THE first student taken on by a centre dedicated to anti-stalking research says she is hopeful her work can help victims’ voices be heard.

Karen Fullerton-Chalmers will study her PhD at the pioneering Centre for Action Against Stalking, a joint venture between the University of the West of Scotland and charity Action Against Stalking, set up by former Glasgow Times Scotswoman of the Year, Ann Moulds.

The official launch of the new centre, revealed by the Glasgow Times last month, will take place today at an international online conference organised by AAS and UWS.

Karen, who is from the east end of Glasgow, said: “I studied criminal justice and law for five years and not once was there a mention of the crime of stalking, and yet according to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 11.8 percent of adults in Scotland experience this.

“Stalking is complex and the only crime for which victims need to gather evidence themselves, whether through keeping a diary, text messages, social media messages and so on.”

She added: “Due to a lack of awareness, stalking research is often overlooked and as a consequence, there is very little of it. The Centre for Action Against Stalking is innovative as it gives students like me the opportunity to create research that could really influence and effect change.”

Karen, who grew up in the east end, studied criminal justice at UWS and completed a Masters degree at Strathclyde University.

“My first job was in the local post office when I was 16 and studying for my degree, but I left Scotland for Bolivia a few years later to volunteer on a women’s empowerment project,” she says. “After working for Community Justice Glasgow as a graduate officer and SACRO as a community payback supervisor, I joined AAS as a development officer, which gave me the opportunity to really explore the crime of stalking and victims’ experiences.

“As my previous roles and studies were focused on offenders, working for AAS was a welcome change as it allowed me to understand the importance of victims’ voices, especially in the reform of our justice system.”

Karen’s doctoral research, under the guidance of CAAS interim director Professor Ross Deuchar, will focus on media portrayals of stalking and whether they harm or help victims.

“The aim is that any conclusions will be used to influence anti-stalking policies and practice, encourage potential funding for specialised stalking services and give victims a voice,” she explains.

“I have always been passionate about the criminal justice system but working with AAS has really motivated me into wanting to understand more about how it affects us all as a collective. Before working for AAS, I knew very little about stalking, except when people trivialised or ‘joked’ about it - Facebook stalking, that kind of thing.”

Karen adds: “The Centre for Action Against Stalking is a pioneer in the research field and I hope I can do it, AAS and stalking victims proud.”