An online greeting card firm has dropped “stalking” themed Valentine cards from its range after Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne spoke out.
Mrs Bourne, who has personally had to resort to the courts to deal with stalkers herself, thanked Thortful for its swift and positive response.
But she is still looking to persuade a rival retailer – Etsy – to get the message.
She was concerned that the cards “romanticised” a serious crime which affects thousands of people every year, most of them women.
This morning (Tuesday 9 February) she took to Twitter to criticise messages like: “You say stalker. I say devoted.”
Another card said: “Stalker is a strong word. I prefer Valentine.”
Others prefer criminal – and some cards featured the TV character Joe, from the Netflix series “You”, whose obsessive and fixated nature ends in a gruesome kidnapping and murder.
Mrs Bourne, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners national stalking lead, was shopping for a Valentine’s Day card for her husband when she came across the cards.
She tweeted: “Please do not use stalking as a form of a joke on your Valentine’s cards out of respect for the thousands of victims living in fear of this awful crime.”
Others weighed in with supportive messages including Claudia Ortiz, who co-founded the stalking support service, Veritas Justice.
She said: “Absolutely inappropriate to trivialise a crime that destroys lives and sometimes even takes lives!”
Mrs Bourne endured years of torment as a victim of stalking, with unfounded claims made about her online and a threatening presence at events she went to in her role as PCC.
The courts imposed a civil injunction to prevent her stalker from contacting or writing about her but this was breached. In 2018 he was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for two years.
Dear @Etsy -please, pls reconsider (as @thortful have) & do not use stalking as a form of joke on your valentine’s cards (or any cards for that matter) out of respect for the thousands of victims living in fear of this awful crime Thank you #StalkingIsNeverAJoke #StalkingIsACrime pic.twitter.com/BNB3Os91cr
— Katy Bourne OBE (@KatyBourne) February 9, 2021
The experience has led her to campaign for an improvement in people’s attitudes to stalking and crucially the way in which it is dealt with by the police and courts.
She said: “By normalising stalking in this way, we are risking taking ten steps back in terms of public perception of this all-consuming, truly devastating crime.
“Valentine’s Day is about celebrating all love and I want it made clear that stalking is never a display of love or affection.
“Stalkers have deep-rooted and complex psychological problems and their display of fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated behaviours takes over and destroys the lives of their victims.
“We have seen how this crime can fatally escalate and it should never be treated as some sort of joke.
“I hope that all retailers will now appropriately censor the products that they stock and remove any of these types of cards from their websites and shelves.”
Thortful took to Twitter to apologise for any offence caused, adding: “We can see that this card is upsetting and we have removed it from our catalogue with immediate effect. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
Mrs Bourne said that she would like to thank Thortful for acting swiftly in the manner of a responsible business.
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