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STALKING: AN AGE OLD PROBLEM WITH
NEW EXPRESSIONS IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Nicola Cheyne, PhD*
Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research, CQU,
Marika Guggisberg, PhD
Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research, CQU,
Perth, Western Australia
This chapter explores stalking as a phenomenon that began in physical
spaces but has now expanded into digital space with the advent of the
internet and digital devices. This form of intimate partner violence is
often misunderstood by lay persons as well as professionals within the
criminal justice system, which furthers the negative impact for the
largely female victims of this violence. In this chapter, definitions are
first provided for stalking and cyberstalking before moving to
examining the prevalence of, and motivations for, stalking and
cyberstalking. Impacts of this behaviour are explored before
examination of the issues in relation to seeking assistance from the
criminal justice system and finally covering the informal measures that
*Corresponding Author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheyne & Guggisberg
may be adopted in attempts to prevent stalking and cyberstalking or
stop the stalking after it has begun.
Keywords: Cyberstalking, intimate partner violence, stalking
Stalking is overwhelmingly a crime of violence against women carried out
by men (Mohandie, Meloy, McGowan, & Williams, 2006). This constellation
of behaviours has existed for centuries, in the guise of ordinary and socially
accepted relationship pursuit behaviours, and has only recently been recognised
as unlawful, much like violence against an intimate partner (Smoker & March,
2017). Stalking is often thought of as an issue that occurs among strangers; this
has been driven by media representations and indeed by the origins of
legislation prohibiting this behaviour. Legislation was first introduced in
California in 1990 (Gilligan, 1992; Tjaden, 2009), with Queensland being the
first state in Australia to introduce stalking legisation in 1993 (Kift, 1999). The
Californian legislation was largely prompted by the case of an actress stalked
and then murdered by an obsessed fan (Ngo & Paternoster, 2013). Other
celebrity stalking cases, as well as media representations of stalking, have
driven a common misperception that stalking is largely engaged in by strangers
(Weller, Hope, & Sheridan, 2013).
In fact, stalking is most often engaged in by male romantic partners as
opposed to someone unknown to the victim (Buzawa, Buzawa, & Stark, 2017;
Mullen et al., 2006). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey
in the US found that of all women who reported stalking victimisation, only
13% were stalked by a stranger (Buzawa et al., 2017). It follows that stalking
often forms part of intimate partner violence, where the stalker’s control is
further extended over the victim’s life, a fact thatis being increasingly
recognised in the research literature (Kraaij, Arensman, Garnefski, & Kremers,
2007; Mechanic, Weaver, & Resick, 2008; Walker, 2017). Buzawa and
colleagues (2017) indicated that the majority of intimate partner violence (IPV)
perpetrators commenced their stalking behaviours while the relationship was
ongoing, with control tactics involving threats of or actual violence and sexual
There is a distinct difference between partner stalking and stranger stalking.
An intimate partner knows the actions that will arouse the most fear for victims
and the victim knows even seemingly inconsequential behaviours by the stalker
possess a specific intent to intimidate and cause fear (Fraser, Olsen, Lee,
Southworth, & Tucker, 2010). Stalking by a partner is more dangerous than
stalking by a stranger, with threats being most often delivered by ex-partner
stalkers (Mullen et al., 2006; Mullen, Pathé, & Purcell, 2000), and such threats
being used as coercive control tactics (Buzawa et al., 2017). Previous research
has outlined that ex-intimates engaged in more severe cyberstalking behaviours
including delivering threats over the internet (Barnes & Biros, 2007). Women
were more likely to be physically harmed by a stalker who was their current or
former partner (Björklund, Häkkänen-Nyholm, Sheridan, & Roberts, 2010;
Rosenfeld, 2004; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Indeed, previous violence and
threats by ex-partners were the best predictors of future stalking violence
(McEwan, Mullen, MacKenzie, & Ogloff, 2009). A recent national US study
found that 31% of women stalked by their partners were also sexually assaulted
by them (Buzawa et al., 2017). Concerningly, Mohandie et al. (2006) found that
male ex-intimate partners were more likely than strangers to persist in their
stalking behaviours even after legal interventions. All of this evidence suggests
that current or former intimate partners are largely perpetrating stalking against
their female partners and that more serious types of stalking are likely to be
engaged in by these partner stalkers. In addition, partner stalkers often use
information technology as a further tool to extend their power and control over
their victims (Woodlock, 2017).
Cyberstalking has emerged as a new type of stalking since the introduction
of the Internet and mobile phones. However, this is an under-researched area in
comparison to stalking that occurs offline (Ménard & Pincus, 2012).This
chapter sets out to clarify the definition of stalking before moving to discuss the
latetst incarnation of this set of behaviours, cyberstalking. In this regard, it is
important to note that in-person stalking and cyberstalking tend to overlap,
particulary in relation to IPV (Breiding et al., 2014; Groban, 2016). The
prevalence and impact of stalking will then be examined before moving to a
discussion of the inherent difficulties involved in meeting both common and
Cheyne & Guggisberg
legislative definitions of stalking to assist with accessing the criminal justice
system. The chapter will conclude with some preventative strategies that could
be adopted to try to prevent stalking from occurring or stop the stalking after it
Stalking is commonly described as the repeated harassment of a person
which would cause the victim, or a reasonable person in the same situation, to
fear for their safety (Abrams & Robinson, 2011; Dennison, 2007; Diette,
Goldsmith, Hamilton, Darity, & McFarland, 2014; Dunlap, Hodell, Golding, &
Wasarhaley, 2012; Englebrecht & Reyns, 2011; Lambert, Smith, Geistman,
Cluse-Tolar, & Jiang, 2013). Stalking incorporates a range of actions, from
seemingly innocuous overtures that would not otherwise be thought of as
criminal, such as giving gifts or sending emails, to threats of or actual violence
against a person (Brewster, 2000; Dutton & Winstead, 2011; Sheridan, Davies,
& Boon, 2001). Stalking most often involves the harassment or pursuit of a
person to exert control, intimidate and/or cause fear rather than the physical
assault of the victim (Brewster, 2001, 2003; Buzawa et al., 2017). It is important
to note that even innocuous acts, when repeated over a period of time, can cause
a person to feel fearful (Dutton & Winstead, 2011). Therefore, the three key
premises of stalking are (1) the varied nature of stalking actions, (2) the repeated
nature of the actions, and (3) the fear felt by the victim.
Stalking is a special type of crime as so many actions are considered to
constitute stalking, and these actions can occur in physical or digital spaces. For
example, stalking can consist of actions such as the stalker hanging around the
victim, telephone calls, text messages, emails, GPS tracking, letters, offensive
items given to the victim, threats of violence, and violent actions towards the
victim (Buhi, Clayton, & Surrency, 2009; Sheridan & Lyndon, 2012). The
stalker may also recruit other people to obtain information about the victim or
engage in stalking behaviours against the victim (Spitz, 2003). Moreover, the
acts considered to be stalking differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from
country to country, with no commonly agreed upon definition as to what
constitutes stalking (Amar, 2007; Blaauw, Sheridan, & Winkel, 2002).
However, the commonality across jurisdictions and countries is that stalking
behaviours exist on a continuum, from actions that would not otherwise be
considered criminal, such as telephone calls, to actions involving violence
(Brewster, 2000; Dutton & Winstead, 2011; Sheridan et al., 2001). The crucial
elements in defining these disparate actions as stalking are the repetition of the
perpetrator’s behaviours and the psychological reactions they invoke in the
For other types of crimes,one act would be sufficient to constitute a crime.
For stalking to be recognised, however, actions must be repeated or they must
occur on one occasion over a long time period (Cass, 2011; Cass & Rosay,
2012; Davis, Swan, & Gambone, 2012). This repetition is required to
demonstrate that a course of conduct is being engaged in by the stalker against
the victim. The same action does not need to be engaged in on these repeated
occasions. Any of the actions, as long as they are repeated, constitute stalking,
if the victim experiences a negative psychological reaction to those actions. The
requirement of repetition is another reason stalking is a special type of crime.
The final reason stalking is a special type of crime is the requirement that
the victim must experience fear or psychological harm such as extensive
distress. For other crimes, the emotions of the victim would be irrelevant in
categorising the violent action against the victim as criminal. Regarding
stalking, the victim, or a reasonable person in the same situation (the
‘reasonable person test’), is required to interpret the actions as fearful in order
for a crime to be recognised (Cass, 2011; Cass & Rosay, 2012; Davis et al.,
2012). For example, if a person received five emails from a current or ex-
partner, unless they acknowledged these actions as frightening or that a person
in the same situation would experience fear, these actions would not be
considered stalking. Ultimately, whether someone interprets an action as
ordinary relationship/pursuit behaviour or threatening/harassing behaviours
depends on the victim’s subjective interpretation of the circumstances
(Campbell & Moore, 2011; Strawhun, Adams, & Huss, 2013).
The psychological reactions of victims are vital to the identification of
behaviours as stalking, and therefore, their designation as criminal actions
(Campbell & Moore, 2011). This is because the interpretation of actions as
stalking may be assisted by how the person feels in relation to those actions
(Abrams & Robinson, 2011; Amar, 2007; Kamphuis & Emmelkamp, 2001). In
fact, many women who are stalked by their intimate partners do not recognise
the behaviour as stalking (Woodlock, 2017). There is some concern over the
Cheyne & Guggisberg
victim’s experience of fear as the sole measure of psychological reaction to
stalking, because not all women may experience extensive fear in relation to
stalking events. For example, Dietz and Martin (2007), analysed data from the
National Violence Against Women survey and found that 25% of female
stalking victims reported that they did not feel fearful. Therefore, some women
do not recognise that they are stalked, and others may feel the actions they have
experienced constitute stalking, but they have not experienced the fear required
by legislationso that the behaviour may be defined as a crime (Blaauw et al.,
With the emergence of the internet as a global medium, men who use
violence against their intimate partners now have an additional tool to control
their female partners by using all manner of surveillance techniques to elicit a
sense of entrapment, distress or fear. Discussion will now turn to the definition
Cyberstalking is defined as using email, the internet or other electronic
communication to engage in repeated harassment or threats, which cause fear
for the victim or a reasonable person in the same situation (Parsons-Pollard &
Moriarty, 2009; Shimizu, 2013; Strawhun et al., 2013). This type of stalking
can occur as an extension of offline stalking, or it may involve only online
stalking (Barnes & Biros, 2007; McFarlane & Bocij, 2003). Ready access to
cheap digital technology extends stalkers’ reach, allowing them access to their
victim in additional and subtle ways, creating further intrusions into the victim’s
life (Boland, 2005; Fraser et al., 2010; Strawhun et al., 2013). Indeed, each new
digital advance brings with it attendant opportunities to engage in new stalking
behaviours (Fraser et al., 2010). In opposition to offline stalking, cyberstalking
does not require physical proximity. In addition, victims do not need to be
online in order for stalkers to make contact with them, and, often much less
effort is required to engage in actions against the victim (Nobles, Reyns, Fox,
& Fisher, 2014; Shimizu, 2013). Cyberstalkers also may recruit others to harass
or threaten their victims (Shimizu, 2013; Woodlock, 2017).
Types of cyberstalking include mailbombing (sending a large number of
messages to the victim’s email address or mobile phone), spamming, identity
theft, gaining access to the victim’s computer, infecting the victim’s computer
with a virus (McFarlane & Bocij, 2003), posting sexualised content along with
the victim’s name and contact details on the internet (Duggan, 2014; Parsons-
Pollard & Moriarty, 2009; Wolak, Finkelhor, Walsh, & Treitman, 2017), using
GPS to track the victim (Boland, 2005; Breiding et al., 2014; Groban, 2016;
Hamid & Maple, 2013), and using social media platforms to embarrass,
humiliate and isolate victims (Woodlock, 2017). Research on cyberstalking is
growing, which may assist understanding of the extent and impacts of this type
of stalking as well as offering women additional ways of managing the
behaviours that they experience (Strawhun et al., 2013).
EXTENT OF STALKING AND CYBERSTALKING
In-person stalking and cybertstalking affect a large proportion of society.
Tjaden and Thoennes (1998) examined the results of an American-wide survey
of 16,000 males and females and discovered that 2.2% of males and 8.1% of
females had experienced stalking victimisation in their lifetime. Fisher, Cullen,
and Turner (2002) found higher rates again when examining stalking among a
national study of female college students, with 13.1% having been stalked.
Dressing and colleagues (2005) analysed data from 679 participants (400
women and 279 men) using a postal survey in Mannheim, Germany. The
researchers found that 17% of females and 3.6% of males had been stalked. In
addition, Purcell, Pathé, and Mullen (2002) in the Australian state of Victoria,
found that almost 25% of 1,844 participants who completed a postal survey
would have satisfied the Victorian legal requirements for being a stalking
victim. The lifetime prevalence rate for female victims was 32.4%, and 12.8%
for male victims. Weller et al. (2013) noted that the lifetime prevalence rates of
stalking for women ranged from 12% to 32% and for men from 4% to 17%. It
is important to note that no universally accepted definition of stalking exists
(Campbell & Moore, 2011), which may explain the discrepancy in results along
with varying methodologies that are applied to gauge prevalence estimates
(Nobles et al., 2014). Regardless, existing research clearly demonstrates that
victims are primarily female (Amar & Alexy, 2010; Baum, Catalano, Rand, &
Rose, 2009; Björklund et al., 2010; Budd & Mattinson, 2000; Fox, Gover, &
Kaukinen, 2009; Purcell et al., 2002; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007; Tjaden &
Cheyne & Guggisberg
Thoennes, 1998) whereas it has been found that stalkers are usually male (Baum
et al., 2009; Björklund et al., 2010; Budd & Mattinson, 2000; Purcell et al.,
2002; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998).
Some studies have also been conducted to examine the characteristics of
cyberstalking. The results of a study at a large American university with a
random sample of 974 students indicated that 46.3% of the women had been
cyberstalked (Reyns, Henson, & Fisher, 2012). The researchers found that
women experienced cyberstalking at a significantly higher rate than men.
Research has consistently indicated that young women are particularly
vulnerable to cyberstalking. A large American survey of 2,849 internet users
found that women were over three times more likely to experience
cyberstalking when compared to men. Duggan (2014) reported that 26% of
women compared to 7% of men aged 18 to 24 stated that they were
cyberstalked. Overall, 9% of women in the sample had been cyberstalked
compared to 6% of men.
Researchers contend that stalking is most likely to occur amongst people
that are currently, or were formerly, intimate partners (Bennett Cattaneo, Cho,
& Botuck, 2011; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007). Some research also demonstrates
that this is the case with cyberstalking (Sheridan & Grant, 2007). Tjaden and
Thoennes(1998) conducted a national study of victimisation in the USA,while
Bjerregaard (2000) examined a sample of 788 American university students.
Between 42% and 59% of women were stalked by a current or former intimate
partner. Spitzberg and Cupach (2007), in a meta-analysis of 175 stalking
studies, found that 49% of all stalkers were intimates (no differentiations were
made by gender of the stalking victim; although, it was noted that the majority
of victims were women across the studies).
In-person stalking and cyberstalking are now recognised as common
behaviours when women experience intimate partner violence (Buzawa et al.,
2017; Nobles et al., 2014; Woodlock, 2017). Buzawa and colleagues (2017)
argued that the key tactic of perpetrators is to instil fear and to attack women’s
sense of safety by conveying omnipotence and omnipresence. Along the same
lines, Woodlock (2017, p. 602) found that women experienced a great sense of
insecurity due to the perpetrator’s ability to “generate impressions that they
know and see everything”. Furthermore, while stalking often commences
during the relationship, the risk of severe violence and even femicide increases
when the couple is separated (Buzawa et al., 2017). In this regard, Doerner and
Lab (2017) explained that women are most at risk when they want to break the
cycle of violence and leave the abusive relationship. They stated,“...once the
woman is determined to abandon the abusive relationship, the male...may resort
to stalking activity or threats in an effort to thwart her escape and re-establish
control over the victim” (p. 280).
MOTIVATIONS FOR STALKING
Theories of Stalking
Explanations of the motivations for stalking include a range of theories.
These theories include attachment theory (Patton, Nobles, & Fox, 2010),
learning theories of crime and delinquency (Ménard & Pincus, 2012),
evolutionary theory (Duntley & Buss, 2012), feminist approaches (Brewster,
2003) and relational goal pursuit theory (Cupach, Spitzberg, Bolingbroke, &
Tellitocci, 2011; Cupach, Spitzberg, & Carson, 2000).These will be briefly
The most commonly applied theory to explain stalking perpetration is
attachment theory (Brewster, 2003; Davis, Ace, & Andra, 2000; Dutton &
Winstead, 2006; Dye & Davis, 2003; Hazan & Shaver, 1987; MacKenzie,
Mullen, Ogloff, McEwan, & James, 2008; Ménard & Pincus, 2012; Morrison,
2008; Patton et al., 2010; Tonin, 2004). Bowlby (1988), a psychoanalytist like
Freud, explained mental health and behavioural problems as stemming from
issues with early childhood attachment. The proposition is that if children’s
needs are not fulfilled due to maternal failure to initiate appropriate bonding, or
if bonding is disrupted, longterm consequences will occur. These consequences
include psychopathy, increased aggression and delinquency. Attachment theory
is one of the best known psychological theories of delinquency, particularly the
notion of ‘maternal deprivation’. There is much evidence that associates family
dysfunction with delinquency in general as well as well as specifically to
stalking behaviours (Newbury, 2017). For example, it has been theorised that
disorders of attachment to the parent in early childhood have a consequent
impact on adult attachment to romantic partners, which then leads to stalking
(Brewster, 2003). Stalking perpetration was found to be significantly
Cheyne & Guggisberg
associated with an insecure attachment style, which included elements of
anxiety that drove the stalkers to engage in stalking behaviours in attempts to
re-establish the relationship (Patton et al., 2010).
Learning theories explain offending as learned behaviour,whereby children
learn violent behaviours from their parents and reproduce these behaviours in
their later relationships (Ménard & Pincus, 2012). Behaviours are a
consequence of interaction with others, particularly family and peers, which
introduces people to particular social norms. Through learning and imitation,
attitudes towards rules (including the law and its transgression) are learned.
Attitudes favouring deviance then influence engagement in deviant behaviours
(Rothwell & Hawdon, 2008). Consequently, learning takes place in a social
context and the reproduction of behaviour is a conscious process (Newbury,
2017). In this regard, McGuire (2004) stated that criminal behaviour is a process
and the result of “activities such as thoughts, feelings, attitudes or interpersonal
exchanges” (p. 71). Empirical evidence suggests that stalking perpetrators learn
from their parents or peers that stalking is an acceptable behaviour to engage in
and then reproduce this behaviour (Fox, Nobles, & Akers, 2011; Ménard &
Evolutionary theorists have highlighted the biological imperatives that
drive stalking perpetration (Duntley & Buss, 2012). Darwin (1871) posited that
natural and sexual selection is related to human adaptation to the environment
through psychological, physical and behavioural mechanisms to secure survival
and reproduction. Sexual conflict evolves because of the different adaptations
of females and males. Duntley and Buss (2012) offered an evolutionary theory
of stalking suggesting that the behaviour is a successful strategy to regain sexual
access to a former intimate partner. The theorists further stated that stalkers
“operate largely out of conscious awareness” (p. 314), and their actions are an
expression of adaptive behaviours to ensure human evolution and represent a
beneficial strategy “to try to bring a lost mate back into the relationship” (p.
315). It was further acknowledged that sexual exploitation and predatory
stalking is predominantly used by men.
Feminist approaches have drawn attention to the gendered nature of
violence against women and children (Guggisberg, 2010). Historically,
attention to violence against women was very limited and men’s behaviours
were rarely scrutinised. Tacit acceptance of male violence against women and
rationalisation of this behaviour was common. Only in the 1970s did this
violence begin to be challenged by feminist work that made female
victimisation visible and illustrated the danger in the family home (Marin &
Russo, 1999). Power and control were acknowledged as motivating factors for
sexual and physical violence and also as reasons for why the criminal justice
system failed to respond appropriately to the violence, given this was a male-
dominated system that stereotyped and blamed victimised females. It is
important to note that there are numerous feminist approaches. However, there
are shared principles, such as the notion of gender being a social construct of
attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours and the need for this to be recognised
in relation to violence against women (Guggisberg, 2010). Feminist-informed
theories have been used to explain stalking, particularly in the context of
intimate partner violence (Basile, Hall, & Walters, 2013). Using a feminist
approach, stalking is seen to be another element of partriachal society, where
the accepted gender roles consist of dominant menwho are active pursuers of
their selected women who are expected to be subservient recipients of their
advances (Brewster, 2003). Consequently, stalking is seen as an extension of
the man’s ‘right’ to control the woman who, as a function of being in a
relationship with the man, belongs to him.
Finally, relational goal pursuit theoryposits that intimate relationships and
connectedness are human needs (Cupach et al., 2011). A break up of a
relationship elicits strong emotions including sadness, frustration, jealousy and
anger of varying intensity. Research evidence suggests that the greater the
negative emotion, the greater the risk of engaging in harassment and stalking,
because the pursuer is overwhelmed by negative emotions that serve as constant
reminders of rejection (Davis et al., 2012). The use of stalking behaviours is
explained as a coping strategy to relieve negative emotions and fulfil the
relational goal to (re)connect. However, possessive acts due to jealousy may
result in compounded guilt from rejection and the experience of shame may
cause the pursuer to seek revenge. In such cases, the goal is to inflict harm to
the person who rejected the stalker, which may become dangerous as stalking
escalates and the behaviour threatens the safety of the victim (Cupach et al.,
2000). Angry temperament and a need for control due to attachment issues in
childhood have been found to be related to intimate partner stalking behaviours
(Davis et al., 2012). The theory has been found to successfully explain stalking
Cheyne & Guggisberg
perpetration, whereby ex-partners strongly believe that attempts at
reconciliation will be successful and they pursue their partner in order to meet
their important life goal of being in a relationship (Cupach et al., 2011;
Spitzberg, Cupach, Hannawa, & Crowley, 2014; Winkleman & Winstead,
Typologies of Stalking
In addition to theoretical explorations of stalking, a number of typologies
have been advanced to classify stalkers according to their motivations for
pursuit (see for example Harmon, Rosner, & Owens, 1995; Kienlen,
Birmingham, Solberg, & O'Regan, 1997; Wright et al., 1996; Zona, Sharma, &
Lane, 1993). A typology by Mullen, Pathé, Purcell, and Stuart (1999) classified
stalkers by placing them into five categories: rejected (usually an ex-intimate
partner who cannot accept the end of a relationship and stalks out of revenge
but also the desire to reconcile with the victim); intimacy seekers (who wish to
establish a relationship with the victim, while also believing that the victim
returns their affections); incompetent suitors (who also seek to develop a
relationship but through socially unacceptable means as they are socially inept
or intellectually challenged); resentful (they engage in stalking to cause fear and
apprehension in the victim as the stalker believes the victim has wronged them);
and predatory (they collect information about the victim in preparation for a
McFarlane and Bocij (2003) devised a typology of cyberstalkers based on
the accounts of 24 victims. The four categories cross over to some extent with
Mullen et al.’s typology (1999): intimate (ex-intimates or those infatuated with
the victim who wish to gain the affections or attentions of the victim); vindictive
(ferociously pursue their victim and are likely to threaten their victim);
composed (do not wish to establish a relationship with the victim but want to
cause them distress and wish to cause constant annoyance and irritation); and
collective cyberstalkers (corporations or groups pursuing victims online to get
back at the victim for criticising the corporation or for a perceived wrong against
It is important to note that many of these typologies have been largely
based on forensic or clinical samples. The existing research on stalkers outside
of clinical samples suggests that some stalkers had a history of childhood
trauma or experienced harsh parenting, which is associated with an insecure
attachment style and personality problems (Kingham & Gordon, 2004; Ménard
& Pincus, 2012) as discussed above. Research by Ménard and Pincus (2012)
demonstrated that traumatic childhood events, sexual abuse and some aspects
of narcissism predicted both offline and online stalking; although insecure
attachment predicted cyberstalking. Further, Strawhun et al. (2013) found that
problems with attachment, jealousy and violence in the relationship predicted
As outlined above, a number of theories have been suggested and
typologies created by researchers and clinicians in recent years with the aim to
better understand the motivations for stalking behaviours. What researchers and
clinicians agree upon is that partner stalking is not only by far the most prevalent
but also the most dangerous type of stalking (Björklund et al., 2010; Buzawa et
al., 2017; Rosenfeld, 2004; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Furthermore, stalkers
have different motivations for stalking. However, obsession with the victim is
one marked trait of stalking (Spitz, 2003), which leads to the examination of an
important issue in relation to the motivation for partner stalking, which is sexual
jealousy and possessiveness.
Sexual jealousy and possessiveness have been associated with stalking
behaviours and dangerous violence against an intimate partner. Men have been
found to be much more prone to suffer from feelings of possessiveness and
sexual jealousy than women with a rate of 95% versus 5%, with the majority of
these mencohabitingwith their partner or being married (Kingham & Gordon,
2004). Men who experience possessiveness and sexual jealousy pose a danger
to their ex-partners (Brownridge, 2009). The reason for this increased risk is
because women who have left the relationship have, in these men’s minds,
deprived them of their ownership, and, therefore, the men feel entitled to “take
back their possession” (p. 67). Possessiveness and sexual jealousy are
associated with irrational cognition and emotions along with controlling
behaviour that includes physical and sexual violence and stalking (Buzawa et
al., 2017). It is important to note that even when men are presented with
evidence that their jealousy is unfounded, they do not seem able to modify their
beliefs and reactions. Instead, they reject the evidence and continue to accuse
their intimate partner of infidelity.These men have a sense of ownership of their
partner and often justify violent behaviour as well as stalking as they believe
Cheyne & Guggisberg
their female partner is unfaithful and has provoked or actively encouraged their
jealousy (Brownridge, 2009; Kingham & Gordon, 2004). Sexual jealousy then
quickly becomes obsessional, which explains sustained stalking behaviours
(Buzawa et al., 2017; Walker, 2017).
IMPACTS OF STALKING AND CYBERSTALKING
The impacts of offline and/or online stalking are numerous and devastating
for victims. In relation to cyberstalking, it is important to note that evidence
suggests that the impacts are similar to those for traditional in-person stalking
(Strawhun et al., 2013). A significant proportion of victims experience negative
impacts from stalking, with in excess of 40% of victims in a national US study
experiencing significant concern for their safety and more than a quarter
seeking counselling (Ngo & Paternoster, 2013; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). The
impact of stalking includes helplessness, fear, anxiety, depression, grief,
attempted suicide, and alterations in behaviour (McFarlane & Bocij, 2003;
Parsons-Pollard & Moriarty, 2009; Spitz, 2003). Women subjected to stalking
have been found to experience financial consequences through loss of income,
being too afraid to leave their homes for work, or being fired because they
cannot concentrate at work, medical costs, legal costs, replacement costs for
damaged property, and moving costs when relocating away from the stalker
(Ngo & Paternoster, 2013; Spitz, 2003). Additionally, social consequences are
numerous, such as having to change their routine, choosing to stay at home
instead of going on social outings, leaving their job and even changing their
identity, which all impact on victims’interpersonal relationships (Campbell &
Moore, 2011; Sheridan & Lyndon, 2012; Spitz, 2003). Furthermore, multiple
psychological and physical consequences include increased fear, distrust of
others, nausea, gastro-intestinal conditions from chronic stress, eating
disorders, anxiety, depression, panic attacks and sleep disturbances (Sheridan
& Lyndon, 2012; Smoker & March, 2017). Importantly,while victims may take
refuge within their own homes, they often feel unsafe in those homes (see for
example Woodlock, 2017), which contributes to significant distress and mental
and physical health problems (Buzawa et al., 2017). As a result, they often
disengage from social activities, both offline and online (Walker, 2017).
ISSUES AROUND HELP-SEEKING FROM THE CRIMINAL
The first step in seeking official help is the recognition that stalking is
occurring. However, victims may not recognise the behaviour as stalking
(Duntley & Buss, 2012; Woodlock, 2017). Often, members of the general
public fail to understand the seriousness of stalking given the subtle nature of
the majority of stalking. Behaviours such as telephone calls and text messages
do not appear outwardly threatening; however, in the context of a repeated
pattern of behaviours, these actions take on new meaning (Strawhun et al.,
2013). Similar to societal perceptions of IPV, the psychological aspects of
offline stalking and cyberstalking are often not seen as being as serious as
physical and/or sexual violence. Furthermore, there is a lack of awareness in the
general community and among many professionals in the health and criminal
justice system that stalking behaviours often form part of the power and control
tactics men apply in the context of IPV. Members of society tend to see partner
stalking behaviours as misguided attempts at romantic pursuit (Parsons-Pollard
& Moriarty, 2009), which may reinforce the perpetrator’s denial of harmful
behaviours (Kingham & Gordon, 2004). Research has demonstrated that
community members believe that stranger stalkers are more dangerous and
require the intervention of police in comparison to intimate partnerstalkers
(Scott, Lloyd, & Gavin, 2010). However, evidence demonstrates that partner
stalkers are actually more dangerous.
If victims manage to move past societal perceptions of stalking and
recognise their own situations as comprising stalking, they may attempt to
contact police for assistance. Police have been shown to take physical violence
more seriously than non-physically violent methods of stalking, much like IPV
(Weller et al., 2013). The relationship between stalkers and victims can also
impact the way in which police view the behaviours, with strangers being more
likely to be seen as‘real’ stalkers in comparison to intimate partners (Scott et
al., 2010; Weller et al., 2013). Police may not recognise the seriousness of
cyberstalking and ask victims to return to the police station when the stalker has
issued physical threats against them (Parsons-Pollard & Moriarty, 2009).
Furthermore, if the police do not have a dedicated computer crimes unit, they
Cheyne & Guggisberg
may be much less likely to pursue cyberstalking offenders than when specific
cyber crime squads exist (Parsons-Pollard & Moriarty, 2009).
The seriousness of stalking in the context of IPV has been well documented
(Buzawa et al., 2017; Kingham & Gordon, 2004; Walker, 2017). Women’s
increased risk of femicide at the hands of their intimate partner should be of
particular concern to criminal justice officials, given that stalking behaviours
have not always been taken seriously by police officers and often women who
were murdered had previously taken out a restraining order against their ex-
partner (Buzawa et al., 2017). Threats of homicide also have been found to
frequently precede intimate partner homicide (Guggisberg, 2010; Kingham &
Gordon, 2004). Therefore, the absence of physical violence should not be taken
to indicate that there is no risk of harm to the victim.
Given the challenges outlined above, a number of actions are
recommended, both for general members of society and those who have already
been subjected to stalking in an attempt to assist people to work preventatively
and gain a better understanding of stalking behaviours.
Preventing Stalking From Occurring
Broader societal education about in-person stalking and cyberstalking may
assist community members to understand the behaviours that constitute stalking as
well as the impacts on victims of these behaviours (Dhillon & Smith, 2017). Such
education would assist community members to take actions to reduce their risk of
being stalked but also to recognise stalking if they were to experience it and provide
them with knowledge about how to proceed in terms of seeking assistance.
Preventing Stalking After it has Started
Spence-Diehl (1999) stated that victims of stalking should trust their
instincts and refrain from downplaying behaviours that they feel uncomfortable
with, even when others believe the behaviours to be of little consequence. As
has been demonstrated, professionals, family members and friends often lack
knowledge and understanding of stalking behaviours. Therefore, their advice
may not recognise the threat of harm and actually may be counterproductive. It
is very important for victims to keep a record of the stalker’s conduct. Careful
documentation may be critical in the case that the decision is made to involve
the police (Fraser et al., 2010). As discussed in this chapter, stalkers often use
technological devices to surveil, control and contact victims, which may
provide critical evidence that can be provided to police (e.g. postings on social
networking sites, text messages, photos, videos, emails and text messages)
(Fraser et al., 2010; Hamid & Maple, 2013).
Victims of stalking are also encouraged to devise a safety plan with help
from a support person. This plan involves a risk assessment and incorporates
considerations of the specific circumstances and options that may reduce the
many harmful impacts of stalking victimisation along with increasing physical
safety. For example, Spence-Diehl (1999) encouraged victims to install an
alarm system, motion detector lights, and consider having a dog, which could
all provide protection in the home. Alternative measures may be taken in the
workplace and other settings, including having a varied schedule. In an online
context, victims may wish to check their privacy settings, regularly change their
passwords on accounts, and take care with the amount of information that is
shared on social media accounts (Hamid & Maple, 2013). It is important that
the suggestion is not made that victims cease use of technology altogether; the
stalker ultimately is at fault for misusing technology. Also, if a stalker cannot
contact the victim in the digital environment, this may enhance the likelihood
of transferring their behaviours to a physical space and even using violence
(Fraser et al., 2010). In relation to physical and mental health, Spence-Diehl
(1999) suggested that victims seek counselling that may assist with stress-
reduction strategies, and address anxiety issues and frequently observed self-
Victim advocates play a critical role in providing education and assistance
to victims. First, they can help victims recognise the behaviour as a stalking
pattern and validate their fear as a normal reaction. It is important to be non-
judgemental as many victims maintain some level of contact with the stalker to
ensure that they and their children are safe. Sometimes, women return to the
stalker as a safety measure and may be in need of help to devise a safety plan
Cheyne & Guggisberg
(Spence-Diehl, 1999).Victim advocates can collaborate with professionals in
the criminal justice system and health care providers and actively support the
victim. Importantly, they may be required to provide education in the dynamics
of stalking and help gather critical evidence in the case that law enforcement
officials are involved. Additionally, law enforcement and other agencies that
come into contact with stalking victims may require further education and
training to effectively assist victims of stalking behaviour and to ensure they are
not re-victimised by these statutory agencies (Weller et al., 2013).
In the context of cyberstalking, as many behaviours such as text messages
and emails occur through private channels, an opportunity exists to encourage
companies to adopt some measure of corporate social responsibility for the
stalking and assistin the prevention of cyberstalking behaviours (al-Khateeb,
Epiphaniou, Alhaboby, Barnes, & Short, 2017; Dhillon & Smith, 2017).
Corporations who facilitate communication between various parties should
have a responsibility to take actions to protect women from harassment
Finally, further research is needed to better understand women victims’
experiences and their unmet needs in terms of protecting themselves and their
children. It is hoped that in the future, knowledge of effective interventions will
grow which will allow the development of evidence-based intervention
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