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Protection Against Pursuit: A Conceptual and Empirical Comparison of Cyberstalking and Stalking Victimization Among a National Sample


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Cyberstalking is a relatively understudied area in criminology, with no consensus among scholars as to whether it represents a modified form of stalking or whether it is an entirely new and emerging criminal phenomenon. Using data from the 2006 Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), this study compares stalking and cyberstalking victims across several dimensions, including situational features of their experiences and self-protective behaviors. Results indicate that there are significant differences between stalking and cyberstalking victims, including their number of self-protective behaviors adopted, duration of contact with their stalker, financial costs of victimization, and perceived fear at onset. Perceived fear over time, the occurrence of a physical attack, and sex of the victim were all associated with a higher number of self-protective behaviors for cyberstalking victims compared to stalking victims, net of the effect of the control variables. Implications for stalking theory, research, and criminal justice policy are discussed.
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Justice Quarterly
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Protection Against Pursuit: A Conceptual and
Empirical Comparison of Cyberstalking and
Stalking Victimization Among a National Sample
Matt R. Nobles, Bradford W. Reyns, Kathleen A. Fox & Bonnie S. Fisher
To cite this article: Matt R. Nobles, Bradford W. Reyns, Kathleen A. Fox & Bonnie S. Fisher
(2014) Protection Against Pursuit: A Conceptual and Empirical Comparison of Cyberstalking
and Stalking Victimization Among a National Sample, Justice Quarterly, 31:6, 986-1014, DOI:
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Published online: 13 Sep 2012.
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Protection Against Pursuit: A Conceptual
and Empirical Comparison of Cyberstalking
and Stalking Victimization Among a
National Sample
Matt R. Nobles, Bradford W. Reyns, Kathleen A.
Fox and Bonnie S. Fisher
Cyberstalking is a relatively understudied area in criminology, with no consensus
among scholars as to whether it represents a modified form of stalking or
whether it is an entirely new and emerging criminal phenomenon. Using data
from the 2006 Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS) to the National Crime
Victimization Survey (NCVS), this study compares stalking and cyberstalking
victims across several dimensions, including situational features of their experi-
ences and self-protective behaviors. Results indicate that there are significant
differences between stalking and cyberstalking victims, including their number
of self-protective behaviors adopted, duration of contact with their stalker,
financial costs of victimization, and perceived fear at onset. Perceived fear over
Matt R. Nobles is an assistant professor in the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State Uni-
versity, Huntsville, TX, USA. His research interests include violent and interpersonal crimes, gun pol-
icy, GIS and spatial econometrics, and quantitative methods. His recent work has appeared in
Justice Quarterly,Crime & Delinquency,Aggression and Violent Behavior,Journal of Quantitative
Criminology,Journal of Criminal Justice,Journal of Interpersonal Violence,Criminal Justice and
Behavior, and the American Journal of Public Health. Bradford W. Reyns is an assistant professor in
the department of criminal justice at Weber State University and the book review editor for
Security Journal. In 2010, he received his PhD in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati.
His research focuses on victims of crime, especially the intersection of technology and victimiza-
tion, and opportunities for victimization. Recently, his work has appeared in Deviant Behavior,
Journal of Criminal Justice, and Violence and Victims. Kathleen A. Fox is an assistant professor in
the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. She earned her PhD in
criminology, law and society from the University of Florida. Her research interests include crime vic-
timization, gangs, corrections, and fear of crime. Her work has recently appeared in Justice Quar-
terly,Crime & Delinquency,Journal of Interpersonal Violence, and Journal of Criminal Justice.
Bonnie S. Fisher is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice and a Fellow of the Graduate School
at the University of Cincinnati. She co-edited the Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention
(Sage). She co-authored Unsafe in the Ivory Tower: The Sexual Victimization of College Women
(Sage) and The Dark Side of the Ivory Tower: Campus Crime as a Social Problem (Cambridge
University Press). She continues to pursue her research agenda into issues concerning the sexual and
stalking victimization of women. Professor Fisher is collaborating on a multiple campus evaluation
of bystanding intervention programs directed at reducing sexual and dating violence on college
campuses. Correspondence to: Matt R. Nobles, Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal
Justice, P.O. Box 2296, Huntsville, TX 77341-2296, USA. E-mail:
Vol. 31, No. 6, 986–1014,
Ó2012 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
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time, the occurrence of a physical attack, and sex of the victim were all
associated with a higher number of self-protective behaviors for cyberstalking
victims compared to stalking victims, net of the effect of the control variables.
Implications for stalking theory, research, and criminal justice policy are dis-
Keywords stalking; cyberstalking; victimization; self-protective behavior
Since stalking was first criminalized in the 1990s, researchers have devoted con-
siderable attention to understanding the nature and extent of unwanted pursuit
behaviors and their outcomes for victims (Baum, Catalano, Rand, & Rose, 2009;
¨rklund, Ha
¨nen-Nyholm, Sheridan, & Roberts, 2010; Coleman, 1997; Eng-
lebrecht & Reyns, 2011; Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2002; Jordan, Wilcox, & Prit-
chard, 2007; Mustaine & Tewksbury, 1999; Nobles, Fox, Piquero, & Piquero,
2009; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). A key issue that
researchers have yet to reach consensus on relates to precisely how “cyberstal-
king” should be defined. It remains an open question, one deserving of further
scientific scrutiny, whether cyberstalking is a variant of stalking that incorporates
special circumstances (e.g. technology) or as an entirely separate and distinct
criminal behavior. Recent research has differentiated “traditional” stalking
behaviors from cyberstalking, or unwanted pursuit conducted electronically,
using different operational definitions (Alexy, Burgess, Baker, & Smoyak, 2005;
D’Ovidio & Doyle, 2003; Kraft & Wang, 2010; Sheridan & Grant, 2007; Spitzberg &
Hoobler, 2002). Thus, criminologists have recently placed an emphasis on charac-
terizing dimensions of cyberstalking and determining its extent (Reyns, Henson,
& Fisher, 2012). For the purposes of this study, cyberstalking is operationally
defined using responses from individuals’ self-reported experiences with harass-
ing or threatening communication via the Internet, including: email, instant mes-
senger, chat rooms, blogs, message or bulletin boards, and other Internet sites.
One issue pertinent to understanding similarities and differences between
stalking and cyberstalking is the nature of the victim’s response. A logical
supposition is that victims of each type of crime react to the experience by
adopting a range of self-protective behaviors, and those behaviors may directly
influence outcomes, such as the risk of injury (Bachman, Saltzman, Thompson,
& Carmody, 2002). The environmental criminology literature has investigated
the role of guardianship and self-protection in preventing crime (Cohen,
Kluegel, & Land, 1980; Felson, 1995; Reynald, 2010). Generally, the literature
supports the routine activity theory expectation that guardianship efforts
reduce victimization risks (Cohen & Felson, 1979; Spano & Freilich, 2009; Tark
& Kleck, 2006; Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2003; Wilcox, Madensen, & Tillyer,
2007). However, the body of research examining guardianship patterns and
factors that influence self-protective behaviors among crime victims is still
developing, and it remains an unanswered question as to which factors
influence victims’ decisions to adopt protective measures. Unpacking this issue
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is further complicated by the substantial number of stalking cases in which the
perpetrator is known to the victim, including cases in which there was a prior
intimate relationship. The current state of evidence suggests that adoption of
such behaviors varies across populations, types of victimization, and contexts
(Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000; Fisher, Daigle, Cullen, & Santana, 2007;
Guerette & Santana, 2010; Lurigio, 1987; Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2003). Past
studies examining victims’ protective behaviors indicate that individual
characteristics, lifestyles that expose individuals to risk, past victimization
experiences, and fear of crime are related to individuals’ decisions to protect
themselves (Fisher et al., 2000; Lurigio, 1987; Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2003).
The current study integrates these two lines of scholarly research—— stalking
victimization and victim decision-making—— to address two primary research
questions. First, we compared various dimensions of stalking and cyberstalking
victimization (e.g. duration, costs, fear, victim characteristics, and protective
acts by victims) to inform the debate surrounding whether these are two differ-
ent types of victimization or simply variations of the same underlying crime. Few
studies have compared incidents of stalking and cyberstalking, leading to uncer-
tainty about their shared or distinct characteristics. Second, we examined which
features of the victimization incident influenced victims’ decisions to adopt self-
protective behaviors. Identifying and explaining the predictors of these behaviors
are among the next logical and empirical steps to further understand both stalk-
ing and cyberstalking victims’ decision-making. These research questions were
explored by analyzing both types of victim responses from the 2006 Supplemen-
tal Victimization Survey (SVS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).
Legal and Conceptual Definitions of Stalking and Cyberstalking
A methodological limitation that underlies both stalking and cyberstalking vic-
timization research is the problem of definitional consistency. This issue arises,
in part, because definitions of stalking vary across state-level criminal statutes
(Goodno, 2007; Tjaden, 2009; Tjaden, Thoennes, & Allison, 2000). In general,
legal criteria for prosecuting a series of incidents as stalking include the follow-
ing elements: (1) an unwanted pattern of conduct or behavior (e.g. following,
spying, and making unwanted phone calls), (2) the victim or a “reasonable per-
son” is expected to feel fear or a comparable emotional response (e.g. torment,
distress, and annoyance), and (3) a credible threat of harm to the victim (Fisher
et al., 2002; Fox, Nobles, & Fisher, 2011). Since many of these criteria vary from
state to state, stalking researchers have generally adopted a relatively broad
definition of stalking victimization that encompasses many types of pursuit
behaviors. For instance, Fisher and Stewart (2007, p. 211) have defined stalking
as being “repeatedly pursued in a manner that causes a reasonable person fear
for his or her safety,” while Black et al. (2011, p. 29) stated, “stalking victimiza-
tion involves a pattern of harassing or threatening tactics used by a perpetrator
that is both unwanted and causes fear or safety concerns in the victim.”
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Stalking can comprise a number of different types of pursuit behaviors on the
part of the stalker, including: following the victim, spying on the victim, showing
up at places where the victim is located (e.g. school, home, and work), making
unwanted phone calls, leaving items for the victim (e.g. gifts, flowers, and
cards), writing letters or emails, and posting information about the victim in
public or semipublic places, including the Internet (Fisher et al., 2002; Reyns
et al., 2012; Reyns, Henson, & Fisher, 2011; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998).
An additional challenge in operationalizing cyberstalking concerns the
context and nature of the technology used. In early stalking research, both
physical and electronic forms of pursuit were categorized as stalking. How-
ever, technology has become increasingly sophisticated at the personal level
as well as the macro level. For instance, individuals throughout the 1990s
and 2000s became increasingly reliant on personal devices such as cell
phones for not only verbal communication but also texting and sending
images, while the Internet as a whole grew in its capability to facilitate
social networking. These trends have fundamentally changed opportunities
for crimes to occur. For example, the Internet lacks centralization in spatial
or temporal terms, making asymmetric interactions much more feasible since
offenders and victims need not be in direct contact for one-on-one communi-
cation to occur (Holt & Bossler, 2009; Reyns et al., 2011; Yar, 2005). Social
media sites, such as Facebook, can be easily misused by stalking perpetrators
as instruments of terror, broadcasting threatening and frightening communi-
cation or other multimedia content to victims. Conversely, the proliferation
and ubiquity of these forms of personal technology makes it ever more likely
that stalking offenders and victims may subsequently extend their interac-
tions to the domain of cyberspace, making a conceptual differentiation
between stalking and cyberstalking difficult or impossible (Alexy et al.,
As technology has evolved with respect to the cultural landscape as well as its
role in facilitating crime, researchers have increasingly sought distinctions
between offline and electronic/online forms of pursuit behaviors and harass-
ment. Legislatures have also adapted to this trend. While most states do not
have cyberstalking statutes per se, cyberstalking can be and has been prosecuted
under existing stalking and harassment statutes (Goodno, 2007; Fox et al.,
2011). In general, cyberstalking can be defined as repeated pursuit involving
electronic or Internet-capable devices, such as mobile phones, laptop comput-
ers, or electronic tablets (Goodno, 2007; Parsons-Pollard & Moriarty, 2009; Reyns
et al., 2012; Southworth, Finn, Dawson, Fraser, & Tucker, 2007; US Attorney
General, 1999). Like the definition of its spatial counterpart, the definition of
cyberstalking sometimes includes the stipulation that the victim or a “reasonable
person” experiences fear due to the stalker’s pursuit, although the fear standard
has recently been called into question. For example, Dietz and Martin (2007)
argue that it is possible to be victimized by stalking without being fearful and
that requiring victims to experience fear serves to discount some victims’
experiences and undercut the prevalence of victimization.
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Examining the conceptual relationship between stalking and cyberstalking is a
complex undertaking. Considering Figure 1, Scenario A represents a conceptuali-
zation in which some victims experience stalking, some experience cyberstal-
king, and some experience both. Under this scenario the set “X” would represent
the population of victims who experience only cyberstalking but not stalking.
Scenario B represents a case in which the conceptual definition of cyberstalking
represents a subset or special circumstance of the generalized stalking defini-
tion, similar to the conceptual relationship between armed robbery and robbery.
Scenario C represents a case where the definitions of cyberstalking and stalking
share no conceptual overlap and are entirely distinct. The following presents the
argument for why Scenario B best represents the conceptual relationship
between stalking and cyberstalking. We acknowledge that Scenario B may not be
the only conceptualization of this relationship. Therefore, we encourage future
researchers to contribute to this debate by empirically testing alternative
conceptual relationships (e.g. Scenarios A and C).
Although some victims experience only cyberstalking behaviors while other
victims experience only stalking behaviors, we contend that Scenario C is con-
ceptually problematic given current legislation. Common legal and operational
definitions of stalking and cyberstalking are not independent or mutually exclu-
sive. Stalking requires repeated frightening, threatening, or harassing contact,
of which there are many possible real-world and cyberspace examples, includ-
ing showing up unannounced, communication sent from the stalker to the vic-
tim, and so forth. Cyberstalking represents a special case of this unwanted/
objectionable contact that specifically employs technology, but satisfying the
(a) (b)
Figure 1 Conceptualizations of stalking and cyberstalking: three scenarios.
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unique conditions for cyberstalking does not simultaneously negate the
satisfaction of meeting the stalking criteria (as in a case of mutually exclusive
conditions). Whether a victim receives objectionable contacts via email, social
media sites, or in chat rooms, those contacts are still always also sufficient to
meet the legal and operational criteria for stalking by definition, as long as
they are repeated and are frightening, threatening, or harassing. This
conceptual overlap is codified in at least one state statute that specifically
defines the crime of cyberstalking relative to stalking. To illustrate, Florida
statutes x784.048(3) (2011) specify
Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or
cyberstalks another person, and makes a credible threat with the intent to
place that person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury of the person, or
the person’s child, sibling, spouse, parent, or dependent, commits the offense
of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree. (Emphasis added)
Although Florida represents only a single state, it is an example of one of the
very few states at present whose stalking statutes formally identifies behavioral
parameters of cyberstalking in legalistic terms (Fox et al., 2011; Leiter, 2007).
Returning to Figure 1, Scenario A is similarly problematic. It is inherently
more intuitive, because it seems to capture the empirical overlap between
stalking and cyberstalking that has been observed in published studies. But
using the same logic as in Scenario C, the victims represented by set X cannot
logically exist. In all cases of cyberstalking, the objectionable contacts (e.g.
repeated, frightening/threatening/harassing use of technology in whatever
form) by definition also are sufficient for meeting the legal and operational
stalking criteria. The novel use of technology does not obviate the satisfaction
of the stalking criteria and consequently exclude these cases from Scenario A
representing stalking. Rather, those cases are the intersection of the stalking
set and cyberstalking set: these cases are repeated frightening, threatening, or
harassing contacts (thus, must be included with the stalking set) and they pro-
vide the special circumstance of technology (therefore, must be included with
the cyberstalking set).
The resulting logic dictates that cyberstalking be conceptualized in a way
similar to Scenario A minus set X. In other words, we argue that Scenario B is the
most accurate depiction of how to conceptualize stalking and cyberstalking (and
also is best representative of the current study sample). That is, there is a
population of stalking victims and there is a smaller subset of those that are also
cyberstalking victims due to the special circumstance involving technology. The
compelling point is that there must always be conceptual overlap as long as
stalking is defined as involving repeated contacts that are frightening,
1. Per Florida Stat. x784.048(1)(d) (2011), “‘Cyberstalk’ is defined as engaging in a course of con-
duct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through
the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing sub-
stantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.”
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threatening, or harassing. Meeting the criteria for cyberstalking—— repeated
frightening, threatening, or harassing behaviors involving specific technolo-
gies—— automatically qualifies for the stalking criteria, and therefore set X as a
subset of Scenario A cannot logically exist.
As a practical matter, in the case of both stalking and cyberstalking, the
victim experiences unwanted and repeated pursuit behaviors by the offender,
indicating that in both cases the fundamental criteria for stalking are met. The
difference between these forms of pursuit, and the special circumstance that
situates cyberstalking as a subset of stalking, is the element of space. While
stalking transpires within the same physical space or in relatively close
proximity (e.g. the victim is followed or spied on from a distance) in real time,
cyberstalking takes place in cyberspace, in which case the victim and offender
are connected through a system of networked computers (or capable devices)
and not necessarily in the same physical location at the same real time (Reyns,
2010; Reyns et al., 2011). Despite the conceptual overlap, the effects on
stalking and cyberstalking victims remain an empirical question.
Extent of Stalking and Cyberstalking Victimization
Four national studies to date indicate that stalking has been experienced by a
substantial portion of individuals living in the USA, resulting in lifetime preva-
lence estimates between 8 and 12% for women and between 2 and 4% for men,
depending on the criteria used (Basile, Swahn, Chen, & Saltzman, 2006; Tjaden
& Thoennes, 1998); similarly, among a national sample of college women, 13.1%
reported being stalked during the current school year (Fisher et al., 2002). The
2006 SVS to the NCVS reported a lifetime prevalence rate of 1.4% for all adults in
the USA (Baum et al., 2009). Most recently, the Centers for Disease Control spon-
sored the national intimate partner and sexual violence survey, which revealed
that 16% of women and 5% of men had been stalked during their lifetime and
“felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be
harmed or killed as a result of the perpetrator’s behavior” (Black et al., 2011,
p. 29). Numerous smaller scale studies reaffirm the findings of the national-level
studies, providing another indicator of the importance of devoting research to
stalking victims (for a review, see Fox et al., 2011).
In contrast to the stability of stalking prevalence estimates, cyberstalking
estimates show considerably more variation across studies. Depending on the
samples and behavioral operationalizations used, prevalence estimates range
from 1 to 40.8% in college students (Reyns et al., 2012; Spitzberg & Hoobler,
2002), while prevalence rates for online harassment range from 10 to 15%
(Finn, 2004). Reports of general population cyberstalking estimates are scarce,
but at least one study estimates the prevalence at 26.8% for women using
online dating sites (Jerin & Dolinsky, 2001). Several studies do not employ con-
ceptually distinct stalking and cyberstalking groups, instead highlighting over-
lapping experiences. One such study reported that of those who were stalked,
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7.2% were also victims of cyberstalking (Sheridan & Grant, 2007). The 2006 SVS
is the only national study to offer cyberstalking prevalence estimates, indicat-
ing that 26.1% of stalking victims also experienced cyberstalking (Baum et al.,
2009). The disparity in cyberstalking estimates may reflect differences in defi-
nitions, operationalization, populations under study, and sampling designs that
these studies have employed (Fox et al., 2011).
Protective Behaviors Adopted by Victims
While the stalking research pertaining to self-protective behaviors adopted by
victims is relatively sparse, these studies suggest that victims adopt a variety of
protective and preventive actions in response to their stalking victimization
(Baum et al., 2009; Buhi, Clayton, & Surrency, 2009; Fisher et al., 2002; Reyns &
Englebrecht, 2010; Sheridan & Grant, 2007; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998; Wilcox,
Jordan, & Pritchard, 2007). According to the SVS, stalking victims frequently
changed their usual activities, received assistance from others (e.g. friends and
coworkers), took protective actions such as purchasing caller identification sys-
tems or carrying pepper spray, and changing their personal information (e.g.
email address) (Baum et al., 2009). Wilcox et al. (2007) reported that about half
of college student stalking victims carried or owned something for protection
from future victimization (e.g. mace and knife), and a large portion avoided
campus as a precautionary measure. In a similar study, Buhi et al. (2009) exam-
ined the subsequent help-seeking behaviors of female college student stalking
victims and reported that approximately half of victims sought help from other
people (e.g. family and friends) in response to being stalked. Judicial responses,
such as obtaining a restraining order against the stalker, are among the more for-
mal actions victims take to stop the pursuit behavior (Fisher et al., 2002; Tjaden
& Thoennes, 1998). Fisher et al. (2002) reported that among victims of stalking
in their college sample, 3.9% sought a restraining order, 3.3% filed a grievance or
initiated disciplinary action with university officials, 1.9% filed criminal charges,
and 1.2% filed civil charges.
The cyberstalking literature has not developed to the point where patterns
in responses to victimization, including self-protective behaviors taken by the
victim, have been clearly identified. Some published studies have indicated
that preventative measures based on technology, including parental monitoring
software (Wolak, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2006) and antivirus software (Holt &
Bossler, 2009), have little to no effect on cyber-victimization risks, possibly
because these tools do not address the fundamental mechanisms that are most
frequently used to threaten or harass victims. In cases of cyberstalking,
Sheridan and Grant’s (2007) research indicated no significant differences in
emotional responses (e.g. fear and anxiety), protective actions (e.g. changing
job and moving away), or reporting behaviors between stalking and cyberstal-
king victims. Conversely, Reyns and Englebrecht’s (2010) comparison of the
reporting behaviors of stalking and cyberstalking victims suggests that there
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may be differences between these groups with respect to the factors influenc-
ing the decision to contact the police. For example, they reported that the
financial cost to the victim increased the likelihood of reporting the victimiza-
tion to the police among victims who experienced both stalking and cyberstal-
king compared to those who did not experience cyberstalking. The somewhat
conflicting findings reported in these two studies underscore the importance of
further investigating how cyberstalking victims respond to their victimization.
Predictors of Adopting Self-Protective Behaviors
Aside from some exploratory work on reporting to police, the factors that influ-
ence the adoption of self-protective behaviors among victims of stalking and
cyberstalking have not been empirically examined (e.g. seriousness, threats,
physical assaults, duration, fear, and recognition of the behavior as stalking).
The previously discussed patterns in victims’ protective behaviors are informa-
tive for further exploring this issue. However, if victims are willing to change
their routine activities or seek legal remedies in response to the offender’s
actions, then it is likely that these victims perceived their situation to be a seri-
ous one. Offense seriousness has been identified by previous research as a robust
predictor of criminal justice actor decision-making, including the decision-
making of crime victims (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1988; Gottfredson & Hinde-
lang, 1979). For instance, Gottfredson and Hindelang’s (1979) study revealed
that offense seriousness
was the primary factor in explaining reporting of
victimization to the police among victims in the National Crime Survey. While
this concept has not been applied to explaining the protective behaviors
undertaken by stalking or cyberstalking victims, it is reasonable to expect the
seriousness of the offense plays a role in this decision.
Certain characteristics of the stalking or cyberstalking incident, such as
whether the offender threatened or physically attacked the victim, represent
indicators of offense seriousness. Indeed, since stalking often co-occurs with
other types of victimization, such as intimate partner violence (Coleman, 1997;
Davis & Frieze, 2000; Mechanic, Weaver, & Resick, 2002), these experiences may
represent a pattern of behavior more likely to elicit protective behaviors from
victims. Financial loss to the victim also may be an indication of a serious
victimization to crime victims, with greater losses being more likely to prompt a
response from the victim.
The duration of the offender’s pursuit may also affect the victim’s concep-
tualization of how serious the experience is. Since repeated pursuit is one of
the key elements of stalking, duration of contact may represent a stalking-
specific indicator of seriousness. According to the extant stalking literature,
among those who are stalked, the repeated pursuit behaviors usually occur
2. Gottfredson and Hindelang (1979) measured offense seriousness using the Sellin-Wolfgang (1964)
seriousness scale, which is based on the extent and nature of bodily injury, weapon use, intimida-
tion, forcible sexual intercourse, and financial loss.
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over six months or less, but some victims are pursued continuously for many
years (Baum et al., 2009; Fisher et al., 2002; Nobles et al., 2009; Tjaden
& Thoennes, 1998). Those victims who are pursued for longer periods of time
may be more likely to adopt self-protective measures.
While fear is one of the definitional components of stalking (Fox et al.,
2011), victims experience varying degrees of fear (Dietz & Martin, 2007;
Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998) and it is likely that the more fearful a stalking vic-
tim feels, the more serious they perceive their situation to be. However, fear
may have additional dimensions that are relevant for understanding victim
behavior, such as how fear is perceived over time and as the victimization
experience changes. Scenarios in which stalking or cyberstalking begin innocu-
ously, but escalate into frightening episodes are as plausible as episodes that
begin with high fear that diminishes over time. Fear may also be a relative
constant throughout the experience. In each of these scenarios, fear may play
a different role in influencing a victim’s decision to engage in self-protective
behaviors as a function of factors such as individual predisposition, changing
interpretations, and external support. It follows, then, that heightened
emotional responses to stalking and/or cyberstalking, especially fear, increase
victims’ likelihood of protecting themselves from further victimization.
In general, previous research suggests that victims who self-identify as crime
victims react differently than other victims to their experiences (Fisher et al.,
2002; Greenberg & Ruback, 1992; Williams, 1984). More specifically, Reyns and
Englebrecht (2010) found that among stalking and cyberstalking victims,
acknowledging their status as a stalking victim was a significant predictor of the
decision to report the experience to the police. Victimization acknowledgment
may therefore be an important explanatory factor that influences victims’ deci-
sions to report to police and/or to protect oneself from subsequent victimiza-
tion. The extant stalking and cyberstalking literatures have only minimally
explored the role of acknowledgment in explaining the self-protective behaviors
of victims (see for exception Englebrecht & Reyns, 2011). The research men-
tioned here, however, implies that victims’ willingness to acknowledge their vic-
timization may be key to understanding victims’ self-protection efforts.
The current stalking and cyberstalking research has provided only limited
insight as to whether any of the factors identified in previous victimization
research—— presence of threat or physical attack, financial costs, duration,
fear, and victim acknowledgment—— are significant predictors of the adoption
of self-protection measures. Thus, identifying which, if any, of these factors
influence stalking and cyberstalking victims’ decision to adopt self-protective
measures is a logical next step in this nascent body of research.
Current Study
The current study makes several contributions to the growing research on
stalking and cyberstalking. First, this study uses a large nationally representative
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sample of adults in the USA to examine stalking and cyberstalking. With few
exceptions (Basile et al., 2006; Black et al., 2011; Fisher et al., 2002; Tjaden &
Thoennes, 1998), the majority of stalking research has employed small samples
from the general population (Johnson & Kercher, 2009) or college student
samples of various sizes (Buhi et al., 2009; Jordan et al., 2007; Mustaine & Tewks-
bury, 1999; Nobles et al., 2009; Patton, Nobles, & Fox, 2010). While these studies
offer valuable information about stalking victimization, their external validity is
limited. Examining a nationally representative sample of the general (adult) pop-
ulation is essential for a broader understanding of the scope, nature, and extent
of stalking and cyberstalking, and addresses external validity concerns.
Second, this study is among the first to compare stalking and cyberstalking vic-
timization. As we have previously discussed, whether cyberstalking represents a
distinct form of pursuit-based victimization or is a variant of stalking is not well
understood, and convincing arguments have been made on both sides of this
debate. For example, Bocij and McFarlane (2003) argue that cyberstalking can-
not be merely an extension of physical stalking, since it is possible for cyberstal-
king to occur without any physical pursuit. Sheridan and Grant’s (2007) analyses,
however, suggest that the two forms of pursuit are similar in many ways (e.g.
effect on victims and victim responses), and therefore are not fundamentally dif-
ferent. Although comprehensive theoretical and empirical evaluations of these
experiences are missing from the research to date, we have advanced a logical
argument that stalking and cyberstalking share important features, and that
cyberstalking episodes may represent a subset of stalking victimizations (see
Figure 1, Scenario B for a visual depiction for our argument). Recalling, we con-
cluded that the facets that overlap conceptually are the common operationaliza-
tions of repeated behavior that is characterized as threatening, frightening, or
harassing. Cyberstalking therefore could be conceptualized as a logical subset of
stalking that features the “special case” of technology as a facilitator, much as
robbery and armed robbery are differentiated.
Until published comparisons
between these behaviors are made based on empirical data, many conclusions
about their dimensions are largely speculative. Accordingly, the current study
examines the similarities and differences between stalking and cyberstalking vic-
timization with respect to victims’ self-protective behaviors.
Third, this study examines whether seriousness of the offense (e.g. physically
attacked, threatened, and financial cost to the victim), duration of stalking,
fear, and acknowledgment of experience as stalking influences the adoption of
self-protective behaviors among stalking and cyberstalking victims. Investigating
these effects are the next logical and empirical steps to advance the understand-
ing of stalking and cyberstalking victims’ decision-making about self-protection.
The primary research questions, driving the current study, focus on
uncovering similarities and differences in self-protective behaviors adopted by
stalking victims and cyberstalking victims. More specifically, the current study
3. For additional discussion of stalking operationalization and measurement, including an analysis
of definitional and behavioral differences across published studies, see Fox et al. (2011).
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asks these questions: (1) Do stalking and cyberstalking victims experience simi-
larities or differences in their duration of victimization, costs related to victim-
ization, fear at onset and over time, threats, physical attacks, and
acknowledgment of their victimization? (2) Which of these factors, if any,
increase the number of protective behaviors adopted by stalking and cyberstal-
king victims? Given that stalking and cyberstalking share conceptual, defini-
tional, and operational components, we expect victims of stalking and
cyberstalking will experience comparable factors related to their victimization.
In other words, we do not expect significant differences among stalking and
cyberstalking victims in terms of duration of victimization, costs, fear, threats,
physical attacks, and acknowledgment of victimization. Similarly, we expect
that the factors that are significantly predictive of self-protective behaviors will
be alike for stalking and cyberstalking victims.
Data and Methods
Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS)
The NCVS is an ongoing data collection project administered by US Bureau of
Census under the auspice of the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the Department
of Justice. The NCVS focuses on the extent and characteristics of criminal
experiences in a given year. Telephone surveys are administered annually to a
nationally representative, stratified multistage cluster sample of households.
In 2006, sampled household members, 18 years or older, who passed initial
screening questions for eligibility were administered a one-time supplemental
stalking survey after completing the main NCVS interview (US Department of
Justice, 2009). Similar to the National Violence Against Women Survey
(NVAWS) (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998), screening questions describing specific
types of pursuit behaviors (e.g. being followed and receiving unwanted con-
tacts) were used to identify those who had experienced these behaviors prior
to administering the SVS interview. Screening questions intentionally excluded
the term “stalking” given that some victims may not realize that they have
been stalked. Thus, victims were required to meet the basic screening criteria
for stalking victimization, but were not required to self-identify as stalking vic-
tims for sample inclusion.
Operationalization of Stalking and Cyberstalking
The total sample that completed the SVS was 65,272 adults (which included
both stalking and harassment victims). From this sample, 3,388 individuals met
our operational criteria for stalking victimization by reporting that they had
experienced two or more pursuit behaviors from a given perpetrator that made
them “frightened, concerned, angered, or annoyed,” or that they had experi-
enced any single pursuit behavior from a given perpetrator on more than one
occasion. By contrast, an individual who had experienced isolated instances of
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any pursuit behavior (excluding solicitors) that were not repeated did not meet
our operational definition for stalking. These individuals (n= 776) may be
considered harassment victims that did not reach level of stalking, and were
thus excluded from subsequent analyses.
The SVS questionnaire provided explicit instructions to respondents to con-
sider experiences in which they were “frightened, concerned, angered, or
annoyed.” To further reduce measurement error, an additional screen question
repeated these critical criteria by asking respondents, “Not including bill col-
lectors, telephone solicitors, or other sales people, has anyone, male or
female, EVER—— frightened, concerned, angered, or annoyed you” by engaging
in behaviors including: (a) unwanted phone calls or messages; (b) unsolicited
or unwanted letters, emails, or other forms of written correspondence or com-
munication; (c) following or spying; (d) waiting outside or inside places such as
home, school, workplace, or recreation place; (e) showing up at places even
though the perpetrator had no business being there; (f) leaving unwanted
items, presents, or flowers; or (g) posting information or spreading rumors on
the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
Among the stalking victims in the sample, a subset of 296 individuals met
the operational criteria for cyberstalking victimization by indicating that they
experienced harassing or threatening communication from one or more of the
following Internet technologies during the prior 12 months: email, instant mes-
senger, chat rooms, blogs, message or bulletin boards, or other Internet sites.
Given that some stalking victims failed to answer the cyberstalking items
(n= 2,631), these missing cases have been excluded from the analyses in an
effort to retain only the valid cases for which respondents reported informa-
tion about both stalking and cyberstalking.
This study compares two groups of stalking victims: (1) victims of stalking
who did not experience cyberstalking (n= 1,237) and (2) victims of stalking
who also experienced cyberstalking (n= 296). This operationalization is consis-
tent with a conceptualization of cyberstalking as a subset or special circum-
stance of a more generalized stalking victimization (see Figure 1, Scenario B).
Also, this operationalization offers a valid and methodologically sound stalking
measure that can be used to rigorously examine the differences and similari-
ties between stalking and cyberstalking victims.
Dependent Variable
The dependent variable represents the number of different types of self-
protective behaviors individuals took in response to their stalking victimization
experience. Respondents were asked to identify their behaviors used to protect
themselves as a result of their stalking victimization, including: taking time off
from work or school; changing or quitting a job or school; changing the way they
went to work or school; avoiding relatives, friends, or holiday celebrations;
changing usual activities outside of work or school; staying with friends or
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relatives or having them stay with you; altering appearance to be unrecogniz-
able; taking self-defense or martial arts classes; getting pepper spray; obtaining
a gun; acquiring any other kind of weapon; changing social security number;
changing email address; changing telephone numbers; installing caller identifica-
tion or call blocking systems; and changing or installing new locks or a security
These 16 items were factor analyzed to assess internal consistency as
well as dimensionality, and exploratory factor analysis revealed a single-factor
solution (Eigenvalue = 2.72; loadings range: 0.06-0.60). A count of self-protective
behaviors was calculated by summing the number of self-protective behaviors
respondents had adopted (Cronbach’s a= 0.75).
Although we summed these items to create a robust global indicator of vic-
tims’ self-protection behaviors, we are not claiming practical equivalence of
any individual item relative to one another across all stalking cases. It is plau-
sible, for instance, that certain individual self-protective behaviors could
require greater investment of resources (e.g. monetary costs and time) on the
part of the victim or that some behaviors are more efficacious to particular
forms of stalking or cyberstalking. Ultimately, empirically differentiating the
relative costs and effectiveness of individual self-protective behaviors is a task
left to future researchers. By summing the different types of protective behav-
iors, our measure captures the degree to which victims proactively engage in a
variety of help seeking to protect themselves from subsequent victimization.
Independent Variables
Six independent variables that captured the nature of the stalking experience
were used to examine the relationships between the situational characteristics
of stalking and the adopted self-protective behaviors.
First, victims were asked
to report the duration of stalking episodes in days, weeks, months, and years.
4. Only one of the listed behaviors, “changing email address,” directly relates to cyberstalking vic-
timization. Thus, the protective behaviors listed seem to be primarily oriented to stalking experi-
ences rather than specific behaviors oriented toward technology or Internet use.
5. In addition to the listed variables, the frequency of contacts between the offender and victim,
both daily and over the past 12 months, were considered. These items asked victims to report how
many times a day and overall in the last 12 months the unwanted contacts or behavior occurred.
Ultimately, these measures were dropped from the final multivariate models due to the small num-
ber of cases available in the data-set. The number of available cases for both measures was small
overall (n= 104 for daily frequency and n= 301 for overall frequency), and very few of those report-
ing individuals met our operational criteria for cyberstalking (n= 19 and 55, respectively). Conse-
quently, multivariate models could not be estimated using these measures.
6. Stalking/cyberstalking “episodes” in this instance were self-defined by survey respondents. It is
possible that some episodes involved more than one offender, or that the same victim experienced
multiple episodes involving the same offender. In an attempt to control for this possible confound,
we performed additional analyses (not shown but available from the first author) and included a
variable in our models that asked “how many different people have done any of these things to
you in the last 12 months?” This variable was not significant in either of the multivariate models;
the overall variance explained was minimally increased, indicating that this dimension seems to be
relatively unimportant as a predictor of victim self-protective behaviors. The variable was subse-
quently not included in the estimation of the model.
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To standardize the units measuring duration, each item was recoded and
summed to compute a single, continuous measure of duration in days. Many vic-
tims reported multiyear episodes, so this variable was recoded into hundreds of
days in order to shift decimal places. Second, victims were asked to indicate the
total out-of-pocket costs, in dollars, related to their victimization; as with dura-
tion, the range of responses necessitated recoding the original units into hun-
dreds of dollars. Third, victims were asked to indicate whether they felt
frightened, scared, afraid, panicked, paranoid, threatened, alarmed, hypervigi-
lant, or terrified when the stalking behaviors began (0 = no to all items and 1 = yes
to one or more items), which measured fear at onset. A similar item assessed
fear as the behavior progressed (0 = no to all items and 1 = yes to one or more
items), which measured fear over time. Fourth, individuals were asked to indi-
cate whether the stalker expressed any physical threats, including: kill you; rape
or sexually assault you; harm you with a weapon; hit, slap, or harm you in some
other way; harm or kidnap a child; harm another family member; harm a friend
or coworker; harm a pet; harm or kill himself/herself; or threaten you in some
other way (0 = no to all items and 1 = yes to one or more items). Fifth, victims
were asked whether they had been physically attacked in one or more of the fol-
lowing ways: hitting, slapping, or knocking you down; choking or strangling you;
raping or sexually assaulting you; attacking you with a weapon; chasing or drag-
ging you with a car; or attacking you in some other way (0 = no to all items and
1 = yes to one or more items). Sixth, victims were asked whether they considered
the series of unwanted, threatening, or harassing behaviors to constitute stalking
(0 = no and 1 = yes).
The following demographic factors were used as control variables in the
analysis: age in years (continuous), sex (0 = male and 1 = female), race (0 = non-
white and 1 = white), Hispanic ethnicity (0 = non-Hispanic and 1 = Hispanic),
household income (coded in 10 categories, ranging from less than $5,000 to
greater than $75,000), and education level (0 = high school graduate or lower
and 1 = some college through doctoral degree).
Analytic Strategy
Univariate statistics for each dependent, independent, and control variable
were first examined. Bivariate relationships between stalking victimization
variables and across stalking and cyberstalking victims were examined next.
Multivariate regression models also were estimated to assess the associations
between victimization experiences and self-protective behaviors for stalking
and cyberstalking victims. Given the discrete properties of the dependent
7. In response to a reviewer’s comment, models were estimated using the original, 20-category
measure for education level, as well as the more parsimonious, dichotomous variable representing
high school graduation or lower compared to college or above. Parameter estimates across models
differed only slightly, and no substantive results were affected. Thus, only the results featuring
the dichotomous measure are presented here.
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variable, a count model approximating the observed distribution of self-protec-
tive behaviors taken by victims was most appropriate. With regard to this type
of count model, overdispersion of residual variance in event counts is, accord-
ing to Osgood (2000, p. 28), “ubiquitous in analyses of crime data,” thus
necessitating regression techniques that combine the more traditional Poisson
distribution with a corrective parameter (a) to address the presence of residual
overdispersion. Statistical significance for the alpha parameter in a post hoc
test is indicative of overdispersion in the count distribution. Hilbe (2007) notes
that overdispersion is generally associated with violations of Poisson distribu-
tion assumptions and can result in unreliable parameter estimates as well as
poor overall model fit. Both Osgood (2000) and Hilbe (2007) recommend the
negative binomial model as an alternative, thus the current research estimates
negative binomial regressions.
The Nature of Stalking and Cyberstalking Victimization
As shown in Table 1, univariate statistics of the victimization dimensions reveal
some similarities and differences between stalking and cyberstalking victims.
The mean number of self-protective behaviors adopted was higher for cyber-
stalking victims (1.52) than stalking victims (1.08), despite shorter mean dura-
tion of victimization (651.91 days compared to 768.81 days, respectively).
Cyberstalking victims also less frequently reported fear at onset (22.64% com-
pared to 28.41%, respectively) and fear over time (13.60% compared to
15.46%, respectively) compared to stalking victims. However, the reporting of
threats (23.40% for cyberstalking victims and 22.02% for stalking victims),
attacks (8.78% vs. 7.76%, respectively), and considering the behavior stalking
(43.99% compared to 38.28%, respectively) were all higher for cyberstalking
victims compared to stalking victims.
Table 1 also presents the bivariate analysis results from Student’s t-tests
and Pearson’s chi-square tests of independence comparing victimization char-
acteristics between the stalking and cyberstalking victims. Results indicate
that the levels of several situational characteristics are significantly greater
for the cyberstalking group, including the number of protective acts taken in
response to the victimization and out-of-pocket costs associated with victim-
ization. Other examined situational characteristics of victimization, such as
the total duration of the episode, were not significantly different between the
two groups of victims. The occurrence of self-reported fear at onset was sig-
nificantly different between the groups but the distribution indicated higher
counts in the opposite direction, suggesting that stalking victims perceive
greater fear than cyberstalking victims. Finally, comparison of demographic
variables across groups reveals several significant differences. Mean age was
lower for cyberstalking victims. A higher percentage of cyberstalking victims
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Table 1 Descriptive statistics for stalking and cyberstalking victims
Type of variable
nStalking victims (n= 1,237) nCyberstalking victims (n= 296) Group
Minimum Maximum Mean/
Minimum Maximum Test
Dependent variable
Self-protective behaviors
1,237 1.08 1.73 0 13 296 1.52 2.32 0 13 3.70
Independent variables
Duration (days)
1,106 768.81 1,600.01 1 18,250 271 651.91 1,006.40 1 8,030 1.15
Costs (dollars) (continuous) 1,105 497.67 2,244.02 0 30,000 272 1,244.64 6,300.65 0 70,000 3.20
Fear at onset (0= no) 1,225 28.41% (348) 0 1 296 22.64% (67) 0 1 4.00 (1)
Fear over time (0= no) 1,216 15.46% (188) 0 1 294 13.60% (40) 0 1 0.64 (1)
Threat (0 = no) 1,149 22.02% (253) 0 1 282 23.40% (66) 0 1 0.25 (1)
Attack (0 = no) 1,237 7.76% (96) 0 1 296 8.78% (26) 0 1 0.34 (1)
Considered stalking (0 = no) 1,186 38.28% (454) 0 1 291 43.99% (128) 0 1 3.19 (1)
Control variables
Age (continuous) 1,237 40.84 15.70 18 90 296 38.38 14.02 18 79 2.48
Sex (0 = male) 1,237 69.77% (863) 0 1 296 58.45% (173) 0 1 13.97 (1)
Race (0 = non-white) 1,237 82.94% (1,026) 0 1 296 89.19% (264) 0 1 6.99 (1)
Ethnicity (0 = non-Hispanic) 1,220 7.79% (95) 0 1 295 9.49% (28) 0 1 0.93 (1)
Household income (higher
value = larger income)
1,071 9.48 4.15 1 14 255 11.06 3.52 1 14 5.60
Education level (0 = HS or
1,222 59.98% (733) 0 1 292 75.34% (220) 0 1 23.84 (1)
p< 0.05;
p< 0.01.
Discrete variables are reported as percentages and frequencies for the “yes” or “1” category rather than means for ease of interpretation.
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were male and white compared to stalking victims. Finally, cyberstalking vic-
tims reported significantly higher household income and education level.
Self-Protective Behaviors Adopted by Victims
Table 2 lists frequencies of self-protective behaviors for stalking and cyberstal-
king victims as well as the corresponding percentages for each type of behav-
ior. The percentages have been calculated using the valid number of victims
for each group (n= 1,237 for stalking and n= 296 for cyberstalking). A compari-
son of these two groups reveals similarities and differences in self-protective
behaviors. Stalking and cyberstalking victims were relatively similar (within
± 2%) on 11 items: change the way you went to work or school; stay with
friends/relatives or have them stay with you; alter appearance to become
unrecognizable; take self-defense or martial arts classes; get pepper spray; get
gun; get other weapon; change social security number; change phone number;
install caller identification/call blocking; and change or install new locks or
security system. A higher percentage of cyberstalking victims reported self-
protective behaviors in the remaining five categories: take time off work or
school; change or quit a job or school; avoid friends, relatives, or holidays;
change usual activities outside work or school; and change email address. Also,
consistent with results presented in Table 1, a higher overall percentage of
cyberstalking victims (51.01%) reported one or more self-protective behavior
than did stalking victims (44.87%).
Table 3 presents results from the multivariate negative binomial regression
models predicting the number of self-protective behaviors undertaken by stalk-
ing victims compared to the victims who also experienced cyberstalking.
Results indicate that several situational characteristics were positively and sig-
nificantly related to the number of self-protective behaviors reported for both
stalking and cyberstalking victims. Common factors that were positively and
significantly associated with the number of self-protective behaviors for both
types of victims included costs, fear at onset, and the victim’s own opinion
about whether the behavior constituted stalking. Thus, victims who
experienced greater out-of-pocket costs, greater fear at onset, and those who
considered their experiences to be stalking engaged in significantly more
self-protective behaviors regardless of the distinction between stalking and
Differences in statistically significant situational characteristics also
emerged between the stalking and cyberstalking victims. Specifically, more
reported self-protective behaviors for stalking victims were significantly associ-
ated with the presence of threats and were more likely among younger stalking
victims, while more reported self-protective behaviors for cyberstalking vic-
tims were associated with perceptions of fear over time, the presence of an
attack, and with female victims. The remaining situational and control
variables were nonsignificant in both models. Also, with regard to model fit,
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Table 2 Frequencies of self-protective behaviors adopted by stalking and cyberstalking victims
Type of self-protective behavior
Stalking victims
(n= 1,237)
Cyberstalking victims
(n= 296)
Take time off from work or school 126 10.19 43 14.53
Change or quit a job or school 73 5.90 33 11.15
Change the way you went to work or school 111 8.97 28 9.46
Avoid relatives, friends, or holiday celebrations 113 9.14 48 16.22
Change usual activities outside of work or school 168 13.58 58 19.59
Stay with friends or relatives or had them stay with you 140 11.32 36 12.16
Alter your appearance to be unrecognizable 16 1.29 9 3.04
Take self-defense or martial arts classes 10 0.81 3 1.01
Get pepper spray 53 4.28 12 4.05
Get a gun 25 2.02 8 2.70
Get any other kind of weapon 25 2.02 3 1.01
Change social security number 2 0.16 0 0.00
Change email address 36 2.91 52 17.57
Change telephone number 149 12.05 44 14.86
Install caller ID or call blocking system 171 13.82 43 14.53
Change or install new locks or a security system 112 9.05 30 10.14
Overall (one or more self-protective behavior) 555 44.87 151 51.01
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the overdispersion parameters of the negative binomial models were statisti-
cally significant in post hoc likelihood ratio tests (overdispersion parameter
a= 1.01 and 0.68, respectively; p< 0.001), indicating that overdispersion was
present in the data and reiterating that the negative binomial model specifica-
tion provided better overall fit than the Poisson alternative.
This study is among the first to both describe dimensions of cyberstalking vic-
timization and compare stalking and cyberstalking victimization experiences.
This contribution advances the scientific understanding of which individual and
situational characteristics contribute to taking self-protective action in
response to stalking and cyberstalking. Using a national sample, the current
study examined the effects of fear, seriousness of the offense (e.g. physical
attack, threats and financial cost to the victim), and perceptions of whether
the victim acknowledges their stalking victimization on self-protective
Table 3 Negative binomial regression models predicting number of self-protective
behaviors adopted by stalking and cyberstalking victims
Type of variable Stalking victims
(n= 774)
Cyberstalking victims
(n= 199)
b (SE) b (SE)
Independent variables
Duration (days) (continuous) 0.01 (0.00) 0.01 (0.01)
Costs (dollars) (continuous) 0.01 (0.00)
0.00 (0.00)
Fear at onset (0 = no) 0.41 (0.14)
0.45 (0.23)
Fear over time (0 = no) 0.26 (0.15) 0.65 (0.26)
Threat (0 = no) 0.47 (0.13)
0.39 (0.24)
Attack (0 = no) 0.32 (0.20) 0.78 (0.31)
Considered stalking (0 = no) 0.52 (0.12)
0.59 (0.22)
Control variables
Age (continuous) 0.01 (0.00)
0.00 (0.01)
Sex (0 = male) 0.05 (0.13) 0.61 (0.23)
Race (0 = non-white) 0.16 (0.15) 0.04 (0.33)
Ethnicity (0 = non-Hispanic) 0.10 (0.21) 0.26 (0.37)
Household income
0.02 (0.01) 0.03 (0.03)
Education level (0 = HS or
0.17 (0.12) 0.23 (0.22)
Constant 0.22 (0.33) 1.06 (0.68)
Overdispersion parameter (a) 1.01 (0.14)
0.68 (0.18)
Log likelihood 986.78 283.96
Model LR w
(df) 134.61 (13)
83.08 (13)
0.06 0.13
p< 0.05;
p< 0.01;
p< 0.001.
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behaviors among stalking and cyberstalking victims. These findings have a num-
ber of implications for stalking and cyberstalking research.
First, it is important to note that approximately 19% of the stalking victims
reported being cyberstalked based on our operationalization, which is an esti-
mate consistent with some of the limited research focused on this phenome-
non (Finn, 2004; Fisher et al., 2002; Sheridan & Grant, 2007). While this
percentage certainly reflects a minority of the stalking victims, this estimate
captures hundreds of victims within our sample and thousands of victims
nationally. Also, our results show that cyberstalking victims engage in more
protective behaviors overall and for several specific protective types, com-
pared to stalking victims. This information underscores the importance for
researchers, practitioners, and legislators to take a close look at the causes
and consequences of cyberstalking. As an emerging crime type, cyberstalking
seems likely to increase in prevalence as various technologies (e.g. social net-
working sites, global positioning systems and Internet blogs) become ubiquitous
in day-to-day life and criminal justice system responses for victims’ services,
police investigation, prosecution, and other areas will need to adapt and
evolve to address this growing need.
Our bivariate results indicated that cyberstalking victims reported
significantly higher household income and education levels compared to stalk-
ing victims, although neither of these variables was significantly related to
self-protective behaviors in the multivariate models. Age was also significantly
different in bivariate as well as multivariate tests. These demographic
differences suggest support for the so-called “digital divide,” a term used to
characterize social inequality in access to technologies, including the Internet.
Specifically, it suggests that younger, more educated, and more affluent
individuals have greater access to various technologies for personal
communication and information sharing. The digital divide in the USA has been
attributed to differential access to technology infrastructure (e.g. broadband
Internet access) as well as lacking educational opportunities for some groups,
resulting in stratification in technology adoption. However, in this case greater
access to technology may also increase risk for cyberstalking victimization. As
the digital divide narrows, scholars and policy-makers should anticipate
escalating prevalence of cyberstalking, underscoring the need for further study
of this phenomenon. Conversely, cyberstalking victims report greater financial
costs associated with their victimization episode. Although individual stalking
cases undoubtedly varied in circumstances, according to the NCVS, these costs
may have included expenses such as attorney fees, damage to property, child
care costs, moving expenses, or changing phone numbers. Lawmakers, in
particular, may consider the financial costs of cyberstalking episodes when
addressing statutory victim restitution or other remedies.
The current study also determined that cyberstalking victims engaged in more
self-protective behaviors compared to stalking victims. Although the data do not
permit a thorough investigation of the reason behind this finding, we offer a
plausible explanation couched in the dynamics of online interaction. Compared
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to stalking, it is possible that the nature of cyberstalking elicits a very personal
violation for victims, which may elicit more diverse and more frequent protec-
tive actions. At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive given that stalking
often involves more immediate physical exposure to offenders and, hence, to
potential danger (e.g. being followed). Considering the ubiquity of technology,
however, as well as the amount of exposure people now have to its different
forms, it is plausible that contact through this medium is just as personal as, or
more personal than, face-to-face contact. Today, many people spend more time
communicating electronically than they do in person, resulting in what Hallowell
(1998, p. 60) describes as a “tide of electronic hyperconnection.” Internet use
generally and use of social media specifically are trends that affect human inter-
action on a massive scale. Recent estimates suggest that 93% of Americans ages
12-17 and 18-29 go online, and the sizable majority (73% and 72%, respectively)
of each group reports using social networking sites (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, &
Zickuhr, 2010). In fact, Lenhart and colleagues (2010, p. 5) remark that “the
Internet is a central and indispensable element in the lives of American teens
and young adults.” Another way to state this is that the rise of personal technolo-
gies is changing human socialization, and a cyberstalking experience is increas-
ingly likely to be perceived as an intimate violation rather than an annoyance
insulated by technology.
Technology also changes risk/exposure profiles for victims and facilitates
information discovery in more pervasive ways. This potentially makes stalking
easier and self-protection more difficult (Newman & Clarke, 2003), perhaps
because “sensitive” personal information on the Internet is harder to shield
from a motivated assailant. Alternatively, the nature of cyberstalking via social
networking sites may be influential in differentiating victim behavior because
it is semipublic. For instance, in a stalking case, the contact between perpe-
trator and victim may be largely restricted to one-on-one encounters (e.g.
phone calls, following and spying) that are dismissed or endured by the victim,
who may second guess the instinct to take more serious protective action. In a
cyberstalking case, especially one involving social media as an instrument of
communication, the presence of inappropriate or embarrassing content cannot
be as easily overlooked because it is instantly visible to others close to the vic-
tim, including peers and family. The use of technology in the cyberstalking
case, therefore, may be simultaneously more harmful to the victim’s psycho-
logical well-being and reputation, thus more decisive in spurring quicker self-
protective action. Certainly, examining these consequences of victimization
may be of particular interest for researchers who want to further compare and
contrast stalking and cyberstalking victimization.
Given the overlap and conceptual similarities between stalking and cyber-
stalking, we expected to find consistencies rather than differences with regard
to the key factors examined in the current study. Although there are some
similarities between stalking and cyberstalking victims in terms of the factors
that predict self-protective behaviors, there are also noteworthy differences.
Inconsistent with expectations, our analysis identified differences in the
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significance of fear over time when comparing cyberstalking and stalking vic-
tims. One possible explanation is that cyberstalking begins as a seemingly
innocuous series of events or exchanges that escalate over time, while stalking
in many forms may be more immediately recognized as problematic for the
victim, even if the victim does not necessarily acknowledge those behaviors as
stalking per se. Although testing this possibility is beyond the scope of the
study, this may be an important avenue for future research to further our
understanding of the ways in which stalking and cyberstalking are similar or
different. Our results also identified incongruent influence of physical threats
across conditions. Specifically, threats were significantly related to self-protec-
tive behaviors for stalking victims, but not cyberstalking victims. Furthermore,
the findings indicated that while experiencing a physical attack was signifi-
cantly associated with increased self-protective behaviors for cyberstalking vic-
tims, it was not significant for stalking victims. These findings may appear to
be counterintuitive, given the distal nature of cyberstalking compared to stalk-
ing. One explanation is that face-to-face offenders appear more credible, thus
victims react with self-protective behaviors at the threat stage rather than
reacting once an attack begins or after an attack has occurred, to prevent sub-
sequent victimization. However, it is also possible that the cyberstalking cases
available from the SVS simply reflected the most severe characteristics of all
the stalking cases (in which physical violence co-occurred with cyberstalking).
Alternatively, there may be a threshold effect for cyberstalking, in which
mildly objectionable behaviors in cyberspace tend not to be taken seriously
until they escalate in seriousness, duration, or other modalities. Thus, many
stalking victims may immediately take protective action while cyberstalking
victims delay until after a physical attack occurs.
While the current study examines an understudied phenomenon, it is not with-
out limitations. Although the NCVS is widely regarded as one of the most estab-
lished sources of nationally representative data on criminal victimization trends,
the relatively low counts of victims who were eligible to complete the SVS sug-
gest that results should be interpreted and generalized with some caution. Con-
sistent with victimization research more generally, stalking and cyberstalking
are elusive crimes that are subject to the limitations inherent in underreporting.
Thus, future research with progressively larger samples of stalking and cyberstal-
king victims is recommended to confirm validity and reliability of estimates, cap-
ture variation that may be obscured in smaller samples (e.g. victimization
experiences for minorities and regional differences), and enhance power for sta-
tistical tests. Also, some of the items contained in the SVS questionnaire inade-
quately captured the possible variation in the range of stalking-related
experiences. For example, fear at onset and fear over time were measured on
the SVS questionnaire as dichotomous variables to indicate presence or absence,
neither item was measured on a continuum to capture level of fear or frequency
of feeling fearful. Additionally, the available self-protective behaviors included
in the SVS questionnaire were not specifically designed to include technology or
Internet use (e.g. avoiding social media). Future researchers can build upon the
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SVS questionnaire by expanding the available indicators utilized to include not
only technology or Internet-based self-protective behaviors, but also to develop
more precise measures of victims’ fear and financial costs and a more exhaustive
list of self-protective behaviors specific to cyberstalking cases. The latter is
especially needed to examine these important dimensions of stalking and
cyberstalking victimization.
Despite the limitations, the current study nevertheless offers important and
unique contributions to the field of stalking and provides the foundation for the
extension of this research by examining applications of criminological theory.
Very little prior research has incorporated a theoretical approach to studying
stalking victimization, with the exception of a handful of recent studies that
have used college students to examine routine activities theory (Fisher et al.,
2002; Mustaine & Tewksbury, 1999; Reyns et al., 2011), self-control theory (Fox,
Gover, & Kaukinen, 2009), life course theory (Nobles et al., 2009), and social
learning theory (Fox, Nobles, & Akers, 2011). Differences in stalking and cyber-
stalking victimization may portend differences in the nature of offenders, vic-
tims, situational antecedents, or all of the above. For example, to the extent
that cyberstalking may involve parallel social processes or dimensions that shape
different norms, values, and behavioral expectations online compared to com-
monly held “real world” conventions, it may also be useful to leverage theories
that rely upon subcultural explanations for crime (Cloward & Ohlin, 1960). Neu-
tralization techniques (Sykes & Matza, 1957) may also be helpful to understand
both offender behavior and victim response. Furthermore, control balance the-
ory (Tittle, 1995) has explained various types of crime and victimization, and it
may be useful for understanding the dynamics related to stalking and cyberstal-
king. Only by testing these theories with stalking victims can researchers really
assess their explanatory ability and predictive power.
Findings from the current study also hold promise for future criminal justice
policy. First, given that cyberstalking is associated with negative factors and
outcomes (e.g. costs, fear, and physical attacks), the current study under-
scores the importance for stalking legislation to specifically mention cyberstal-
king either as part of the legal stalking code or as a separate crime. Presently,
three state statutes (Florida, Illinois, and Rhode Island) specifically outlaw
cyberstalking or “stalking by computer” within their antistalking codes (Leiter,
2007). Second, since there appears to be substantial financial costs associated
with cyberstalking victimization that exceeds the costs associated with stalk-
ing, tailoring laws to address financial needs with mechanisms, such as court-
imposed restitution, may assist victims.
Finally, these results suggest that, for both stalking and cyberstalking victims,
self-identifying their experience as “stalking” was associated with increased
self-protective behaviors, which has implications for policy and programing. A
minority of victims of both stalking (38.3%) and cyberstalking (44.0%), however,
actually considered their experiences to be “stalking” (see Table 1). This finding
suggests that victims were more likely to take action to protect themselves when
they acknowledged that the pursuit behaviors were serious enough to be
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considered criminal, but fewer than half reached that conclusion. Although this
realization may seem obvious, a deeper understanding of the victimization liter-
ature in general suggests that victims often do not realize, acknowledge, and
label their experiences as “criminal” or themselves as “victims” (Karmen, 2009).
This is especially true among victims of interpersonal crimes, such as sexual
assault and intimate partner violence (Fisher, Daigle, & Cullen, 2010; Kolivas &
Gross, 2007). Examining whether stalking and cyberstalking victims acknowledge
that their experiences qualify as stalking has been largely overlooked by prior
research, and the current study is among the first to shed light on this policy-rel-
evant topic. In some ways, the finding that labeling the pursuit behavior as stalk-
ing is associated with increased self-protective behaviors provides support for
the adage that “knowledge is power.” Our findings suggest that people who
understand they are victims of stalking and cyberstalking are significantly more
likely to protect themselves. From a practical standpoint, this emphasizes the
importance of educating the public about recognizing the signs associated with
stalking so that they are well equipped to recognize the red flags within their
personal relationships. Given the difficulty that researchers, practitioners, and
legislators encounter when attempting to define stalking, the need to promote
education and awareness about stalking and cyberstalking in the general public
may be substantially greater. Considering that more than half of the stalking and
cyberstalking victims in our sample did not acknowledge their experience as a
victimization, it is clear that the public could benefit from an increased
awareness of what constitutes these two crimes.
In conclusion, while the current research is a step forward for stalking
research generally, it also underscores the importance of further investigation
into the similarities and differences between stalking and cyberstalking. This
avenue of research will help to further reconcile whether cyberstalking is a
unique crime or a variation of stalking. Although common legal and conceptual
definitions of these phenomena seem to support the idea that cyberstalking
represents a special case of stalking, further study must be devoted to the
empirical similarities and differences for victims and perpetrators alike. Only
then will researchers be able to identify and unpack their predictors, docu-
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... In the succeeding years, scores of research studies have been published examining stalking from the perspective of victims, offenders, law enforcement, and other criminal justice system actors (e.g. Nobles et al., 2014;Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998;Wheatley et al., 2020). Researchers have estimated its extent, identified its determinants, and explored its consequences (e.g. ...
... Additional research supports the conclusions from these studies that victim, offender, and incident characteristics can influence whether, and the degree to which, individuals are fearful as a result of stalking (e.g. Nobles et al., 2014;Podaná & Imríšková, 2016). ...
... Thus, it is clear that the emotional element of the crime is central to our understanding of stalking victimization. Collectively, the extant scholarship demonstrates the potential disparities arising from statutes with specific intent and subjective fear standards (Dietz & Martin, 2007;Fissel et al., 2022;Gatewood Owens, 2017;Nobles et al., 2014;Podaná & Imríšková, 2016;Reyns & Englebrecht, 2013;Tjaden et al., 2000;Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Stalkers may not intend to instill fear nor is fear a universal outcome for victims of stalking. ...
The criteria used to identify the crime of stalking have been debated since the 1990s, with most definitions including a so-called “fear standard” as a form of harm experienced by victims. The current study takes the next logical step in this dialogue to examine the varied harms that victims of stalking experience. These analyses operationalize harm through the creation of a harm scale based on several dimensions of fear and emotional distress. By taking this approach and utilizing data from the National Crime Victimization Survey’s Supplemental Victimization Survey, the current study identifies the extent of the harm suffered by stalking victims. Further, the determinants of harm following stalking victimization are identified. Finally, the present research examines the relationship between the invasiveness of the stalker’s conduct and the harm experienced by victims, finding a positive relationship wherein more invasive encounters correspond with a greater degree of harm to victims.
... For instance, the US National Crime Victimization Survey found that 14 percent of online harassment victims reported their experiences to law enforcement (Catalano, 2012). Similar reporting rates have been observed among college student samples regarding online harassment and stalking (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000;Marcum, Ricketts, & Higgins, 2010;Nobles, Reyns, Fox, & Fisher, 2014). Additionally, victims of stalking and harassment do not contact the police because they perceive that their claims will not be taken seriously by the officers, may not be believed, or receive adequate assistance (e.g., Nobles et al., 2014;Rainie, 2017;Richards, 2011). ...
... Similar reporting rates have been observed among college student samples regarding online harassment and stalking (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000;Marcum, Ricketts, & Higgins, 2010;Nobles, Reyns, Fox, & Fisher, 2014). Additionally, victims of stalking and harassment do not contact the police because they perceive that their claims will not be taken seriously by the officers, may not be believed, or receive adequate assistance (e.g., Nobles et al., 2014;Rainie, 2017;Richards, 2011). Juvenile victims of cyberbullying are, however, largely unable to report their experiences to law enforcement, as Western nations such as the US and UK have inconsistent legislation criminalizing these activities (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015). ...
... In light of the prevalence and negative consequences associated with online harassment and bullying, scholars and police administrators have advocated for law enforcement agencies to increase their capacity to respond to these investigations (Bond & Tyrrell, 2018;Broll & Huey, 2015;Marcum, 2010;Nobles et al., 2014;Stambaugh et al., 2001;Wall, 2007). In the last decade, the United Kingdom expanded the role of the local constabulary to cybercrimes generally (HM Government, 2016). ...
The ubiquity of the Internet and computer technology has enabled individuals to engage in bullying, threats, and harassing communications online. Limited research has found that local line officers may not view these offenses as serious compared to real world crimes despite their negative physical and emotional impact on victims. The perceptions of officers can produce poor interactions with victims during calls for service, particularly victim blaming, which can reduce citizens’ confidence in police agencies generally. However, local law enforcement agencies are increasingly mandated to respond to these cases, calling to question how their views may impact the community. This study examined the attitudinal and demographic factors associated with the negative views of online harassment and bullying within a sample of 1,348 constables from 34 local agencies across England and Wales. The study found that constables with negative views toward cybercrimes and worked in agencies with inconsistent messaging related to online crimes were more likely to view online harassment as less serious and believe that these offenses could be avoided by victims. The implications of this study for local police staff and command are discussed in detail.
... Much of the research on cyberstalking has focused on the relationship between cyberstalking and stalking. Early research on this topic assumed that stalking encompasses behaviors in the physical world that are intended to harass a person as well as those that occur electronically (Nobles et al. 2014). Subsequently, the debate has evolved to clarify whether cyberstalking can be considered a new weapon for the stalker or whether it is a fundamentally different entity with its own characteristics and factors, or whether certain forms of cyberstalking may constitute one or the other (De Fazio and Sgarbi 2012). ...
... Subsequently, the debate has evolved to clarify whether cyberstalking can be considered a new weapon for the stalker or whether it is a fundamentally different entity with its own characteristics and factors, or whether certain forms of cyberstalking may constitute one or the other (De Fazio and Sgarbi 2012). Clearly, there are many similarities between the two phenomena: Both are characterized by intrusive and repetitive behavior (even though the behavior may occur through a single modality, such as spying) to threaten or harass the victim (Sheridan and Grant 2007;De Fazio and Sgarbi 2012;Nobles et al. 2014), and both are driven by a sense of anger, power, and control that may result from actions or inactions of the victim (Marganski and Melander 2018;Ahlgrim and Terrance 2021), have similar motivations and behaviors such as threatening and stalking the victim, Contacting friends and relatives of the victim, false accusations, suicide threats, and manipulation (Short et al. 2014), and result in similar emotional reactions, protective actions, and the victim's tendency to disclose the incident to third parties (Sheridan and Grant 2007). Nobles and colleagues (2014) concluded that cyberstalking is ultimately a specific form of stalking given the definitional criteria, and ruled out the possibility that the two phenomena are mutually exclusive or that certain cases of cyberstalking may not be classified as stalking, while others may evaluate cyberstalking as a possible negative consequence of stalking (Diaz 2022). ...
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The aim of this study was to examine the association between different coping strategies and physical and emotional consequences, depressive symptoms, state anxiety, and trait anxiety, distinguishing between victims with previous offline victimization experiences (e.g., bullying, domestic violence) and those without such experiences. A self-administered questionnaire was distributed in a snowball system to more than 700 young adults in Italy. A total of 689 individuals completed the instrument. Of these, 305 participants (44%) reported having been victims of at least one form of cyberstalking. A total of 201 participants (66% of victims) reported having experienced both cyberstalking and other forms of victimization in their lifetime, while 89 (29% of victims) reported having experienced only cyberstalking. Overall, the results of this study show that victims with previous victimization had significantly higher scores on physical, emotional, depressive, and anxiety symptoms than victims who had never been victimized. In addition, results showed that victims who have been victimized before are more likely to use all three strategies (proactive, avoidant, passive) to stop cyberstalking than victims who have never been victimized. The results of this study may be useful in developing interventions to mitigate the effects of cyberstalking and prevent future victimization.
... El creciente número de investigaciones en el campo de la violencia digital se debe a la falta de consenso debido a la diversidad de terminologías para nombrar tal violencia digital y a la conceptualización de algunas de sus manifestaciones en forma de ciberacoso o acoso cibernético como un fenómeno distinto (Dhillon & Smith, 2019;Fissel, 2018;Nobles et al., 2014;Spitzberg, 2017). Por ello, todavía hay abierto un debate académico en cuanto a la posibilidad de considerar la violencia digital, y sus manifestaciones, como un subconjunto de las violencias tradicionales o tal vez una extensión debido a las consecuencias comparables. ...
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Este artículo estudia la violencia digital nacida con las nuevas formas de comunicación a través de internet en la pareja sentimental. Tras la revisión teórica, se detecta la falta de un instrumento que mida tal violencia digital, entendida como aquella violencia ejercida mediante los dispositivos electrónicos de uso común dentro de la pareja sentimental en forma de control, acoso, abuso y coacción. El objetivo de esta investigación es la construcción y validación del cuestionario de Violencia Digital (en inglés Digital Violence Questionnaire, DVQ). Para ello se han utilizado las técnicas de juicio de personas expertas, trabajo de campo y análisis factorial exploratorio. Se realizó un muestreo bietápico aleatorio por conglomerados en la Universidad de Huelva (España) formado por 528 estudiantes. Tras un pilotaje y un grupo de personas expertas, resultó un instrumento de 90 ítems, subdivididos en cinco bloques de evaluación, además de las variables sociodemográficas y variables relacionales en el noviazgo. El formato de respuesta es de tipo Likert con carácter bidireccional en algunas preguntas, permitiendo medir la perpetración y victimización en la prevalencia de esta violencia. La fiabilidad del cuestionario mediante el coeficiente alfa de Cronbach fue de 0,945. Tras el análisis factorial exploratorio, el análisis de componentes principales y la rotación varimax, se obtuvo una solución factorial de 7 factores y un total de 55 ítems. Se concluye que el cuestionario de Violencia Digital (DVQ), resulta un instrumento válido y fiable, adecuado para la detección y prevención de la violencia digital.
Scholars have shown that the overwhelming frequency and magnitude of overt sexism online leads women to adopt silence and retreat from discussing feminist issues to avoid further abuse. How do covert forms of sexism contribute to women’s silence? Through an analysis of interviews with 33 United States-based young women, I identify two forms of covert sexism which lead to silencing: demeaning comments about feminist issues from friends and family, and men’s manipulation. I then use the case of not disclosing sexual assault to show the broader implications of covert sexism online. Friends and family members contribute to the perceived costs of disclosure by dismissing feminist issues online and subsequently blaming women when they are manipulated by men. Sexism online thus facilitates women’s identification of whom they cannot trust to believe, defend, or protect them. This paper highlights the interplay between offline and online interactions as well as overt and covert forms of. sexism, which helps illuminate why silence becomes viewed as a viable strategy to avoid further mistreatment.
While the gender of stalking victims and perpetrators may affect perceptions of stalking, limited research has examined whether victim responses to stalking (i.e. ignoring or confronting the perpetrator) are similarly influential. The present study examined whether perpetrator and victim gender and victim response (ignore vs. asking the perpetrator to stop) were related to perceptions of stalking and cyberstalking. Participants (N = 223) from the United States were randomly assigned to one of four vignettes (gender × victim response) that included both in‐person stalking and cyberstalking behaviours. Perceptions assessed included: whether police intervention was necessary, whether the scenario constituted a crime, and how responsible the perpetrator and victim were for the situation. They also rated how distressing they believed the in‐person (vs. cyberstalking) behaviours would be. Most of the participants believed police intervention was required (57.4%), yet fewer believed a crime occurred (32.7%). Overall, in‐person stalking behaviours were seen as more distressing than were cyberstalking behaviours. Men were perceived as more responsible than women when they were both victims and perpetrators. There was an interaction between gender and victim response to stalking, such that male victims who ignored the perpetrator were considered less in need of police intervention than female victims who ignored the perpetrator (and male and female victims who confronted the perpetrator). Both male victims and perpetrators may be perceived as more responsible by juries and informal supports. Men may be viewed as less in need of law enforcement support unless they have already confronted their pursuer.
Domestic violence (DV) or intimate partner violence (IPV) arises when there is violent, abusive, or intimidating behavior in a relationship in order to control the victim physically, psychologically, economically, and/or sexually. Furthermore, the digital environment and new technologies seem to favor and legitimize forms of violent communication‐action. A systemic perspective tries to frame the complexity of the phenomenon, considered a public health problem. The right of every person to live free from DV needs to be implemented for the victims, for society, for all humanity.
The study of decisions in the criminal justice process provides a useful focus for the examination of many fundamental aspects of criminal jus­ tice. These decisions are not always highly visible. They are made, or­ dinarily, within wide areas of discretion. The aims of the decisions are not always clear, and, indeed, the principal objectives of these decisions are often the subject of much debate. Usually they are not guided by explicit decision policies. Often the participants are unable to verbalize the basis for the selection of decision alternatives. Adequate information for the decisions is usually unavailable. Rarely can the decisions be demonstrated to be rational. By a rationaldecision we mean "that decision among those possible for the decisionmaker which, in the light of the information available, maximizes the probability of the achievement of the purpose of the decisionmaker in that specific and particular case" (Wilkins, 1974a: 70; also 1969). This definition, which stems from statistical decision theory, points to three fundamental characteristics of decisions. First, it is as­ sumed that a choice of possible decisions (or, more precisely, of possible alternatives) is available. If only one choice is possible, there is no de­ cision problem, and the question of rationality does not arise. Usually, of course, there will be a choice, even if the alternative is to decide not to decide-a choice that, of course, often has profound consequences.
Having presented the findings from 20 studies involving a variety of methodologies, we now introduce a theoretical framework that gives conceptual coherence to these findings. The proposed model, which emerged from our own empirical work and the work of others, offers several advantages. It provides an explanatory tool for comparing the decisions of various types of victims. In addition, it allows for the integration of the present findings with the existing literature on victim decision making. Further, the model suggests directions for future research, while at the same time laying the foundation for public policy decisions (see Chapter 10).
Routine activity theory has traditionally emphasized identifying victimization risks and suitable targets for crime. Assessments of the role of guardianship in criminal events are less emphasized. Explorations of who uses guardianship to attempt to reduce their chances for victimization have been developed only minimally, typically relying on demographics. This research goes further in assessing who uses self-protective strategies, considering lifestyles related to proximity to motivated offenders, the suitability of individuals as targets, and how these characteristics influence the use of self-protective devices. Results show the most influential lifestyle characteristics and behaviors on use of self-protective measures are exposure to potential offenders and neighborhood characteristics. Fear of crime, substance use, and individual demographics show only small relationships to guardianship.
Awards: 2011 ACJS Outstanding Book Award An unprecedented look at college women's risks of and experiences with sexual victimization Unsafe in the Ivory Tower examines the nature and dimensions of a salient social problem—the sexual victimization of female college students today, and how women respond when they are, in fact, sexually victimized. The authors discuss the research that scholars have conducted to illuminate the origins and extent of this controversial issue as well as what can be done to prevent it. Students and other interested readers learn about the nature of victimization while simultaneously gaining an understanding of the ways in which criminologists, victimologists, and social scientists conduct research that informs theory and policy debates. Key Features Provides detailed information about sexual victimization on college campuses today; Introduces broad lessons about the interactions of ideology, science and methodology, and public policy; Integrates current data, research, and theory, based on the authors' national studies of more than 8,000 randomly selected female college students Intended Audience This supplemental text is ideal for courses such as Sex Crimes, Violence and Abuse, Victimology, Gender and Crime, Sociology of Violence, Sociology of Women, and the Sociology of Sex and Gender in departments of criminology, criminal justice, sociology, and women's studies. It is also useful for those involved in studying or creating public policy related to this issue and for those interested in sexual victimization on campuses generally.