Examining the Criminalisation Of Stalking Effects Criminology Essay

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"Simply put...stalkers are not a type unto themselves with necessarily common features. Efforts to categorise them as loners, frustrated about their lack of impact on the world, striving for greatness by destroying greatness, may be wrong as often as right. There certainly are commonalities, but there are just as many differences, and defining the 'typical' stalker is no more practical than defining the 'typical'murderer. They are as complex and as various as people in general. They can be motivated by jealousy, fear, anger, revenge, frustration, just as any other person." - Debecker (1994)

Stalking should remain criminalized in Australia due to the serious affects it has on stakeholders. Although little controversy surrounds the anti-stalking laws, it is important to understand how the laws still cater to contemporary issues. Many Australians become victimized by stalkers and are often seriously affected as a result. The criminalization of stalking prevents offenders, who often suffer from serious psychological problems, from reoffending. Not only are victims and offenders impacted by stalking, but society as a whole feel the ongoing effects of stalking. Stalking is not just a matter between those involved and the criminal justice system, but it is a problem that affects the entire community. Stalking is a prevalent social problem which Australia had a legislative response to. The criminalization of stalking was a positive resolution to a significant issue in society. 

The distinct anti-social behavior of stalking is the threatening pursuit of an individual over time. According to the Violence Against Women Grants Office (1999), the essence of stalking behavior is intentionally harassing, threatening, and/or intimidating a person by following them about, sending them articles, telephoning them, waiting outside a house and the like. Anti-stalking Laws were implemented in all Australian states in the 1990's prohibiting stalking. Section 33A of The Criminal Code, Queensland, deals with the offense of stalking. The code outlines that the maximum penalty is five years imprisonment. Seven years imprisonment if the stalking involves use of, or threat to use, violence against a person or property; possession of a weapon; or contravention of, or a threat to contravene a court order. The Criminal Code Stalking Amendment Act took place in Queensland, 1999, this was the effective and final criminalization of stalking. The relatively recent criminalization of stalking in Australia provides added legal recourse for victims. These laws were effectively implemented to protected victims from harassment and stalking. 

Victims of stalking crimes suffer from immense psychological trauma and without the criminalization of stalking, the ongoing effects would be damaging. The Australia Bureau of Statistics showed that one in ten Australians experience stalking victimization, many suffering psychological, social, and even physical harm as a result. A study in Hong Kong discovered, unlike victims of other crimes, stalking victims are exposed to repeated and persistent harassment or threats. Victims feel violated and have little control over their lives. (Leung, GM.K.H, Carew, K. P. L, Chow, 1999). Assaults by stalkers are disturbingly frequent. Most victims report significant disruption to their daily functioning from exposure to associated violence, showed a study completed by Rosemary Purcell, Michele Pathé, Paul E. Mullen (2002), researches at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health.  Traumatic events associated with stalking without a doubt have severe economical, psychological and social impacts on victims. Studies by Lorraine P. Sheridan, Eric Blaauw and Graham M. Davies (2003), reported that social consequences of stalking consisted of changes in work or school attendance. Additionally, victims reported about acquiring unlisted telephone numbers and avoided social activities. Alarmingly, up to 66% relocated residence. Furthermore the study shows the immense psychological effects which come of stalking. Victims reported on increased distrust, paranoia, confusion, fear, anger and aggression, depression, post- traumatic stress disorders, persistent nausea and 74% suffered chronic sleep disturbance. A media release in 2000 from Senator, Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs Law enforcement agencies, expressed that, "The crime of stalking is like domestic violence two decades ago, when we didn't know the extent of the problem and the effects on victims were largely ignored." The senator expressed the impact of stalking on victims as being overlooked. A further study conducted by E. Blaauw, F W Winkel (2000), sinisterly revealed that three-quarters of the victims displayed a symptom level that indicated the presence of a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Secondly, several of the victims studied had a history of attempted suicide and several inpatient admissions. Furthermore, no less than 31% had repeated thoughts about committing suicide. The author of the report stated in his conclusion that, stalking victims form a seriously troubled population. Evidently, these findings suggest that stalking has deleterious effects on its victims. The criminalization of stalking was and still is essential to preventing statistics rising and preventing further impact on victims.  

The criminalization of stalking in Australia is beneficial in preventing stalkers from reoffending, as most suffer from psychological disorders. There would be little help available to mentally unstable individuals who posses stalking behaviors or little means of prevention if the anti- stalking laws did not exist. Furthermore there would be no safeguards in place for victims of such events. Stalkers are highly likely to suffer from a range of psychological problem consisting of personality disorders, psychosis, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Erotomania, attachment disorder and many more. A significant study into offenders shows that, the group did not appear to be very psychopathic which is known to be extremely difficult to treat. However, there was a high prevalence of personality disorders in offenders and are often resistant to treatment. (Lorraine P. Sheridan, Eric Blaauw and Graham M. Davies 2003). Recognizing a potential stalker is not a simple matter but with the high proportion of female victims, come the high proportion of male stalkers. The study continued to display that a mean of 79% of stalkers were found to be male (Lorraine P. Sheridan, Eric Blaauw and Graham M. Davies). There is little published research on obsessive stalkers. The standard psychiatric typology accepts erotomania as a delusional disorder, but, of course, by no means are all stalkers Erotomaniacs. In a study conducted with the help of the LAPD Threat Management Unit (1993), researchers examined the case files of the Unit and suggested a basic typology of four kinds of stalkers. The first and most common stalker is the simple obsessional which are usually males and the victim is either a spouse or ex- lover. It has been noted that failed relationships are a common feature among criminal stalkers. Secondly, Love Obsessional stalkers are strangers to the victim and they mount an obsessive campaign of harassment to make the victim aware of their existence. Additionally, Erotomania stalkers are usually females who falsely believe that the victim is in love with them. The fourth category simply involves the conscious or unconscious desire to be placed in the role of a victim, this is referred to as, False Victimization. (Matthew Goode, 1995). Noticeably, the high number of offenders and victims who are impacted, exemplify the large role stalking plays in the lives of many making. Therefore the necessity of anti stalking laws is evident. All these types of stalkers suffer from psychological disorders, making these people harmful to society and the criminalization of stalking punishes this behavior. 

The significant impact stalking has on victims and offenders ultimately have an effect on society as a whole. The criminalization of stalking was relevant to addressing contemporary issues of the time and addressed the needs of Australian society. anti-stalking laws developed an effective method of assessing and treating stalkers which directly impacted the health and safety of thousands of stalking victims across Australia. These laws reduced the number of stalkers and victims as they are now dealt with via the criminal justice system accordingly. The ARC Discovery Project Scheme 2010, recognizes the part stalking still plays in society today when it stated, "Stalking affects people in all walks of life, crossing racial, social, religious, ethnic, and economic boundaries. Even cyberspace has been contaminated with this crime." Without a doubt stalkers have to be managed and the social/financial burden that stalking behavior has on victims and the community, needs continual help. The mental health and corrective services around Australia aim to reduce physical and psychological harm experienced by both stalkers and their victims. The development and implementation of practical and effective strategies that lessen the impact of stalking will reduce the burden of mental ill-health caused by stalking, increase community safety, and reduce overall levels of victimization in Australian society. Without the anti- stalking laws, prevention schemes such as this would be non-existent or ineffective. Despite the large amount of literature surrounding aspects of stalking and society, there is little known about prevention of stalking. Although, according to the study conducted by prominent researches, Lorraine P. Sheridan, Eric Blaauw and Graham M. Davies 2003, stalking usually ended because the victim moved away or because the stalker entered a new relationship. More significantly the study found that the stalking ended when the police warned, arrested or charged the stalker. There can be no arguments that law enforcements in society stop the offender.

The introduction of anti-stalking laws into Australia, sufficiently caters to the changing needs of stakeholders. The extreme life changing effects stalking has on victims is reason enough to value the implementations put in place. Victimization of individuals caused by threatening stalkers was not just a problem of the 90's but is still a contemporary issue in society, worldwide. The anti-stalking laws are still relevant and effective in stoping stalkers  in the mist of offending and furthermore from reoffending. Stalking is a significant contributor to  psychological problems australia and stakeholders. Manifestly, The Criminal Code Stalking Amendment Act (1999), still caters to the common values and needs of society. Stalking is a crime of terror consequently the criminalization of stalking offers protection to victims, rehabilitation for offenders and resolution for society.