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Stalking: Patterns, motives, and intervention strategies

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Abstract

Stalking is generally defined as an intentional pattern of repeated intrusive and intimidating behaviors toward a specific person that causes the target to feel harassed, threatened, and fearful, or that a reasonable person would regard as being so. Motivations for stalking include a delusional belief in romantic destiny, a desire to reclaim a prior relationship, a sadistic urge to torment the victim, or a psychotic overidentification with the victim and the desire to replace him or her. Stalkers may carry a variety of diagnostic labels, including psychotic disorders, delusional disorders, or cluster-B personality disorders, and are generally refractive to conventional psychological treatments. Risk factors for violence in a stalking scenario include a prior intimate relationship, the stalker's feeling of being rejected or humiliated, and generic risk factors for violence such as low educational level and substance abuse. Cyberstalking can be as distressing, if not more so, to victims as physical stalking due to the concealment and anonymity afforded by electronic communication. Victims may adopt varying strategies for dealing with stalkers, such as avoiding, confronting, seeking third party assistance, and accessing the legal system. Threat management specialists have offered certain recommendations that can make it easier for a victim to deter and discourage a stalker.
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Stalking: Patterns, motives, and intervention strategies
Laurence Miller
Independent Practice, Boca Raton, FL, United States
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 4 June 2012
Received in revised form 2 July 2012
Accepted 3 July 2012
Available online 11 July 2012
Keywords:
Crime victims
Cyberstalking
Intimate partner violence
Evolutionary psychology
Stalking
Threat management
Stalking is generally dened as an intentional pattern of repeated intrusive and intimidating behaviors toward a spe-
cic person that causes the target to feel harassed, threatened, and fearful, or that a reasonable person would regard
as being so. Motivations for stalking include a delusional belief in romantic destiny, a desire to reclaim a prior rela-
tionship, a sadistic urge to torment the victim, or a psychotic overidentication with the victim and the desire to
replace him or her. Stalkers may carry a variety of diagnostic labels, including psychotic disorders, delusional disor-
ders, or cluster-B personality disorders, and are generally refractive to conventional psychological treatments. Risk
factors for violence in a stalking scenario include a prior intimate relationship, the stalker's feeling of being rejected
or humiliated, and generic risk factors for violence such as low educational level and substance abuse. Cyberstalking
can be as distressing, if not more so, to victims as physical stalking due to the concealment and anonymity afforded
by electronic communication. Victims may adopt varying strategies for dealing with stalkers, such as avoiding,
confronting, seeking third party assistance, and accessing the legal system. Threat management specialists have
offered certain recommendations that can make it easier for a victim to deter and discourage a stalker.
© 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contents
1. Introduction .............................................................. 496
2. Stalking: description and demographics ................................................. 496
3. Stalking typologies ........................................................... 497
3.1. Zona, Sharma, and Lane (1993) Stalker Typology ......................................... 497
3.1.1. Simple obsessional stalker ............................................... 497
3.1.2. Love obsessional stalker ................................................ 497
3.1.3. Erotomanic stalker ................................................... 497
3.1.4. False victimization syndrome .............................................. 497
3.2. Mullen, Pathe, Purcell and Stuart (1999); Mullen, Pathe and Purcell (2000); Mullen et al. (2006) stalker typology ........... 497
3.2.1. Intimacy seeker .................................................... 497
3.2.2. Incompetent suitor ................................................... 497
3.2.3. Rejected stalker .................................................... 497
3.2.4. Resentful stalker .................................................... 497
3.2.5. Predatory stalker .................................................... 497
3.3. Holmes (2001) stalker typology ................................................. 497
3.3.1. Sexually driven stalker ................................................. 497
3.3.2. Unrequited love stalker ................................................. 497
3.3.3. Rejected revenge-seeking stalker ............................................ 497
3.3.4. Celebrity stalker .................................................... 497
3.3.5. Political stalker ..................................................... 497
3.3.6. Professional contract killer ............................................... 497
3.4. Sheridan and Boon (2002) stalker typology ............................................ 498
3.4.1. Stalking by a former spouse or partner .......................................... 498
3.4.2. Stalking based on love ................................................. 498
3.4.3. Stalking based on delusional xation .......................................... 498
3.4.4. Sadistic stalkers .................................................... 498
Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2012) 495506
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doi:10.1016/j.avb.2012.07.001
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Aggression and Violent Behavior
Author's personal copy
3.5. Stalking behaviors ........................................................ 498
3.6. Stalker typologies: commonalities ................................................ 498
4. The psychology of stalking ....................................................... 499
4.1. Diagnostic categories of stalking ................................................. 499
4.2. Biological factors in stalking ................................................... 499
4.3. Attachment theory ....................................................... 499
4.4. Evolutionary psychology of stalking ................................................ 500
5. Stalking and violence .......................................................... 500
5.1. Prevalence and type of stalker violence .............................................. 501
5.2. Risk factors for stalker violence .................................................. 501
6. Cyberstalking ............................................................. 501
7. Victim responses and stalking intervention strategies ........................................... 501
7.1. Effect of stalking on victims ................................................... 501
7.2. Victim coping responses ..................................................... 502
7.3. Stalker deterrent strategies .................................................... 503
7.3.1. Send a clear message and cut off contact ......................................... 503
7.3.2. Keep a paper (and/or electronic) trail .......................................... 503
7.3.3. Reduce target salience .................................................. 503
7.3.4. Protect yourself ..................................................... 503
7.3.5. Enlist aid ........................................................ 503
7.3.6. Use the criminal justice system ............................................. 503
7.3.7. It's not fair ....................................................... 503
8. Summary and conclusions ....................................................... 503
References ................................................................. 504
1. Introduction
Song lyrics, movies, TV shows, and popular culture all seem to laud
the persistent romantic who sets his sights on the woman of his
dreams and doesn't give up, pursuing her against all odds, until her re-
sistance is worn down, and she realizes that she does really love him.
But at what point does romantic pursuit, or celebrity fandom, or politi-
cal expression start to becomeharassment and turn into an act of crim-
inal aggression?
2. Stalking: description and demographics
Stalking is generally dened as an intentional pattern of repeated in-
trusive and intimidating behaviors toward a specic person that causes
the target to feel harassed, threatened, and fearful, or that a reasonable
person would regard as being so. Stalking is one of the last interperson-
ally threatening behaviors to have been criminalized; a little over two
decades ago, in many places in the U.S., stalking was not technically a
crime. California was the rst state in 1990 to pass an anti-stalking
law, prompted by several high-prole cases of celebrity stalking and
murder. By 2000, all 50 U.S. states, the federal government, and many
other countries had passed similar legislation, and most of these statutes
include both physical stalking and electronic stalking, or cyberstalking
(Blaauw, Winkel, Arensman, Sheridan, & Freeve, 2002; Dennison,
2007; Dennison & Thomson, 2000, 2002; Dressing, Kuehner, & Gass,
2006; McAnaney, Curliss, & Abeyta-Price, 1993; McEwen, Mullen, &
MacKenzie, 2009; Petrocelli, 2005; Saunders, 1998; Sheridan & Davies,
2010; Sheridan, Davies, & Boon, 2001b; Southworth, Finn, Dawson,
Fraser, & Tucker, 2007; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007).
Stalking is not a rare crime. Up to 16% of women and 7% of men re-
port having been stalked sometime in their life, and this number may
approach 20% of college undergraduates (Haugaard & Seri, 2003).
This translates into more than one million victims stalked annually.
The largest number of stalking scenarios develops from pre-existing
intimate relationships, followed by work, friendship, or nonromantic
family relationships, with stranger stalking being the least common.
Eighty percent of stalkers are known to their victims in some way. Across
studies, women are far more likely to be the victims, and men the pur-
suers, in stalking situations. The more intimate the prior relationship,
the longer the stalker is likely to persist in his pursuit. Victims tend to
be disproportionately younger women, in their late teens and early
20s. Stalkers can be of any age, from children to senior citizens, but
most are in their 30s (Blaauw, Sheridan, & Winkel, 2002; Haugaard &
Seri, 2003; McCann, 1998, 2000, 2001; Purcell, Pathe, & Mullen, 2002;
Sheridan, Blaauw, & Davies, 2003; Sheridan & Davies, 2010; Spitzberg,
2002). A growing subcategory of this crime consists of mental health cli-
nicians who are stalked by current or former patients (Ashmore, Jones, &
Jackson, 2006; Galeazzi, Elkins, & Curci, 2005; Gentile, Asamen, &
Harmell, 2002; Lion & Herschler, 1998; McIvor & Petch, 2006; McIvor,
Potter, & Davies, 2008; Miller, 1998b, 1998c, 2008; Pathe, Mullen, &
Purcell, 2002; Purcell, Powell, & Mullen, 2005; Sandberg, McNiel, &
Binder, 2002; Tardiff, 1997, 1998, 2001).
Many authorities agree that there appears to be a watershed peri-
od of 24 weeks, beyond which most stalkers abandon their pursuit
and move on, especially in the case of stranger stalkers. However, if
the stalking persists for longer than 4 weeks, it is likely to continue
for another 612 months, and in some cases, as long as 76 months;
this is more common in cases involving a prior relationship of some
kind. The intensity and intrusiveness of the stalking is also likely to
be greater in these cases of persistent stalking, while in about half of
cases, the stalker may desist for a while and then begin stalking
again, after a period ranging from 2.5 to 13 years. This type of recur-
rent stalking is especially likely to occur where some circumstance re-
sults in a subsequent meeting between the pursuer and the target,
such as a child custody exchange or court appearance, although it
can occur spontaneously due to changes in the mental state of the
stalker. Highly persistent stalkers tend to be over age 30, to have a
narcissistic, borderline, paranoid, or antisocial personality disorder, to
target a female victim, and to be motivated by intimacy seeking or re-
sentful revenge (Blaauw, Sheridan, et al., 2002; Brewster, 2003; Finn,
2004; McEwen et al., 2009; Meloy, 1998, 1999; Mohandie, Meloy,
McGowan, & Williams, 2006; Mullen et al., 2006; Orion, 1997; Pathe,
2002; Pathe & Mullen, 1997; Pathe et al., 2002; Purcell, Pathe, &
Mullen, 2001, 2004a,b; Rosenfeld, 2003; Sheridan, Gillett, Blauuw,
Davies, & Patel, 2003; Sheridan et al., 2001b; Sheridan et al., 2003;
Spitzberg & Cadiz, 2002; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007; Tjaden &
Thoennes, 1998).
Across several studies (Blaauw, Sheridan, et al., 2002; Brewster,
1997, 2000; Hall, 1998; Pathe & Mullen, 1997; Sheridan et al.,
2001b), involving diverse demographic samples in four different
countries, nine distinct stalker activities were found by Sheridan
and Davies (2010) to be the most common: (1) telephone calls;
496 L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2012) 495506
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(2) harassing letters; (3) surveillance of the victim's home; (4) fol-
lowing the victim; (5) unlawful entry to the victim's home; (6) de-
struction or theft of the victim's property; (7) direct unwanted
approaches toward the victim; (8) threats to harm or kill the victim;
(9) physical assault. Note that most of these studies occurred before
the widespread use of emailing, texting, and social media; no doubt
a current replication of these studies would nd a higher use of
these electronic modalities for stalking purposes.
3. Stalking typologies
Over the past several decades, forensic behavioral scientists have
developed a number of stalker typologies.
3.1. Zona, Sharma, and Lane (1993) Stalker Typology
3.1.1. Simple obsessional stalker
This is typically a male stalker with a personality disorder and/or
substance abuse problem, who is relentlessly pursuing a former ro-
mantic partner (How dare she reject me!) or is retaliating for a per-
ceived injustice at work or elsewhere (How dare he re me!). This
is the largest group of stalkers in this typology, comprising more than
50% of the total.
3.1.2. Love obsessional stalker
In the next largest group, about 30%, is the male stalker who is
delusionally convinced that he is in love with a woman who either
loves him back and cannot show it, or just has been denying her love
for him to herself for too long, and it is his mission to show her the
light. The victim may be someone the stalker knows, but has never
had an intimate relationship with, or it may be a stranger he encounters
at work or on a college campus. Many cases of celebrity stalkers also fall
into this category.
3.1.3. Erotomanic stalker
This minority group (10%) of stalkers is where women predominate,
usually pursuing male strangers or casual acquaintances. Several cases of
male celebrities having their homes broken into by star-struckwomen
(e.g. George Harrison, David Letterman) seem to tthiscategory.
3.1.4. False victimization syndrome
In a small number of cases (2%), a person claims to be a stalking
victim when he or she is not. The motivation for this may represent a
bid for attention, an attempt to create an alibi for a retaliatory action,
a delusional preoccupation with the allegedstalker, or to maintain a re-
lationship with the alleged perpetrator while retaining the sympathetic
role of the victimakindofreverse stalking.
3.2. Mullen, Pathe, Purcell and Stuart (1999);Mullen, Pathe and Purcell
(2000);Mullen et al. (2006) stalker typology
3.2.1. Intimacy seeker
This stalker usually has not had a prior relationship with the ob-
ject of his obsession, but he wants one. He has convinced himself
that he and his unwilling (and, in the early stages, probably unaware)
paramour are destined to be together. The target, he believes, is secretly
in love with him, but external circumstances, such as her profession, so-
cial class, or the inconvenience of being mated with another, get in the
way of her openly professing her love. Many cases of celebrity stalkers
fall into this category, and the pursuer, if sufciently delusional, may de-
tect secret messagesdirected at him in the words she says on screen,
lyrics in the songs she sings, and so forth. Celebrity or not, he will often
deluge his target with letters,electronic messages, and gifts, and he will
take the slightest reaction of any kind as proof of her love (She had the
security guard punch me and throw me out because she just can't han-
dle her passionate feelings for me).
3.2.2. Incompetent suitor
Like the intimacy seeker, this type is infatuated with the object of
his affection, but is simply seeking a date or sexual encounter, not an
eternal soul-melding. He is typically a socially inept male who is more
likely than other stalker types to be deterred by a rm, forthright re-
jection, and to then turn his attentions to a new target.
3.2.3. Rejected stalker
This person just cannot let go and move on from a terminated re-
lationship, and the stalking represents some mixture of the desire for
reconciliation and revenge (If you won't take me back, I sure won't let
you forget me). In the stalker's mind, the relationship can never really
be over, and he wants the victim to know that.
3.2.4. Resentful stalker
This subject wants payback for his rejection or other injury to his
ego. The purpose of the stalking is to intimidate and terrorize the vic-
tim in order for the spurned stalker to regain a sense of power and
control. He is likely to be among the most intrusive and interperson-
ally destructive of stalkers, harassing friends of the victim, attempting
to sabotage her work status, engaging in cyberstalking, vandalizing her
home, car, and possessions, kidnapping pets, and so on. While actual
physical attacks on the victim are rare, when they occur, they may be
characterized by extreme violence.
3.2.5. Predatory stalker
As the term implies, this stalker engages in covert surveillance and
pursuit of his victim, usually as preparation for an actual assault, most
commonly a sexual assault. Hewill often remain anonymous to the vic-
tim up to the time of the actual attack. This kind of stalking may be a
prelude to a more serious behavioral pattern, such as serial rape or serial
homicide (Miller, 2000; Schlesinger & Miller, 2003; Schlesinger, 2002).
3.3. Holmes (2001) stalker typology
3.3.1. Sexually driven stalker
He pursues women to have sex with them, sometimes consensual,
other times forced.
3.3.2. Unrequited love stalker
He haunts the object of his affections, who stubbornly refuses to
return his ardor.
3.3.3. Rejected revenge-seeking stalker
Once having had a relationship with the victim, he is outraged at
her rejection and swears vengeance: How dare she dump me! I'll
teach her a lesson she'll never forget!
3.3.4. Celebrity stalker
He (and sometime she) targets famous people. In some cases, the
stalker believes the celebrity is in love with him (e.g. the Madonna
stalker); in other cases, he has mentally fused his identity with that
of the celebrity to the point that he resents the very existence of his
rival(e.g. Mark David Chapman who gunned down John Lennon).
3.3.5. Political stalker
Anger, not affection, drives this person, who harasses, threatens,
and may attack public ofcials (e.g., John Hinckley, who attempted to as-
sassinate President Reagan). This may sometimes be a political subtype
of the celebrity stalker, if political gures are targeted for their popularity
more than their policies.
3.3.6. Professional contract killer
This is a professional hit man who is motivated strictly by prot,
making it questionable whether he belongs in a typology of stalkers at
allany more than a police detective who hunts and tracks a criminal,
497L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2012) 495506
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or a government espionage agent who pursuesa terrorist. Nevertheless,
there must be a psychological reason (thrills, power) why someone
chooses this type of vocation over others.
3.4. Sheridan and Boon (2002) stalker typology
This typology was developed specically for use by law enforce-
ment authorities and includes the following categories:
3.4.1. Stalking by a former spouse or partner
This may be characterized by verbal abuse, damage to property,
and/or physical violence.
3.4.2. Stalking based on love
Here, the threat potential for violence is lower because the victim,
usually a stranger or casual acquaintance, is viewed by the pursuer as an
object of love to be won over, not a rejecting partner to be punished.
3.4.3. Stalking based on delusional xation
This involves the fantasy that a special relationshipexists between
the stalker and his target, and that it is just a matter of time until his per-
sistent efforts bring the two lovers together. Most targets are strangers
or casual acquaintances, and celebrity stalkers are most likely to fall into
this category.
3.4.4. Sadistic stalkers
These perpetrators derive pleasure from intimidating and terroriz-
ing their victims. These stalkers are on a power trip and carry a high po-
tential for danger.
3.5. Stalking behaviors
A typology, not of stalkers themselves, but of the tactics and strate-
gies used by stalkers in pursuit of their victims, has been proffered by
Spitzberg and colleagues (Cupach & Spitzberg, 2004; Spitzberg, 2002;
Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007), who identify eight categories of stalking be-
havior. In some stalkers, these may represent a progression in the seri-
ousness of the stalking, while for others, one or more particular tactics
may be utilized throughout the stalking episode.
Hyperintimacy behaviors are extensions of typical romantic court-
ship behaviors, but are pursued to an extreme level, such as showering
the target with cards, emails, owers, endless phone calls, and so on.
Though kind of cute at rst, the relentless love barrage begins to take
on a creepily desperate and confrontational quality over time.
Mediated contacts are increasingly common and enlist the use of
technology, including cell phones, email, instant messaging, text mes-
saging, and so on. In its more extreme forms, this may develop into
cyberstalking.
Interactional contacts involve efforts at direct interpersonal en-
counters. This can range from sitting a few tables away at the victim's
favorite restaurant, to registering for the same classes the victim takes
at college, to getting a job where the victim works, to trying to reach
the victim through third parties.
Surveillance tactics are essentially espionage. The stalker follows
the victim around, takes photos and videos, breaks into her mailbox,
hacks into her Internet account, attaches a GPS device to her car,
and so on. Sometimes this is done clandestinely to gather intelligence
about the victim; other times the stalker may let the victim know she
is a target, but without revealing the pursuer's identity, as a way of
further frightening and intimidating the victim.
Invasiontactics escalate theintrusiveness of thestalking. The victim's
home or workspace may be broken into, computer les may be hacked
or infected, and information or physical property may be stolen or
vandalized.
Harassment and intimidation represent a more severe form of inter-
personal intrusiveness. The stalker may verbally insult the victim, may
harass her friends and relatives, may attempt to damage the victim's
reputation through third parties, or may try to jeopardize her work
status.
Coercion and threat behaviors represent an even more serious escala-
tion with a high potential for danger to the victim. The stalker may now
directly threaten to harm the victim, her family, friends, or pets, or to
damage her car or home. Conversely, in a desperate bid to inuence
the victim, the stalker may threaten to kill himself (See what you've
driven me to!), in some cases accompanied by threats of harm (If I
go, I'm taking you with me).
Physical aggression and violence represent the most severe, and poten-
tially lethal, outcome of stalking. This may include seriously destructive
vandalism or arson, physical assault, sexual assault, murder, suicide,
murdersuicide, and attacks on friends, workmates, or family members
of the victim.
3.6. Stalker typologies: commonalities
Integrating the various typologies, a basic categorization emerges
that includes: (1) stalking for the purpose of acquiring a new relation-
ship; (2) stalking for the purpose of intimidation, harassment, coercion,
and/or punishment of a prior relationship rejection; and(3) stalking pri-
marily motivated by power and control. Overlaps between categories
are probably common. In the rst category are the love obsessional
and erotomanic stalkers (Zona et al., 1993), the intimacy seeker and in-
competent suitor (Mullen et al., 1999, 2000, 2006), the sexual desire, un-
requited love, and celebrity stalker, some types of political stalkers
(Holmes, 2001), and the love-based and delusional stalker (Sheridan &
Boon, 2002). Here, the stalker's rst choice is clearly to gain the love, at-
tention, or admiration of the target, but if continually rebuffed, the
stalking may change in quality to that of the second category, which in-
cludes thesimple obsessional stalker (Zona et al., 1993), rejected and re-
sentful stalker (Mullen et al., 1999, 2000, 2006), the rejected stalker
(Holmes, 2001), and the former intimate partner stalker (Sheridan &
Boon). In the third category are the predatory stalker (Mullen et al.,
1999, 2000, 2006) and the sadistic stalker (Sheridan & Boon, 2002).
A residual category might include those types of stalkers that are either
atypical or do nottruly represent the psychological dynamics of stalking
per se, such asthe false victimization syndrome perpetrator (Zona et al.,
1993), the contract killer, and some types of political stalkers (Holmes,
2001), although it could be argued that the latter's xation on public
gure shares certain features with the celebrity stalker.
A pattern not explicitly described in these typologies is what I
(Miller, 2012)havecalledtheidentication stalker, probably a subtype
of the celebrity or political stalker. Some degree of imitative identica-
tion with a high-status person is a natural human trait, (e.g., wearing
a facsimile of a favorite ballplayer's jersey, or forming a tribute band
to a beloved musical group). However, the identication stalker so en-
meshes himself psychologically with the target that he patterns his en-
tire life after that person's. For example, Mark David Chapman dressed
like John Lennon, learned to play guitar, and even married a Japanese
woman who resembled Lennon's wife, Yoko Ono. At rst the stalker
tries to fuse his identity with the target by such imitation tactics, and
later by making personal contact with the target, visiting his/her
home, getting autographs, collecting memorabilia, and so on. Many ce-
lebrity stalkers remain at this level, in which case it would not be consid-
ered stalking per se, because the primary activity is not harassment, but
merely ardent fandom.
However, for some, the desire to be like or be with the target per-
son transmogries into the compulsion to be that person, the subject
now having fused his identity with the target. In these cases, the
stalker actually comes to believe that he is the one who embodies
the essence of that celebrity's life and work even more than the celebri-
ty himself, and that, consequently, he really deserves to be that person
more than the actual celebrity. This leads to a sense of entitled resent-
ment and anger that foments the delusional idea that eliminating the
498 L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2012) 495506
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imposteris the only way for the stalker to be recognized as the real
thing. In cases where the stalker has pursued a similar vocation as the
target (e.g., acting, music, politics), this may be further fueled by simple
jealousy that the celebrity has become famous while the stalker has not.
In other cases, the stalker may feel additionally spurned if he had
previously tried to be recognized by the target, as in sending a fa-
mous musician song lyrics or recordings made by the stalker and
thereby expecting to be discovered,or at least given special treatment
by the target because he is the target's biggest fan.When this fails to
materialize, the stalker's identity is further assaulted and degraded,
leaving him feeling betrayed and seeing retributive elimination of the
celebrity as the only choice.
4. The psychology of stalking
4.1. Diagnostic categories of stalking
Up to half of stalkers studied have some form of diagnosable men-
tal disorder (Mullen et al., 1999; Whyte et al., 2007; Zona et al., 1998).
According to some estimates, the distinction between stalkers of
strangers and stalkers of prior intimates seems to apply to diagnostic
distinctions as well. Thus, although there is some overlap, stalkers
who pursue strangers, including casual acquaintances or celebrities,
tend more often to be characterized by a mood disorder, delusional
disorder, or outright psychotic disorder. Stalkers of prior intimates
are more likely to be nonpsychotic, but to have narcissistic, borderline,
paranoid, or compulsive personality disorders, along with substance
abuse problems, mainly involving alcohol and psychostimulant drugs
such as cocaineand amphetamines. Thus, the easily bruised egos, imsy
interpersonal boundaries, smoldering rage and jealousy, and relentless
tenacity of these personality types, often fueled by stimulant drugs, ac-
counts for their ceaseless pursuit of their quarry, either to win her back
or to punish her for deserting and betraying them. Having invested their
entire identity in the relationship, its rupture now threatens to unravel
their entire life's purpose, accounting for the white-hot, life-and-death
quality of their pursuit (Boon & Sheridan, 2001; Farnham et al., 2000;
Kienlen et al., 1997; McCann, 2001; Meloy, 1996, 1998, 2001a,b;
Meloy, 2003a; Meloy et al., 2000; Mullen & Pathe, 1994; Mullen et al.,
1999; Segal, 1989; Sheridan & Davies, 2010; Zona et al., 1998). This
also explains the general sense of pessimism surrounding efforts to clin-
ically treatstalkers through psychotherapy or other modalities (Boon
& Sheridan, 2001; Mullen et al., 2000; Sheridan & Davies, 2010).
Interestingly, antisocial personalities are found to make up less
than 10% of stalker diagnostic categories, compared to their higher
rate in criminal populations generally (Meloy, 2001b; Meloy et al.,
2000). This is probably because the essence of prior intimate stalking
is pathological attachment, and the antisocial personality does not be-
come truly attached to anything or anybody. He may be temporarily
fuming that his partner would insult him by leaving, and he might
impulsively y into a murderous rage when confronted by a partner's
unaccommodating behavior or the presence of a rival. However, he is
far less likely to invest the time and effort needed to make a career of
pursuing any particular person, precisely because this cuts into his
enjoymentof other exploitive and predatory activities. Any acts of retal-
iation are likely to occur in the immediate aftermath of the relationship
disruption, and the more time that passes, the more he is apt to default
to a face-saving rationalization: If she doesn't want me, forget herit's
her loss.Then, he moves on to his next conquest.
4.2. Biological factors in stalking
As with many classications of criminal behavior, there is no dis-
tinctive biological stalker prole.Rather, different types of underly-
ing personality and psychopathology features may be associated with
the biological indices already familiar from the description of other
types of offenders (Miller, 2012). For example, progressive dementia
or other organic brain syndromes may be associated with delusional
jealousy that might fuel intimate-partner stalking. Brain syndromes
may be precipitated or aggravated by alcohol and drug abuse. These
substances can have a disinhibiting effect, as with alcohol, barbiturates
or benzodiazepines, or, in the case of stimulant drugs like cocaine or am-
phetamine, can produce a manic-like psychosis. Substance abuse is also
associated with mood disorders and personality disorders, all of which
are known to have their unique neurobiological correlates (Cobb, 1979;
Kingham & Gordon, 2004; Langfeldt, 1961; Michael et al., 1995; Mullen
& Maack, 1985; Pillai & Kraya, 2000; Shepherd, 1961; Shrestha et al.,
1985).
More specically, the aggressive and obsessive nature of stalking
has been hypothetically linked to abnormally increased dopaminergic
activity combined with abnormally low serotonergic activity in the
brain (Meloy & Fisher, 2005). Stimulant drugs, as noted above, are
one method of exogenously heightening dopaminergic activity, and
many stalkers use these substances. Another, far more rare cause is a
neurologic disorder that affects these brain systems. Recently, a case
of stalking associated with Huntington's disease has been described
by Soliman et al. (2007). This is a genetically transmitted, progressive,
degenerative disease of the basal ganglia, specically, a structure called
the caudate nucleus, that typically produces progressive impairment in
movement and a worsening mood disorder, obsessional symptoms,
and delusional psychosis, sometimes accompanied by antisocial behav-
ior (Anouizerate et al., 2004; Aron et al.,2005; Rosenblatt & Leroi, 2000).
In the present case, the patient was a woman whose mental symptoms
preceded the onset of the motor symptoms, and were characterized by
obsessive romantic thoughts about her therapist,followed by stalking of
the clinician. The stalking behavior began with multiple gifts and tele-
phone calls to the therapist's home, later escalating to following and
making threats toward the therapist. Fortunately, in this case, the symp-
toms were successfully treated with antipsychotic medication. Thus,
Huntington's disease may act as a neurological analogue to more com-
mon occurrences of disordered neurophysiology in stalking (Meloy &
Fisher, 2005), and obsessional-aggressive behavior more generally.
4.3. Attachment theory
Attachment theory (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Bowlby, 1969, 1973,
1980; Dutton & Golant, 1995; Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Kienlen, 1998;
Lewis et al., 2001; Meloy, 1992, 2003b; Miller et al., 2010; Morrison,
2008; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007; Tonin, 2004) has been used to ex-
plain dysfunctional relationships in general and stalking behavior in
particular. Essentially, the theory posits that one's adult attachment
style is strongly inuenced by the quality of the parentchild rela-
tionship the individual has experienced from infancy onward. Infants
who develop a secure attachment with parents or other early care-
givers develop a feeling of security and condence in later interper-
sonal relationships. Insecurely attached infants come to perceive the
relational world as a cold, rejecting place, and may develop an avoidant
attachment style, defensively decoupling themselves emotionally from
the caregiver, or an anxious/ambivalent attachment style, in which they
simultaneously crave attachment to a caregiver, but then recoil in fear
of having that connection torn or pushed away.
As adults, securely attached individuals view both themselves and
other people in a mainly positive light and are able to form mature re-
lationships, with a healthy balance of intimacy and independence. In-
securely attached individuals may develop a dismissive attachment
style, protecting their fragile egos by maintaining an aloof, standofsh,
and sometimes confrontational attitude toward others, as with antiso-
cial and narcissistic personalities. Individuals with a predominantly
preoccupied attachment style desperately look to others for approval
and reassurance to counteract their inner feelings of unworthiness
and self-loathing. Their bottomless need for validation will sooner or
later go unfullled, resulting in feelings of abandonment and betrayal,
along with angry blaming of the partner for ruiningthe relationship,
499L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2012) 495506
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as often occurs with borderline personality disorder. Finally, those with
afearful-avoidant attachment style try to protect themselves by avoiding
interpersonal entanglements altogether (avoidant personality disor-
der) or by trying to nd the one attachment gure that they can totally
enmesh their egos with and trust will take care of them (dependent
personality disorder).
According to this model, insecure attachment styles, predomi-
nantly the preoccupied style, characterize stalkers who pursue former
intimate partners. The breakup is perceived as a stinging rejection
and repudiation of the stalker's entire identity and self-worth, sub-
consciously tapping into his own self-loathing, and prompting a mor-
bid jealousy expressed in desperate measures to either reclaim the
relationship to prove his worthiness, or, alternatively, to punish , humil-
iate, and ultimately destroy the rejecter who he perceives as holding his
ego hostage by refusing to bend to his will (Cupach et al., 2000; Davis et
al., 2000; Dutton & Golant, 1995; Dutton et al., 1994; Hazan & Shaver,
1987; Kienlen, 1998; Kingham & Gordon, 2004; Lewis et al., 2001;
Meloy, 1989, 1992, 1998, 2003b; Morrison, 2001, 2008; Schlesinger,
2002; Sinclair & Frieze, 2005; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007; Tonin, 2004).
A similar dynamic exists in the psyches of some types of intimate part-
ner batterers and, indeed, many of these men become stalkers when
their partners try to leave the relationship (Dutton & Golant, 1995;
Dutton & Goodman, 2005; Dutton et al., 1994; Holtzworth-Munroe &
Stuart, 1994; Holtzworth-Munroe et al., 2000; Langhinrischen-Rohling
et al., 2000; McFarlane et al., 2002; Mechanic et al., 2002).
4.4. Evolutionary psychology of stalking
Pursuit of romantic targets is hardly itself a pathological phenom-
enon, otherwise none of us would be here. According to evolutionary
psychology theory (Buss, 2003; Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Duntley &
Shackelford, 2008; Schmitt et al., 2001; Shackelford & Duntley,
2008; Trivers, 1972; Walsh & Beaver, 2008), males and females of
many species, including humans, have evolved divergent reproductive
strategies. The grossly disparate investment that each sex makes in per-
petuating the species means that males seek to maximize the dissemi-
nation of their DNA by coupling with as many females as possible;
therefore, they tend to be relatively indiscriminate in their mating activ-
ities. Females, however, must invest a tremendous amount of time, en-
ergy, and material resources to conceive, carry, bear, and raise a child;
therefore, they tend to be far more selective about whom they pair up
with. They want to pick someone with the strength and status to be a
good provider, while at the same time, being as sure as possible of his
delity, so they are not quickly abandoned for another female.
Females utilize and enhance their physical attractiveness because,
for most of human history, this has been their primary currency for sur-
vival. In the preindustrial natural world in which ancestral humans
evolved, once having left her family of origin, a mateless female might
be unable to provide for her own physical needs, much less for a baby
she is carrying or children she is raising. Having a male mate who is
able and willing to provide resources for his family could literally
prove a matter of life and death, which explains why, at all ages, most
human females pay very close attention to the way they look.
For their part, males seek to maximize their image of strength and
status in order to attract the sexiest(i.e., most reproductively t) fe-
males, and to intimidate other males from competition. This is because,
when a male decides to settle down and devote himself to his family, he
wantstobesureit'shis family, and the only way to guarantee paternity
is to protect his mate from potential cuckolders, either by intimidation
of his rivals or sequestration of his spouse.
From this evolutionary psychology perspective, a number of stalking
researchers see stalking behavior as an extension of normal interpersonal
courtship behavior that thrives on sexual motivational ambivalence
(Baumeister & Wotman, 1992; Bruene, 2001; Cupach & Spitzberg, 1998,
2000, 2004; Cupach et al., 2000; Daly & Wilson, 1988, 1989; Duntley &
Buss, 2010; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007). In the process of reciprocal
mate selection, there is typically a certain amount of back-and-forth
irting, withdrawal, pursuit, and pullback that characterize the fun and
foibles that romantic comedies and dramas are based on. As with most
human traits, people vary with respect to how much they will pursue a
desired relationship, with one extreme represented by those who give
up at the slightest rebuff, and, at the other extreme, those who literally
never take no for an answer. Over time, especially in environment
where access to resources is scarce, evolution selects for more aggres-
sive, risky, devious, and persistent male strategies to acquire and retain
mates. At the same time, there may be a reproductive advantage for
other, more monogamously-inclined, males who persevere in maximiz-
ing the survival of their existing children, instead of pursuing the
mate-and-run strategy, which leaves many offspring behind, but does
not guarantee the survival of any of themthe so-called cad vs. dad dis-
tinction (Cashdan, 1993). However, when combined with traits of
ego-fragility, impulsivity, anger, and/or delusional psychosis, the more
aggressive, relentless style of pursuit behavior may cross the line
from amusing romantic infatuation to dangerous stalking. In this
pursuit, stalking of potential mates incorporates the behaviorally
honed skills of stealth, patience, surveillance, cognitive strategizing,
and physical and physical prowess that characterize all forms of suc-
cessful hunting. In other contexts, this hypertrophied stalking and hunt-
ing orientation can include serial rape and serial homicide (Miller, 2000,
2012; Schlesinger, 2002, 2004; Schlesinger & Miller, 2003).
Buss and colleagues (Buss, 2003, 2005, Buss & Duntley, 2003;Duntley
& Buss, 2010) propose that stalking tactics evolved specically to solve
the following evolutionary adaptive mating problems:
Acquiring a new mate: I love you so much, I won't take no for an
answer.
Preventing existing mates from defecting, i.e., mate-guarding: You'd
better be here when I get home, and if you have to go out, call me
every hour on the hour.
Fending off rivals who want to steal one's mate. i.e. preventing mate-
poaching: Hey, bird dog, get away from my quail(Bird Dog by the
Everly Brothers, 1958).
Attempting to steal (poach) someone else's mate: The well-known
double-standard.
Re-acquiring ex-mates: Every move you make, every step you
take, I'll be watching you(Every Move You Make by Sting, 1983).
Evolutionary selection also has favored stalking as a strategy in
some females, although it is less common than male stalking. Female
stalkers tend to target high-status men, even considerably older ones, for
whom, in evolutionary survival terms, it may be worth the risks of re-
lentless pursuit (arrest, injury) for the chance of securing a long-term re-
lationship with such an alpha male (trophy wife) or at least a chance for
high-status mating (groupie hook-up). Within any given human popula-
tion, the diversity of personalities means that multiple strategies for mat-
ing and other survival needs will occur across the spectrum (Miller,
1990, 2012). A naturalistic evolutionary model of stalking also implies
that extreme forms of this behavioral trait do not represent a mental
disorderthat can be treated like depression or psychosis, but rather
constitute an ingrained core feature of certain personalities, whose be-
havior may be controlled, but not cured, which explains the known
imperviousness of stalking behavior to standard psychotherapeutic or
pharmacologic interventions.
5. Stalking and violence
For both the safety of victims and decisions regarding sentencing
and parole of the offenders, the question of stalkerspotential for vio-
lence is crucial, especially in light of the attention given to high-prole
cases in the media where victims have been brutalized and/or killed.
500 L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2012) 495506
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5.1. Prevalence and type of stalker violence
The general consensus of research and clinical experience is that
most stalkers do not become interpersonally violent. Between 30
and 60% of victims are threatened with violence by their stalkers,
and about 25 and 50% of stalkers physically attack their victims. Vio-
lence is more likely to occur the longer the stalking persists, and both
threats and violence are more common with prior-intimate victims
than with public-gure victims, with either male or female stalkers,
which is probably related to the factors of familiarity and proximity:
It is easier to get at someone you already know and who is less likely
to have a security system surrounding them. Of those stalkers who do
commit violence, serious physical injury to the victim is rare, the attacks
consisting mainly of grabbing, choking, pulling, throwing, shaking, slap-
ping, punching, kicking, or sexually fondling the victim, possibly leaving
bruises and abrasions, but seldom severe wounds. A weapon is used in
less than a third of cases, most commonly a handgun, knife, or automo-
bile. Interestingly, these weapons are most commonly used to intimi-
date, terrorize, and control the victim, and are less likely to be used to
seriously injure her. For all the publicity it garners, stalking-related ho-
micide appears to be a rare event, occurring in only 2% of stalking cases;
however, this statistic may under-represent the lethality of stalking in
domestic violence scenarios, because these cases are not typically clas-
sied as stalking per se, even though stalking may be a component of
the abuse (Blaauw, Sheridan, et al., 2002; Blaauw, Winkel, et al., 2002;
Brewster, 2000; Dietz, Matthews, Martell, Stewart, Hrouda & Warren,
1991; Dietz, Matthews, Van Duyne, Martell, Parry, Stewart, Warren &
Crowder, 1991; Dressing et al., 2005, 2006; Finch, 2002; Hall, 1998;
Harmon et al., 1998; McEwen et al., 2007; Meloy, 1989, 1996, 1997,
2001a,b, 2002, 2003a; Meloy, Davis & Lovette, 2001; Meloy & Gothard,
1995; Meloy, Hempel, Mohandie, Shiva & Gray, 2001; Meloy, Rivers,
Siegel, Gothard, Naimark & Nicolini, 2000; Monahan et al., 2001;
Morrison, 2001, 2008; Mullen et al., 1999, 2000, 2006; Pathe & Mullen,
1997; Rosenfeld, 2004; Rosenfeld & Harmon, 2002; Zona et al., 1993).
Not just the chosen victim may be in danger, but collateral damage
may involveany others who may try to help her, whomay be currently
romantically involved with her, or who in any way tries to impede the
stalker's access to her. This may include friends, relatives, and work-
mates of the victim in prior-intimate stalking or law enforcement or pri-
vate security personnel in public-gure stalking. In some cases, the
stalker builds a delusional system placing these third parties in a psy-
chologically triangulated role, making it necessaryfor him to remove
these impediments to his noble pursuit (Auchincloss & Weiss, 1992;
Meloy, 1996).
5.2. Risk factors for stalker violence
Factors that have been found to predict stalking violence are: (1) a
prior intimate relationship with the victim; (2) multiple targets pur-
sued concurrently; (3) having been a batterer of the victim; (4) being
highly obsessed with the victim; (5) feeling humiliated by the victim;
(6) being angry at the victim; (7) having made a large number of verbal
threats to the victim; (8) being less than 30 years of age; (9) having less
than a high school education; and (10) a general history of antisocial be-
havior, including past convictions for any kind of violence. These traits
probably reect the behavior of a generally aggressive and unstable sub-
ject, with signicant psychopathology or personality disorder, who has
made a lifestyle out of pursuing and harassing virtually everyone who
has rejected or offended him in some way. Personality disorder, especial-
ly paranoid, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, or narcissistic types, is asso-
ciated with greater risk for stalker violence, but psychotic illness actually
decreases the risk of violence, perhaps because these individualsobvi-
ously disturbed behavior is likely to get them noticed and apprehended
more quickly, or because psychotic disorganization makes it difcult to
carry out a goal-directed, protracted campaign of surveillance and pur-
suit (Burgess et al., 1997, 2001; Douglas & Webster, 1999; Farnham et
al., 2000; Harmon et al., 1998; Kienlen et al., 1997; Kropp et al., 2002;
Meloy, 1999; 2001a,b; Menzies et al., 1995; Mullen et al., 1999, 2000,
2006; Palarea et al., 1999; Rosenfeld, 2003, 2004; Rosenfeld & Harmon,
2002; Schwartz-Watts & Morgan, 1998; Sheridan & Davies, 2001a;
Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998; Zona et al., 1993, 1998).
6. Cyberstalking
Stalking need not be physically confrontational to shatter a victim's
life. Our grandparents may have had to endure anonymous letters, our
parents put up with phony-phone calls, and we cope with abusive
emails, instant messages, and text messages. With advances in commu-
nication technology come more dubious advances in the ability to harass,
intimidate, and terrorize other people. The term cyberstalking has been
used to describe a set of behaviors that involve repeated threats, harass-
ment, or other unwanted contact, by the use of computer or other elec-
tronic communication-based technology that has the effect of making
another person feel afraid, intimidated, or concerned for his or her safety.
In essence, electronic stalking combines the immediacy of a phone call
with a shield of anonymity for the stalker and the depersonalization of
the victim, making the harassment all the more relentless and frighten-
ing (Bocji & McFarlane, 2003; Burgess & Baker, 2002; D'Ovidio & Doyle,
2003; Finn, 2004; Finn & Banach, 2000; Lee, 1998; Lloyd-Goldstein,
1998; Meloy, 1998; Petrocelli, 2005; Southworth et al., 2007).
Forms of cyberstalking include: (1) monitoring the victim's email
communication; (2) sending insulting or threatening emails, sometimes
anonymously, sometimes not; (3) disrupting the victim's email commu-
nications by ooding the victim's inbox; (4) disrupting the victim's
email by sending a virus or other malware program; (5) using the victim's
email identity to send false messages to others or to purchase goods and
services (often pornography) in the victim's name; (6) using information-
gathering Internet services to compile personal, nancial, and other infor-
mation about the victim; (7) using spyware software or keystroke hard-
ware (where the stalker has access to the victim's computer, such as
with an ex-intimate partner or workmate) to monitor the victim's com-
munications; (8) using social networking sites to harass the victim or im-
personate the victim to others; (9) sending harassing text messages by
cell phone; (10) taking surreptitious photos or videos of the victim, or
using previously recorded private intimate images, and sending them to
third parties (Burgess & Baker, 2002; Finn, 2004; Finn & Banach, 2000;
McGrath & Casey, 2002; Southworth et al., 2007; Spitzberg & Hoobler,
2002).
Cyberstalking is frequently used in conjunction with physical stalking
and, in these cases, can be considered an extension of it. In other cases,
electronic media may be the preferred or sole means of stalking. In
some instances, victims have been horried to discover that intimate
partners or workmates that they interact with every day have been the
ones secretly stalking and harassing them electronically for months or
years. Prior intimate partner stalkers are somewhat less likely to be
cyberstalked than physically stalked, probably because the stalker and
his victim already know each other; cyberstalking may be more likely
used to monitor a victim with whom the stalker desires a relationship,
although it may also be used to harass and punish an ex-intimate part-
ner. Cyberstalking may also be the preferred pursuit and harassment
methodology of women stalkers because of the relative safety and ano-
nymity. Police may not take cyberstalking as seriously as physical stalking,
and some victims have been told to just turn off your computer(Alexy
et al., 2005; Lee, 1998; Petrocelli, 2005; Sheridan & Grant, 2007).
7. Victim responses and stalking intervention strategies
7.1. Effect of stalking on victims
Most serious crimes such as rape, robbery, and assault, are isolated
events in the lives of victims, and the experiences, however horrible,
have a beginning, middle, and end. There is an expected emotional
501L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2012) 495506
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aftermath to almost any kind of criminal victimization (Miller, 1998a,
2008, 2012); however, what distinguishes stalking is the added layer
of ambiguity, uncertainty, and nonnality of the ordeal: the victim
frequently does not know who is stalking her, how bad it will get,
or when it will end. Even when the identity of the stalker is known
or strongly suspected, the victim often nds that there is very little
she can to do to stem the multiple streams of abuse knocking at her
door, haunting her phone, or poisoning her email. Thus, the psycho-
logical toll of living with a stalking scenario can be a constantly trau-
matizing nightmare that may persist for months or years. Even when
the stalker is apprehended or eventually gives up, the economic,
emotional, and social devastation he has wreaked may follow the vic-
tim for a long time.
Victim hypersensitivity is often cited in defense of a stalker's harm-
lessromantic or friendly overtures toward her, with the charge that
she is blowing normal socialization behaviors out of proportion and
overreacting to the stalker's well-meaning overtures. Yet, studies
(Dennison & Thomson, 2000, 2002; Sheridan, 2001; Sheridan &
Davies, 2001b, 2010; Sheridan, Davies & Boon, 2001a; Sheridan et
al., 2001b) concur that that most people can reliably distinguish be-
tween the courtship behavior of someone who is trying too hardto
secure a date (calling too often, sending gifts) and activities which
are subtly or overtly intrusive and aggressive (spying, appearing un-
expectedly, acting in an intimidating or generally creepymanner).
Clinical syndromes seen in stalking victims can range from anxiety
disorders, to depression, to full-blown posttraumatic stress disorder
(PTSD), including intrusive recollections, ashbacks, nightmares, and
impaired sleep and appetite. Victims may become more cautious and
wary even years after the stalking episode has ceased, limiting their
travel to public places, reducing employment options and socializing
opportunities, and interfering with other activities. Naturally, any pre-
existing psychological vulnerabilities will likely be exacerbated by this
increased stress. The effects may be equally severe for victims of physi-
cal stalking or cyberstalking, and, as noted earlier, the two often go
together (Hall, 1998; Meloy, 1996; Meloy, 2001a, Meloy, 2001b;
Mullen et al., 2000; Pathe & Mullen, 1997; Petrocelli, 2005; Sheridan,
2001; Sheridan, Blaauw, et al., 2003; Sheridan, Gillett, et al., 2003;
Sheridan & Grant, 2007).
Based on an analysis of the existing victimology literature on this
crime, Spitzberg and Cupach (2007) have identied several categories
of impact that stalking can have on victims.
General disturbance: overall effects on the victim's lifestyle and
emotional concomitants.
Affective health: increase in anger, anxiety, depression, fear, jealou-
sy, paranoia.
Cognitive health: confusion, distrust, suspiciousness, impaired
self-esteem, suicidal ideation.
Physical health: impaired sleep or appetite, substance abuse, un-
healthy lifestyle patterns.
Social health: impact of the stalking on the victim's relationships
with family, friends, workmates, and other people.
Resilience effects: though less common, this refers to the recogni-
tion of inner strengths and social support systems that allow the
victim to withstand and transcend the stalking ordeal.
7.2. Victim coping responses
From a review of the stalking victimology literature, a number of
victim coping strategies have been identied (Cupach & Spitzberg,
2004; Cupach et al., 2000; Spitzberg, 2002), some with greater or less-
er degrees of helpfulness in mitigating the stalking scenario.
Moving-with tactics represent the victim's well-intentioned, if
naïve, attempts to reason, implore, or negotiate with the stalker to
leave her alone (e.g., Let's just be friends and go our separate ways).
Unfortunately, for the love-obsessional stalker, this keeps the ame of
hope alive that, by his persistent contact, he will eventually wear her
down and make her realize how much she truly loves him. For the
revenge-motivated prior-intimate stalker, this puts additional power
in his hands to rebuff the peace offering and continue the campaign of
harassment and intimidation.
Moving-against strategies are efforts to quietly or forcefully deter
the stalker, often resorted to when the moving-with tactics have
proven fruitless. Direct activities include threatening the stalker, actu-
ally attempting to injure the stalker (rare), or enlisting the aid of third
parties, such as friends, relatives, employer, or law enforcement to in-
tervene. Direct threats and interventions by the victim are generally
discouraged for several reasons. First, they positively reinforce the
stalker's activities because now he knows how important he is in
the victim's life and, if he is seeking to intimidate and terrorize the
victim, this will usually result in an escalation and expansion of ha-
rassment activities. Second, threats are only as good as the ability to
back them up, and failure to follow through will only further embold-
en the stalker who now feels he can get away with anything without
repercussion. Finally, some stalkers may become enraged and seek to
escalate their abuse from harassment to physical harm.
Moving-away tactics involve attempts to escape from the stalker's
orbit, including changing to an unlisted phone number, using a post of-
ce box for mail, changing or blocking e-mail addresses, altering travel
routes, not going out without other people present, even changing
jobs or residences. Unfortunately, through a combination of malevolent
persistence and cleverness, and with the aid ofever-expanding electron-
ic databases, many stalkers have little trouble tracking down their vic-
tims and reinstating the harassment. Indeed, there is little any of us
can do to stay off the gridin such a way as to be relatively invisible
and untraceable, yet still live any semblance of a normal life. Also,
where the stalker is an ex-intimate partner or ex-workmate, he will al-
ready have access to many details about the victim's life. He may even be
a current workmate, boss, or ex-spouse with whom the victim must at
least occasionally interact over issues of nances or child custody.
Moving-inward activities refer to attempts by the victim to cope
through denial, distraction, redirection, or redenition. These include
ignoring the problem (good if it discourages the stalker, bad if it leads
to neglect of safety precautions), restricting one's range of activities,
using prescribed medications or unprescribed substances, turning to
religion or meditation, seeking psychotherapy, or immersing oneself in
distracting business matters or hobbies. Some of these activities may
temporarily relieve stress and, if safe, are recommended to help the vic-
tim cope with the ordeal (e.g., proper medication or psychotherapy).
However, they do little to directly address the problem and may even
make the victim more vulnerable if she prematurely relaxes her vigilance
and softens her resolve to deter the stalker.
Moving-outward activities involve the recruitment of third-party
intervention in the form of friends, mental health professionals, law
enforcement, or the criminal justice system. Approximately one-half
of stalking victims contact the police at some point, and, when the
stalker is known, one of the common measures recommended is for the
victim to go to court and take out an order of protection,orrestraining
order, which places legally enforceable restrictions on the types of contact
and proximity the parties may have with one another. Aside from the fact
that these orders are not always easy to obtain without proof of a direct
threat, their overall effect depends on how rigorously they are enforced
and how relentlessly determined the stalker is to circumvent them. In
general, restraining orders are effective in about 85% of stalking scenarios
(Meloy, 2001b), in which the stalker, dedicated though he may be, will
not go so far as to risk arrest in pursuit of his quarry. The remaining
15% of stalkers, however, may be so disturbed and relentless in their
ardor or thirst for vengeance that they care little about consequences,
and will do anything to get at the victim. In these cases, restraining
orders may only further iname the stalker and reinforce the pursuit
behaviors, which is why the decision to use this recourse is always a
502 L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2012) 495506
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careful judgment call. In addition, stalkers are often quick learners when
it comes to observing the letter of the law while circumventing its spirit
and exploiting constitutional freedoms of speech and privacy to stay just
within the circle of legal behavior, while still nding ingenious ways to
torment the victim.
7.3. Stalker deterrent strategies
Still, victims need not be helpless. The following recommendations are
distilled from the work of anti-stalking and threat management experts
(Dennison, 2007; Mullen et al., 2000; Pathe, 2002; Pathe & Mullen,
2002; Resnick, 2007), along with some of my own comments and sugges-
tions. These strategies are best utilized in the context of a well-informed
and individualized assessment of a victim's particular stalking scenario
and life circumstances. Although the gender is expressed in terms of a
male stalker and female victim to reect the predominant type of stalking
relationship, the recommendations apply to male victims as well.
7.3.1. Send a clear message and cut off contact
Especially in cases of prior intimate stalkers or stalkers that the vic-
tim knows from work, it is easy for the stalker to rationalize that, If she
didn't want me to bother her, she'd tell me so.So tell him so. Whatever
medium is usedphone, email, written letterhave the victim calmly
but very rmly make it crystal clear that she does not want him to con-
tact her again at any time, in any way, (e.g., To John Jones from Jane
Smith: Do not contact me again at any time, for any reason). Have
the victim keep a record of this communication and, no matter what
the stalker's response, advise the victim not to communicate with him
again, ever. The victim should ignore all further messages, but docu-
ment and saveeach one. As much as feasible, she should avoid spending
time with the stalker's friends, at least some of whom will likely be
collecting intelligence for him. If she is forced to make periodic contact
with him for work or childcare reasons, advise her to discuss only per-
tinent practical matters and end each interaction as quickly as possible.
For anonymous stalkers, forgoing a formal statement and simply not
responding to any of the messages may be the most effective option;
this should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
7.3.2. Keep a paper (and/or electronic) trail
Have the victim maintain copies or originals of everything the
stalker sends by surface mail, electronically, telephonically, or other-
wise. Advise to victim to create and maintain a le, on disk and on
paper, and store it in a secure place, but not to respond to any of the
stalker's communications following her unambiguous no-contact
statement, where this has been sent. Deliveries of owers or gifts
should be refused and given back to the delivery person. If they are
left for the victim, she should remove and discard them immediately,
or have someone else do it (the stalker may be surveilling the pre-
mises) and not respond, no matter how many of these giftspile
up. Have the victim convey these instructions to neighbors or work-
mates who may become surrogate recipients of the stalker's gifts or
messages to her.
7.3.3. Reduce target salience
Advise the victim to get a new phone number and give it to a se-
lect few people on a need-to-know basis, but to keep the old one
connected to an answering system, so the stalker will (at least tempo-
rarily) think he is leaving messages on an active line. If the victim is
being harassed at work (Miller, 1998c, 1999, 2007), have the victim
try to get her phone extension or physical work site changed. If the
victim believes she is being followed, advise her to change routes pe-
riodically. If her mailbox is unsecured, ask her to consider having her
mail delivered to a post ofce box, to keep the stalker from stealing
her mail or putting things in her mailbox. Wherever she goes, the vic-
tim should have her cell phone readily available.
7.3.4. Protect yourself
When necessary, this involves proper training and practice with
self-defense tactics and weapons used for personal protection. Some
stalking victims will be more comfortable with these measures than
others, so they should always seek expert advice, and be considered
on an individual basis. Also victims should secure their homes and
workplaces as much as possible with locks, alarm systems, a dog, and
so on. Travel routes should be carefully planned out to avoid isolated
areas, and, if possible, varied periodically to reduce predictability. It
may not be necessary to maintain a total fortress mentality, but the vic-
tim should use common sense and plan her security system to be com-
mensurate with the level of threat posed by her stalker.
7.3.5. Enlist aid
Report all violations or suspected violations to the police. Anti-stalking
laws aside, some actionsby the stalker (vandalism, explicit threats to the
victim's safety) may constitute crimes in themselves and lead to the
stalker's arrest or at least questioning by the police. Some stalkers may
be deterred by law enforcement intervention, but many will not. The
victim should remember never to respond to the stalker directly. Also,
she should enlist the aid of mental health counselors, support groups,
friends, and family members who can serve as practical and emotional
buffers while she is coping with this ordeal.
7.3.6. Use the criminal justice system
Although threat management professionals differ somewhat on
the details, most recommend taking out a restraining order or order
of protection when the stalker is known and the harassment has esca-
lated to dangerous levels. On the otherhand, if the pattern has stabilized
to a few calls or emails every month, and the victim is comfortable just
ignoring these, then there is probably little to be gained by stirring up
the pot, which will only be interpreted by the stalker as evidence of
the victim's increased interest in him. If the stalker is arrested and crim-
inally prosecuted, advise the victim to cooperate with the criminal jus-
tice system to the best of her ability, but to feel free to enquire as to
what type of security she can expect in return for her participation.
7.3.7. It's not fair
Many a victim will rightly chafe at the idea that she should have to
be the one to turn her life upside down to accommodate one malev-
olent creepwho will not leave her alone. However, like car crashes,
hurricanes, or unexpected illnesses, bad things do happen and victims
must be prepared to take action to protect themselves. The good
news is that, in most cases, most stalking episodes remain relatively
nonviolent and do not persist much longer than a year and a half. If
the victim can maintain her resolve for that long, hopefully she will
eventually get her life back. In the meantime, more needs to be done
to counteract advances in illicit surveillance and harassment technolo-
gies with commensurate improvements in stalker deterrence.
8. Summary and conclusions
Romantic pursuit is a natural part of human behavior, but when
pressed to an extreme degree, it becomes a form of aggression. Be-
cause it can occur so insidiously, stalking is a crime that frequently
operates under the radar. A stalker may pursue his victim out of a de-
lusional belief in their common romantic destiny, because they used
to be together and he wants her back, out of a sadistic desire to tor-
ment the victim, or because of a psychotic overidentication with
the (often famous) victim and the resultant desire to become him
by eliminating and replacing him. Stalkers may carry a variety of diag-
nostic labels, including psychotic disorders, delusional disorders, or
cluster-B personality disorders. There are generally impervious to
conventional forms of psychological treatment because stalking may
constitute an extreme point on the continuum of otherwise evolu-
tionarily adaptive mate-selection behaviors. Risk factors for violence
503L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2012) 495506
Author's personal copy
in a stalking scenario include a prior intimate relationship, the stalker's
feeling of being rejected or humiliated, and generic risk factors for vio-
lence such as low educational level and substance abuse. Cyberstalking
can be as distressing to victims as physical stalking due to the conceal-
ment and anonymity afforded by electronic communication. Victims
may adopt varying strategies for dealing with stalkers, such as avoiding
him, confronting him, seeking third party assistance, and accessing the
legal system. Although no plan is perfect, threat management specialists
have proposed several recommendations that can make it easier for a
victim to deter and discourage a stalker.
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Studies concerned with perceptions of stalking have demonstrated that the prior relationship between the stalker and the victim biases decision making in both individual and mock jury situations. These biases tend to benefit ex-partners over strangers yet the reality of stalking is that it is ex-partners who cause more concern and are more dangerous. Previous research demonstrates that one way to overcome this bias during individual decision making is to provide information describing the reasons for the previous relationship breaking down. The current mixed-method study examines the influence of this information on small groups randomly assigned to one of five conditions where the relationship information provided differed and individual and group decisions regarding vignettes of stalking situations were examined. Group decisions and analysis of the deliberations indicated that in small group settings, as with the previous findings for individual decisions, relationship information plays a role in overcoming the ex-partner bias.