that it did not have to be very good “as it is only for tenants”.
In Portsmouth, I’ve met two who dump rubbish on other people’s front courts and patios. I caught one red-handed and the other one admitted it.
I have principles.
If I can help make things better for people who come after me who are less strong in some way – okay, except physically as I am getting old and I am feeling it – I will try to do that. And that baffles the hell out of (most) Brits. But that is not my problem.
Are you a woman in Portsmouth (England) and a target of sadistic stalking?
“Eh, of what ?”
You can find out more about the phenomenon “sadistic stalking” if you look into the work of forensic psychologist Lorraine Sheridan’s British work, but there is also some information at the bottom of this post.
It concerns a highly manipulative pattern of positive and negative behaviours (which can lead to trauma-bonding, better known as the Stockholm syndrome) and the gradual but steady loss of the victim’s control over almost all areas of her life. It is usually carried out by someone the stalker barely knows or may not even know at all.
Victims of sadistic stalking are generally slowly but very deliberately isolated by their stalkers, their lives often torn to shreds in the course of years.
What does this mean in real life?
That you’re not alone!
There are up to 45 women in Portsmouth right now – maybe more – who are in the same kind of nightmare as you are!
Let me explain how I arrived at that number.
According to National Stalking Advocacy Service Paladin (see this page: https://paladinservice.co.uk/key-facts-and-figures/ ), “data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales shows up to 700, 000 women are stalked each year (2009-12)”. That could include 90,300 victims of sadistic stalking, then, if 12.9% of those cases concern sadistic stalking, as in Sheridan’s study.
The size of the combined populations of England (53.01 million in 2011) and Wales (approximately 3,063,456 in 2011) was 56,063,456. 700,000 stalked women represent a little over 1% of that total population, but that population also contains minors and men. So let’s say that about 0.5% of women are stalked.
(This excludes stalking that is 100% cyberstalking.)
If I assume that stalking is evenly distributed geographically, which it won’t be as some stalkers are more likely to operate in surroundings that make stalking easier, then I arrive at the following estimate for Portsmouth, where I live.
Portsmouth’s population in 2010 was 207,100. The working-age population was 145,000. If I take 50% of that as the number of women, I end up with up to about 360 stalked women in Portsmouth alone. If 12.9% of those cases concern sadistic stalking, as in Sheridan’s study, then about 45 women in Portsmouth were targeted by sadistic stalkers in 2010/2011.
There is almost no help for these women. The digital age has made it much more expensive and complicated for police to investigate stalking. As sadistic stalking tends to involve one or more unknown stalkers (and is often very subtle and skilled as well as engineered to make the victim sound crazy), police officers cannot afford to allocate resources towards investigating such cases.
Sadistic stalking can go on for decades, and nobody can help you put a stop to it. There is a lot of fancy-talk out there, but in reality, when you are being stalked like this, you are largely on your own.
You may even run into the bullshit opinion that there are no stalked women, only psychotic and hysteric women and attention-seeking women.
It’s not true that only young and attractive women get stalked. You can get stalked because you remind a man of his mother or because you are having a bad hair day.
So in real life, you may find yourself being forced to live a nightmare, on your own, your health likely to decline under the prolonged stress. You can develop things such as skin infections (fungal or bacterial).
You may even suffer a heart attack as you may often be confronted with shocking acts of cruelty.
I am no longer often angry with stalkers because I’ve come to realize that they can’t help what they are doing. It’s complicated. We provide medical care to people with kidney problems, but not to people with brain differences that can, for example, be caused by severe childhood abuse. Apparently, such differences in the brain can result in stalking behaviours like these.
But here is the thing.
If 45 or so women in Portsmouth alone are being targeted by sadistic stalkers, we should be able to make a fist – or rather, a circle of connected hands – and support each other. That way, we could instantly put a stop to one of the key objectives of sadistic stalking – isolating the victim.
You may have been hiding the fact that you are being stalked because when you talk about it, you usually sound like a complete lunatic yet, on the other hand, when people believe you, they often become scared.
Friends and acquaintances disappear and those who don’t disappear by themselves will be pushed away by the stalkers. They may call friends, relatives and acquaintances, pretend to be someone else and give them a reason to stay away from you.
You may feel guilty about being stalked, even though you know that you did nothing to deserve it.
You may feel like you should have been able to prevent it, somehow, even though on a rational level, you know that there is nothing you could have done differently that would have made a difference. It makes you feel incompetent.
You may be experiencing disbelief. “This can’t possibly be happening. So it must be me. Am I merely imagining things? Am I going crazy?”
This may be more common at the start of being stalked, when you notice things that make no sense, things that – so you think – can’t really be true. Such as people taking photos of you, (some of) your postal mail disappearing or the feeling that someone has been in your home, or just a vague indescribable feeling of unease that you can have when someone has been in your home but you don’t realize it.
And if you are a foreigner, you may not even be sure if what is happening could be “British humour” or not. British humour is often slightly sadistic, too, after all. Designed to trigger “Schadenfreude”. Are anonymous people around playing pranks on you, perhaps? You may also find yourself tripped up by British slang that you didn’t recognize as such.
You are bound to feel alone and powerless and you may often walk around with a frown on your face, looking and feeling angry or scared or frustrated or bewildered. You may have become a bit zombie-like – because that is what prolonged powerlessness can do, for various reasons. Some people may think that you’re really odd, for instance, people at supermarket tills.
But you are not alone.
Earlier today, before I started writing this page, I passed a woman on my way to the Aldi and I wondered “Is she one of them?” I looked at her, deliberately, and she looked back and smiled. She was about my age.
A few years ago, the Portsmouth News reported the suicide of a 54-year-old woman in Southsea. I was 55 at the time. I am still wondering if she too was a victim of sadistic stalking. Stalkers may target several people simultaneously. Perhaps it helps obscure what they are doing, makes them look less fixated on one person.
So let’s find each other and start supporting each other. All 45 of us or whatever the number for Portsmouth is in reality, and many of the others too, for instance, those who have delusional fixation stalkers or stalkers who are a mix of these two stalking types, and others as well.
The other two stalking behaviours in Sheridan’s taxonomy (ex-partner stalking/harassment and infatuation harassment) appear to be a bit different, often less secretive, and more clearly to see for others.
With some stalkers, telling them off in a stern tone works, but it can encourage other stalkers.
By the way, the advice to have no contact with a stalker has become meaningless in the digital age. There is no way of knowing that “Carl Patterson” who you don’t know is really, say, “Pete Jefferson” who you do know. And if you suspect that it is, you will sound paranoid as this example is so obvious. If the example is less obvious and someone contacts you and something about it does not feel right, you will still sound paranoid if you talk about it.
Apart from that, you will be trying to make your life work in spite of being stalked and you can’t do that without trying to find out who and what you are dealing with, and finding out whether it might be possible to negotiate a workable situation with the person.
Let’s connect. We could meet every Saturday at 11:00 or 14:00 in the HIVE at the public library in Guildhall Square. I don’t know yet if I will get around to starting this myself in Portsmouth, but if I do, I will post details on this page later.
Women and men in other locations can do this too, of course. Track each other down and start supporting each other.
I am aware of the risk that meeting like this might also attract stalkers or, say, people with narcissistic personality disorder who feel better about themselves when they hear about other people’s misery, but I think those of us who are being stalked and certainly those who have been stalked for many years have learned enough about stalking behaviours to recognize any wolves in our midst. And we could set up a safety net for ourselves, too. Plus, there can be safety in being visible to the public.
Stalkers don’t necessarily mean harm, but it’s impossible to know what is going through the mind of anyone who is stalking you. That creates a big chunk of the problem, of the life-stealing in stalking in general.
Once we join hands, however, we can say “We’ve got this.” and feel strong and in control again, instead of “possibly crazy”, powerless and vulnerable.
I mean, heck, isn’t this an obvious solution?!
That said, please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this web page. I cannot protect anyone from anything, nor guarantee anything, and cannot be held liable for the results of any decisions you make or don’t make or steps you take or don’t take.
I wish everyone well, and I wish nobody any harm of any kind.
Some general advice follows, however.
- The first thing to do if you have any type of stalker? Secure your home. Change locks, add extra locks, make picking and shimmying the locks take up so much time that it becomes very unattractive.
- Second thing to do? Stop posting anything online. Do not share any wishes, hopes and frustrations etc online. No photos of your home etc either. No remarks about friends or relatives.
- Impossible if you are your own boss. A solution is to hire someone to handle social media for you. Keep that away from your own computers and e-mail addresses. Outsource it. Do not postpone this if you can afford it. It may safeguard your income. Once you’ve lost your income, it’s too late.
- Another complication is not being able to ignore e-mails etc from strangers if you are your own boss. Here too, outsourcing may help and it is worth the expense. Use one general e-mail address for enquiries and outsource the handling of e-mails to that address.
- Do the same thing for phone calls. Engage a company that can answer your phone for you. Use one number for general inquiries, and then redirect your calls to that secretarial service. It’s worth the extra expense.
- The third thing to do is to make it hard for your stalker to isolate you. As soon as you know or suspect that you are being stalked, tell friends, colleagues, relatives and acquaintances about it, calmly. (Don’t explain in detail what is going on. Merely say that you have an anonymous stalker. That’s right, even if you have a suspicion of who it might be or know who it is.) Tell them not to pay any attention to anyone contacting them and for example claiming to be a good friend who wants to help you with something behind your back. That way, they don’t end up gaslighting you too, without knowing it, which would be likely to make you distance yourself from them. Tell them to call you – they know your voice – if they receive strange e-mails from you and tell them not to give up if they find it hard to reach you by phone or e-mail. Dead/disconnected line, weird message on phone line, no response to e-mails. Also, if you don’t do this now, the isolation you’ll eventually experience can make you want to share things online, or even vent online, which makes you more vulnerable and gives the stalker more of what he or she wants. If you slip up, delete it as soon as you can. The stalker wants to see that he is having an effect on you. Of course, keeping quite isolates you and if you run a business, you probably have no choice but to be very vocal about it to limit damage to third parties.)
(19 March 2019)
If you are looking for legal recourse, you have three options, namely public prosecution, private prosecution or civil proceedings.
You can forget about public prosecution. You need the cooperation of police and CPS for that and you are never going to get that unless you’ve been physically attacked (and/or killed) and by then, it’s too late. Your chances of successful private prosecution are slim as well, as you need permission for that and it’s rarely granted. Civil recovery is your best option. The point? Spare yourself the effort of doing what is usually recommended and the ensuing immense frustration. British police are not going to help you, and a 2017 report by two British watchdogs agrees. Police had failed all the victims in all the cases that the report had looked at.
Please see the disclaimer. I wrote the above on the basis of my personal experiences in Britain. I am not a lawyer.
Narcissists can keep you in a cage, like a slave, without the rest of the world having a clue. It is one of the reasons why our society must not go 100% cashless (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46596154).
I wrote an article about it on LinkedIn. If you’re interested, you can find it, and you don’t need me to post the link here. Southampton can’t do anything as drastic as this. Bournemouth can’t. Chichester can’t. London can’t. But Portsmouth can.
And Portsmouth can turn this into a giant plus and use it to boost the economy, but it won’t. Because it is drowning in crap such as bullying and corruption, also at city council level, and likes seeing itself as the powerless whining underdog a little bit too much. There is very little true vision left in this town, where too much of the focus is on traditional capitalism and on the past. The industries of the past are GONE, folks. Quit waffling about that and move forward.
Here are a few links to supporting studies:
- “Designing suburbs to cut car use closes gaps in health and wealth”, by Jerome N Rachele, Australian Catholic University; Aislinn Healy, Australian Catholic University; Jim Sallis, University of California, San Diego, and Takemi Sugiyama, Australian Catholic University
- More business, more tourism, less pollution:
- Also highly relevant is the fact that young people are often trapped in car dependency:
Get them out of that for fuck’s sake. A free tram line could presumably help a lot!
- And then there is this: 😉
- And this:
- As well as this TED Talk (TedX Southampton):
All I hear is stupid excuses.
No space for trams. Sure there is!
- The people with more than 2 cars will protest and shout very loudly. Wear ear plugs! (What about the 80 or 90% or 95% of the rest of your population? 70% have no car or only 1 car. Many of Portsmouth’s inhabitants hardly ever get out of Portsmouth.)
- Shop owners will complain. Show them that most of their customers are actually coming from within a small radius and give them decent business support! Most are probably delusional in thinking that their customers come from miles away and may blame traffic measures for their own failures (a certain pet supplies shop owner comes to mind).
- A certain lawyer will whine. Tell her to shut up. She doesn’t know what she is talking about. (If she makes you feel stupid and ignorant, that’s because she is talking complete rubbish!)
Has an estate agent or private landlord refused to rent to you because you are on housing benefit? If so then please contact @Shelter on firstname.lastname@example.org as they may be able to bring a claim for discrimination at no cost to you. #EndDSSdiscrimination
— Disability Law Service (@DLS_Law) November 29, 2018
Someone just shared this video on LinkedIn and it struck me that, say, the local LibDems have no reason not to take similar action here in town, say, once a month. It would show true leadership.
Interview with Mark Easton, BBC. Date unknown, but near the end of Tony Blair’s premiership.
Keep in mind that “hooliganism” and “anti-social behaviour” are often labels used to indicate (and reject) people from a lower socioeconomic class in Britain and that this “hooliganism” for example gets expressed in graffiti.
Of course, causing (increased) financial hardship for parents by taking any benefits away is most definitely not “in the best interest of the child”.
Tony Blair did consider graffiti “anti-social behaviour”. During a photo-op as part of his crusade, he hosed down graffiti and said that older generations of his family would have abhorred such behaviour. It then turned out that his own grandmother had been a “commie” graffiti vandal.
There probably is a work by Banksy somewhere in response to all of this.
Tony Blair also criminalized a lot of behavior that is essentially merely human behavior. That too was in nobody’s best interest and probably did nothing toward decreasing inequality in Britain.
It did not enable (more) people to flourish.
The cost of energy in the UK is once again a hot topic. During the party conference season, Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, announced that the Scottish government will set up a publicly owned, not for profit energy company. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn restated his wish to nationalise utility companies to “stop the public being ripped off”. And the Conservative prime minister Theresa May promised to fix the “broken” energy market, in part by imposing a cap on some domestic energy prices.
The UK government swiftly followed this season of rhetoric with two supporting policy announcements. It has drawn up draft legislation to set an energy price cap, although this may take until the winter of 2018/19 to be enacted. Second, it has published a clean growth strategy, which promises “cleaner air, lower energy bills, greater economic security and a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future”.
It’s not easy to address the social, environmental and economic dimensions of domestic energy in one go, as these different goals interact with each other. For example, a price cap clearly makes energy more affordable, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of energy needed or used. While the sheer price of energy is problematic for many people, so too is inefficient housing which increases bills and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
The clean growth strategy addresses this by reconfirming a commitment to require large energy companies to install efficiency measures such as insulation and heating systems. This scheme, the energy company obligation (ECO), now has £3.6 billion in funding through to 2028. It aims to help 2.5m fuel-poor households. Alongside stricter regulations within the private rented sector, the ECO is intended to upgrade all fuel-poor homes to a decent standard by 2030.
But it’s worth putting the rhetoric and promises of these policy announcements into context. Help for people in fuel poverty has decreased since 2010, largely due to the coalition government abandoning publicly funded schemes in England in favour of privately funded energy supplier obligations like ECO. Though social and environmental policies do add to fuel bills, policymakers assume that this increase is more than offset by people using less energy thanks to efficiency savings.
In our research we are currently looking at whether ECO is an effective way to address affordability and energy efficiency in vulnerable people’s homes. England is the only one of the four UK nations that relies solely on this market-driven scheme, so it’s important to evaluate its impact. We recently highlighted a number of potential problems, and solutions. To begin with, only certain people are eligible. Proxies such as welfare benefits, demographics and postcodes are used, but they can arbitrarily exclude households on the margins of these measures who may indeed be vulnerable.
People also struggle to upgrade their homes if the work does not enable a certain amount of carbon savings at a certain price. In other words, private companies are likely to prioritise meeting their statutory obligations rather than findings and helping the most vulnerable households. Even for those that do secure funding, it’s at best a long and complicated process. Some upgrades are never completed because installers are not equipped to manage the needs of people with, for example, disabilities or mental health conditions.
What is clear from our comparative research of the UK nations is that state funded schemes, such as nest in Wales and home energy efficiency programmes in Scotland, are better able to target, and respond to the needs of, vulnerable households. Market driven schemes are different as they will, by definition, seek out the most cost effective work. But this ceases to be an asset once the low-hanging fruit has all been picked, and those with the greatest need (and potentially higher costs) are left subsidising other people’s housing upgrades.
An energy price cap will certainly provide some initial relief. But unless it is continually ratcheted down or extended to more customers it will not provide long-term savings or wider benefits. Increasing investment in energy efficiency ticks more social and environmental boxes, but the regressive approach to funding such a scheme in England means it will continue prioritising cost-effective carbon savings over helping those most in need.
“IMF research has shown that excessive inequality hinders growth and hollows out the country’s economic foundation. It erodes trust within society and fuels political tensions.”
In the past three decades, economic inequality between countries has declined sharply, said Christine Lagarde at her recent public speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
“But if we look at inequality within countries, especially some advanced economies, we see widening gaps and an increased concentration of wealth among the top earners.”
There are no lesser human beings and higher human beings. That idea is a fallacy. Greater equality brings greater happiness, particularly if it lifts everyone who is in deep poverty out of it, and even benefits those at the top.
In 1981, the average top marginal tax rate in advanced economies was 62%. In 2015, it was 35%. New IMF research (which will be published next week) suggests that some advanced economies could raise their top tax rates without slowing growth. “Worth considering.”
“What is not yet done is only what we have not yet attempted to do.” – Alexis de Tocqueville
Today is the third of three days at the Supreme Court that focus on homelessness, housing duty and vulnerability (or rather, priority).
The three cases are:
– Hotak (Appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondent)
– Johnson (Appellant) v Solihull MBC (Respondent)
– Kanu (AP) (Appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondent)
(Interveners in all three cases:
Equality and Human Rights Commission, Shelter, Crisis and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.)
What is it all about? Predominantly 189(1)(c) in the Housing Act 1996:
189 Priority need for accommodation.
(1) The following have a priority need for accommodation—
(a) a pregnant woman or a person with whom she resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;
(b) a person with whom dependent children reside or might reasonably be expected to reside;
(c) a person who is vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or handicap or physical disability or other special reason, or with whom such a person resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;
(d )a person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster.
(2) The Secretary of State may by order—
(a) specify further descriptions of persons as having a priority need for accommodation, and
(b) amend or repeal any part of subsection (1).
(3) Before making such an order the Secretary of State shall consult such associations representing relevant authorities, and such other persons, as he considers appropriate.
(4) No such order shall be made unless a draft of it has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.
Hotak is a pretty straightforward case, at first sight; the two other cases are less clear. Hotak concerns two brothers, one of which (Sifatullah) would certainly be considered vulnerable if the other one (Ezatullah) had not said that he would look after his brother. The brothers were living in a friend’s flat in Southwark, but told to leave because of overcrowding. Ezatullah’s immigration status at the time, however, made him ineligible for housing assistance.
Southwark did give the brothers temporary housing while it made its mind up. It decided that Sifatullah was unintentionally homeless, and eligible for assistance, yet did not consider him vulnerable in terms of in priority need of housing because his brother was looking after him. This is where the case went off the rails.
If Sifatullah were a pregnant woman, unintentionally homeless (as it is called), and eligible for assistance, whether the person with whom she resides or might reasonably be expected to reside supports her or not makes no difference, as one of the lawyers highlighted on Monday.
Another one pointed out that the law does not contain an element of comparison. A person’s own condition makes him or her relatively vulnerable when on the street, and the law had the intention of preventing and eliminating all homelessness. This would mean that a) there is no such thing as “an ordinary street-homeless person” (used by Southwark to compare Sifatullah against) and b) one could say that being homeless in itself already points toward a person being less able to fend for himself or herself, as homelessness is not the norm in this country.
It looks like the practice of the application of this legislation – carried out by the decision-making housing officer – has been moving toward comparing a blind applicant with street-homeless blind applicants, deaf applicants with street-homeless deaf applicants, mentally ill applicants with street-homeless mentally ill applicants, applicants with substance abuse with homeless people with substance abuse.
More specifically, practice seems to be more and more relying on the premise that all homeless persons are, almost by definition, street-homeless mentally ill and/or substance abusers and/or physically ill, deserving no special protection (in Johnson, for instance). The law was not intended that way. The law does not even say anything like this.
The pregnant woman, however, is never compared with other pregnant women to determine her vulnerability. The same applies to any persons who have lost their home in a flood.
“Ideas about vulnerability are perhaps most often applied by those in more powerful positions to define those in less powerful ones.” (Kate Brown)
Today in Court 2:
Aster Communities Limited (formerly Flourish Homes Limited) (Respondent) v Akerman-Livingstone (AP) (Appellant)
Not broadcast live.
A clear case of a causal relationship between someone’s disability and the reason for issuing proceedings, in my view. Someone unable to comply with what is expected from him. (One could see it as maladministration, perhaps.)
Will the Supreme Court see a violation of the Equality Act and let this weigh heavier or will other interests overrule?
Not an easy case.
Update: still went live later.
See also my earlier post about this case.
Coming up first is Aster v Akerman-Livingstone, on 10 December.
Hotak v London Borough of Southwark has been moved and is now scheduled together with two more cases, Kanu v London Borough of Southwark and Johnson v Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, on 15 to 17 December. Central question: What is “vulnerability”, in housing matters?