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Stalking has been the subject of empirical examination for a little over 20 years. Although some research was available prior to the passing of the first anti-stalking law in 1990 (e.g., Jason, Reichler, Easton, Neal, & Wilson, 1984), the term "stalking" as we understand it today did not exist. With the legal recognition of the problem, however, came the research. A PsycINFO search of the first decade of stalking research yielded 74 hits. In contrast, the year 2000 marked an upswing of serious investigation with the publication of the first special issue on stalking (Frieze & Davis, 2000). There were 56 publications on stalking in 2000 alone and over 600 publications on the topic published between 2000 and 2010. Interest in stalking - both empirical and public - has increased substantially within the last decade. Across the decades one of the questions that lingers with regard to stalking research is; what role does gender play? Accordingly, this special issue is intended to contribute to the literature by using gender as a focus point in 1) applying new theoretical perspectives to the study of stalking (Davis, Swan, & Gambone, this issue; Duntley & Buss, this issue;), 2) extending our knowledge of women and men's (Sheridan & Lyndon, this issue) stalking experiences, and 3) furthering the study of perceptions of stalking (Cass & Rosay, this issue; Dunlap, Hodell, Golding, & Wasarhaley, this issue; Sinclair, this issue; Yanowitz & Yanowitz, this issue). As we wish to place this special issue in context of the current state of knowledge on gender and stalking, we will review the state of the current research on stalking victimization, perpetration, and the lay and legal perceptions of stalking. We will conclude with a summary of how each of the articles included herein contribute to our knowledge about the role of gender in stalking research.
First, it is important to start with clarifying what is meant by the term "stalking." The federal model anti-stalking law in the US legally defines stalking as "A course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear" (National Criminal Justice Association Project, p. 43-44). Legal definitions differ across states, but tend to have three characteristics: 1) a pattern or "course of conduct" of pursuit behaviors not welcomed by the target, 2) implicit or explicit threats, that 3) induce fear in the target (Meloy, 1998).
Our knowledge of gender and stalking is often contingent upon how stalking is defined. One component of the legal standard in the United States is that the victim feels relatively high levels of fear (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1996). National random community samples and those drawn from clinical or forensic populations that use a high fear standard tend to find gender differences in perpetration (Budd & Mattinson, 2000; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998), victimization (Baum, Catalano, Rand, & Rose, 2009; Bjerregaard, 2000; Sheridan, Gillett, & Davies, 2002 vs. Sheridan, Davies, & Boon, 2001; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998), while studies employing college student samples in the US and Australia that use a behavioral definition that does not include fear often do not find such gender differences (Cupach & Spitzberg, 1998, 2000; Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Palarea, Cohen, & Rohling, 2000; Phillips et al., 2004; Purcell, Pathé, & Mullen, 2002).
Sample characteristics and definitions are often conflated, as clinical and forensic samples frequently study legally-defined stalking with older participants, while the college student samples tend to study behaviorally defined unwanted pursuit and unwanted pursuit (e.g., Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2000) and obsessive relational intrusion (ORI; e.g., Cupach & Spitzberg, 1998, 2004) with younger participants. Meta-analyses have shown a trend that clinical and forensic samples do have higher prevalence rates than student or community samples; clinical and forensic samples also reveal a stronger pattern of male perpetrators and female victims (Spitzberg, 2002; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007; Spitzberg, Cupach, & Ciceraro, 2010). All of the research in this special issue is derived from student samples, with the exception of Sheridan and Lyndon, who used a self-selected community sample drawn mostly from the US and the UK. TRANSITION
One of the questions surrounding gender differences in stalking research is whether women are more likely to be victims of stalking than men. Statistics clearly indicate that the majority of stalking cases are "relational," in that stalking often follows the rejection of an intimate relationship (ADD CITES). Historically, intimate aggression (e.g., domestic violence, acquaintance rape) is synonymous with violence against women because it was believed that the majority of intimate aggression targeted women. However, this belief that victims of intimate aggression - particularly domestic violence are disproportionately female has been controversial (see Archer, 2000). Likewise, we find that the assertion that stalking victims are predominantly women is not without its controversy. Much of this controversy seems to be due to two variables: 1) how stalking victimization is operationalized and 2) what sample is being examined.
In the first US national study of stalking victimization, Tjaden and Thoennes (1998) reported that 8% of women and 1.1% of men qualify as stalking victims when the definition was limited to those who are "extremely afraid"; the number climbs to 13% of women and 2.2% of men when "somewhat afraid" is used. In a more recent US national survey, Baum et al. (2009) found 20% of stalking victims were women, while 7.4% were men; however, both men and women were equally likely to be the victims of harassment, which does not include requiring the victim to feel fear. However, the British Crime Survey (Budd & Mattinson, 2000, which did not require experiences of fear, reported that 4% of women and 1.7% of men were victims of persistent and unwanted attention.
However, studies of unwanted pursuit and ORI have generally found equal frequencies of stalking victimization. MORE ON UNWANTED PURSUIT Women and men who initiated a breakup were equally likely to experience unwanted pursuit behaviors, such as following and threats of physical assault (Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2000; Phillips et al., 2004; Spitzberg, Nicastro, & Cousins, 1998). We do find some gender differences in studies using college student samples. Spitzberg et al.'s (2010) latest meta-analysis of US college students who experience "persistent pursuit" found that women were 55% more likely to have been pursued than men. Women were also more likely to view such pursuit as threatening. While there were differences between men and women, however, the difference itself was minimal. Initial evidence does suggest that the composition of the dyad shapes the intensity of the experience, with women pursued by other women experiencing the highest number of pursuit incidents with the longest duration.
The inclusion of fear may artificially decrease prevalence rates for men, as men are much less likely to admit to fear than are women (Bjerregaard, 2000; Cupach & Spitzberg, 2000; Davis, Ace, & Andra, 2000; Emerson, Ferris, & Gardner, 1998; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998), either due to a real lack of fear or a reporting bias. The gender differences present when fear is included in the definition (i.e., legally stalking in the US and Australia) versus the lack of gender differences when fear is excluded from the definition (i.e., harassment) demonstrates the potential for gender differences to arise within perceptions of stalking. Many male victims of stalking do not perceive any threat from their pursuers, and therefore do not identify their experience as stalking (Tjaden, Thoennes, & Allison, 2000; Sheridan, et al., 2002). Male victims of interpersonal violence report they are more likely to react with laughter than are women (Romito & Grassi, 2007) and men discount their risk of victimization (Stanko & Hobdell, 1993). In manipulated hypothetical stalking scenarios, US college women reported that they would call the police regardless of whether a threat was present, while men would only do so if explicitly threatened (Hills & Taplin, 1998). Men who do seek protection from their ex-girlfriends may experience informal social sanctions (Hall, 1998) and be treated with contempt or laughter by legal professionals (Purcell, Pathé, & Mullen, 2001). Women express higher fear of crime in general (Ferraro, 1995). It is possible that women's greater fear is a realistic concern, as women are more likely to experience such crimes. While the emphasis on fear reduces male prevalence rates (Tjaden et al., 2000), this emphasis simultaneously has a hidden impact on female victims. Most stalking cases are perpetrated by intimate partners, which may also influence reactions to the stalking behavior. Most violence against women is perpetrated by intimates (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998), but women are paradoxically more afraid of strangers (Pain, 1996). Dietz and Martin (2007) found that women were twice as likely to be afraid of a current or former spouse than of a stranger, but not when their partners were boyfriends. Because of the ambiguity in when pursuit behavior may become stalking (and potentially more dangerous), women may be more likely than men to dismiss such pursuit when it is wrapped up in romance (Emerson et al., 1998), while men may be more dismissive in general.
Frequency counts of stalking thus may not tell the whole story of stalking victimization. Frequency counts of unwanted pursuit may be equal for men and women (Bjerregaard, 2000; Haugaard & Seri, 2004; Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2000; Spitzberg, Nicastro, & Cousins, 1998), but it is possible that women may experience more consequences, partially because stalking is often comorbid with the physical, sexual, and psychological abuse of women (Brewster, 2003; Coleman, 1997; Jordan, Wilcox, & Pritchard, 2007; Logan, Leukefeld, & Walker, 2000; Mechanic, Uhlmansick, Weaver, & Resick, 2000; Spitzberg & Rhea, 1999; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). There is some evidence that there are more severe mental health effects for women than men (Davis, Coker, & Sanderson, 2002). Gender's role in shaping stalking is entangled in the interpretation that creates stalking. The meaning and impact of any form of aggression, especially those involving issues of control and intimidation, as does stalking (Brewster, 2003; Davis et al., 2000), may differ depending on the sex of the perpetrator and target (Romito & Grassi, 2007; White, Smith, Koss, & Figueredo, 2000).
This interpretation may also be why women and men react somewhat differently to being stalked. Spitzberg and colleagues (1998) found that women were more likely to confide in a close friend or family member for help in dealing with the stalking incident than were men. However, Spitzberg (2002) reported only small differences in modes of coping, in that women only reported slightly higher rates of help-seeking behaviors than men who were stalking victims. Although more women did engage in help-seeking behaviors, it is unclear whether women suffer more severe consequences of being stalked in these college student samples. Stalking victims do report a wide range of negative consequences, including psychological (e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD symptomotology), physical (e.g., disturbances in appetite and sleep, headaches, nausea, and damage from the perpetrator), economic (e.g., spending money on protective efforts, lost wages, and expenses), and social (e.g., losing touch with friends, getting unlisted phone numbers, reducing social activities) (see Bjerregaard, 2000; Davis et al., 2002; Dressing, Kuehner, & Gass, 2005; Kamphuis & Emmelkamp, 2001; Sheridan, Davies, & Boon, 2001). Some evidence points to no difference (Davis et al., 2002; Dressing et al., 2005). Sheridan and Lyndon (this issue) investigate these consequences for stalking victims by relationship status, gender, and victim fear.
The relationship between the victim and the perpetrator is important. Stalking victims are most often aspiring or former intimate partners of perpetrators. National US stalking victimization surveys (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998; Baum, et al., 2009) have shown that about 75% of stalking victims are pursued by a current, former, or aspiring intimate partner, making stalking an interpersonal crime. These same national random samples also find that women report being the victim of stalking incidents more than men (Baum, et al., 2009; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). General population samples in the UK and the US (Budd & Mattinson, 2000; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998) find that women are victims of intimate partner stalking, while men are equally likely to be stalked by partners and acquaintances (exception: Purcell, Pathe, & Mullen, 2001's Australian clinical sample); so while it is true that intimate partner stalking is the most prevalent type, there are somewhat differential experiences for women and men. In this special issue, Sheridan and Lyndon (this issue) address whether the perpetrator and the victim's prior relationship better predicts the psychological, physical, social, and economic consequences to the victim than their gender, with a special emphasis on how fear may lead to gendered consequences.
The issue of whether men stalk more than women is subject to the same problems that drive questions of victimization: how we operationalize stalking and in which samples we do so. In general, unwanted pursuit perpetration in college students involves similar numbers of male and female perpetrators, while legally-defined stalking is generally perpetrated by men (Baum et al., 2009; Budd & Mattinson, 2000; UP or ORI citation; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998. In fact, this distinction parallels dating violence versus domestic violence, both of which are forms of intimate partner violence (IPV) that involve similar behaviors with differing prevalence rates and consequences for women and men (citations). Unwanted pursuit and dating violence research finds that women and men may engage in similar behaviors with equal frequency, particularly in younger college student samples using a strict behavioral definition (citation). In contrast, stalking and domestic violence involve more severe behaviors leading to more negative health consequences (citations). The gender symmetry debate of whether gender shapes the experience of IPV leads to research comparing the quantity of male and female victims and perpetrators, but also whether experiences are qualitatively different. In other words, are there gender differences in who perpetrators stalk; their choice of stalking behaviors, and their motivations.,
Meta-analyses and US and UK general population studies find that men are more likely to be stalking perpetrators than women, regardless of the victims' gender (Baum et al., 2009; Budd & Mattinson, 2000l Spitzberg, 2002; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). While the size of this gender difference differs across sampling methods, its presence is consistent across methodologies (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2003). Baum et al. (2009) found in the data from a US national survey that approximately 60% of stalkers were male, 28% were female, and the rest were unable to be identified by their victim. On the other hand, Spitzberg and Cupach's (2003) meta-analysis found that males make up 82.15% of stalkers, while females represent 18.16% of stalkers. However, as with victimization studies, males and females in some college student samples equally report engaging in unwanted pursuit behaviors toward an intimate partner (citations).
while men are equally likely to be stalked by partners and acquaintances (Budd & Mattinson, 2000; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998) so while it is true that intimate partner stalking is the most prevalent type, there are somewhat differential experiences for women and men. While most stalking occurs is cross-gendered, with males stalking females, there are disparate accounts for same-gendered stalking. Discrepancies between these studies may be explained by potentially age and sampling method, with male same gendered stalking more common in general population studies (Baum et al., 2009; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998) and female same gendered stalking more common in forensic samples (Mullen, Pathé, Purcell, & Stuart, 1999; Purcell et al., 2001). This pattern may be related to the finding that male juvenile stalkers are more likely to stalk ex-intimate partners, while female juvenile stalkers are more likely to stalk estranged friends (Purcell et al., 2010).
There is some evidence that women and men have tendencies to engage in slightly different individual stalking behaviors. In both forensic and college student samples in the US and Australia, men more likely to make in person contact (e.g., approaching behavior; Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2000; Sinclair & Frieze, 2000), follow their victims or loiter (Purcell et al., 2001; Purcell et al., 2010), and inflict property damage (Purcell et al., 2010). Women, on the other hand, are more likely to engage in behaviors that do not confront the target face to face, such as making unwanted calls or leaving unwanted phone messages (Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2000; Purcell et al., 2001; Purcell et al., 2010), spreading rumors, or employing others in harassing the victim (Purcell et al., 2010). These patterns are not universal, however, as Dutton and Winstead (2006)'s college student sample found that women reported more monitoring and physically hurting their targets than men. New patterns may be uncovered by including cyberstalking behaviors. Burke, Wallen, Vail-Smith, and Knox (2011) found that US college student men were more likely to report experiencing and engaging in the use of spyware, photos, and cameras to monitor and pursue their partner (e.g., using GPS devices, web cams, and spyware to monitor their partner), while college student women were more likely to report excessive communication and checking behaviors (e.g., checking cell phone and e-mail histories, making excessive phone calls and e-mails, checking social networking sites, and using their partner's passwords). However, Lyndon and Bonds-Raacke (in press) found no gender differences in cyberpursuit, obsessive relational pursuit (ORI), or in the behaviors people perpetrated on Facebook to harass their ex-partner in either venting (e.g., write inappropriate or mean things about ex-partner on Facebook), covert provocation (e.g., create a false Facebook profile of ex-partner), or covert provocation (post poetry or lyrics in status updates to taunt ex-partner).
While there may be differences in how men and women pursue, there also may be differences in their motivations for doing so. These stalking behaviors appear to be motivated most commonly by intimacy (e.g., a desire for reconciliation and feelings of love), with the second most common motive being aggression (e.g., a desire for revenge; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007). In fact, stalkers often report multiple, seemingly inconsistent motives, such as both reconciliation of a relationship and revenge (Mullen, Pathé, Purcell, & Stuart, 1999; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007). Gender differences in motivations for stalking have been noted in two forensic samples; female stalkers were more motivated by a desire for intimacy (Purcell et al., 2001) and juvenile male stalkers were more motivated by rejection and sexual predation, with juvenile female stalkers more likely to be motivated by bullying and retaliation (Purcell et al., 2010). The latter of these findings likely represents a gender difference unique to juvenile stalkers, as adult stalkers are most commonly motivated by intimacy (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007). On the other hand, there is a considerable lack of research, particularly non-forensically sampled research, examining gender differences in motivations for stalking.
Male stalkers are more likely to be violent than female stalkers. Evidence in US forensic and college student samples also suggests that male stalkers pose a greater risk of violence and aggression and are more likely to approach and follow their victims (Rosenfeld & Lewis, 2005; Williams & Frieze, 2005). Men are more likely than women to threaten their victims in college student sample (Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2000), and more likely to escalate from threats to physical assaults, as reported in both forensic samples (Purcell et al., 2001) and meta-analyses (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007). Across studies, about half of all stalking cases involve the pursuer issuing a threat, and just under a third of all stalking cases involve physical violence. In fact, physical violence is more than twice as likely to occur when a threat is made by the stalker (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007). Similarly, former romantic partners are often the most violent compared to other categories of stalkers, a pattern that is consistent across culture and sample type (Meloy, Davis, & Lovette, 2001; Mohandie, Meloy, McGowan, & Williams, 2006; Palrea, Zona, Lane, & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 1999; Sheridan, Blaauw, & Davies, 2003; Sheridan & Davies, 2001), and men may be more likely to stalk ex-intimate partners than women, especially in general population samples (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). There are some exceptions to this pattern of male violence, however, as some researchers using US college students have found no gender differences in aggressive stalking behaviors after a breakup (Haugaard & Seri, 2004; Sinclair & Frieze, 2002) or even that women engage in higher rates of violence, also in a US college student sample (Dutton & Winstead, 2006).
Perceptions of stalking
Because stalking lies on a continuum of pursuit behaviors, there is a great deal of ambiguity about when it has occurred. This ambiguity includes variations in stalking perceptions as to the necessary levels of the number of stalking behaviors, the seriousness of the incident, the relationship between the perpetrator and victim, and issues regarding intent and the requirement of fear (DOJ/OJP, 2001). Judgments of stalking can vary based on the specific situation, sex of the victim and perpetrator, and preconceived opinions about stalking in general. The conceptual and legal definitions of stalking state that it must be a course of conduct that involves multiple pursuit behaviors. There is no clear guidance about how many are needed aside from "more than one." Because many stalking behaviors are considered somewhat normative within the course of romantic relationship (Emerson, Ferris, & Gardner, 1998), we need to know where we draw the line as "stalking"; this type of research most often uses hypothetical stalking scenarios to gauge these perceptions.
The literature is still mixed as to whether there are any gender differences on judging whether apply the label of "stalking" applies to a series of stalking-like behaviors. Some researchers report that men and women are equally likely to apply label stalking behaviors as such (e.g., Kinkade, Burns, & Fuentes, 2005; Phillips et al., 2004, in Experiment 1; Sheridan & Davies, 2001; Sheridan, Davies, & Boon, 2001; Sheridan, Gillett, & Davies, 2002; Sheridan, Gillet, Davies, Blaauw, & Patel, 2003). Others have found that female participants are more likely than male participants to identify behaviors as stalking (e.g., Dennison & Thomson, 2002; Hills & Taplin, 1998; Phillips et al., 2004, in Experiment 2; Yanowitz, 2006).
The relationship between the perpetrator and the victim influences perception of stalking more than their gender. Phillips and colleagues (2004) found that both male and female participants similarly labeled the incident as stalking when the perpetrator and victim were former intimate partners. However, gender differences did emerge in regards to stranger and acquaintance stalking scenarios. Male participants were more likely to perceive the stranger scenario as stalking when the perpetrator was male rather than female, while female participants judged it as stalking with female perpetrators. This pattern was reversed for acquaintance stalkers: Male participants perceived acquaintances as stalkers with female perpetrators, whereas female participants did so with male perpetrators. All of the research varying relationship and gender have used heterosexual relationships for the intimate partner category. It is possible that same gender relationships that are not shaped as much with traditional gender roles may result in different judgments. Future research may wish to orthogonally vary relationship status and gender.
We find gender differences in follow-up questions of seriousness and intention to cause harm or fear, but gender similarities in whether personal stalking victimization experiences shape perceptions of stalking. Female participants more often view stalking behaviors as more serious than male observers, especially if a scenario depicted a male perpetrator stalking a female victim in both US and Australian college student samples (e.g., Cupach & Spitzberg, 2000; Dennison, 2007; Dennison & Thomson, 2002; Hills & Taplin, 1998). However, it should be noted that in Dennison's (2007) study with Australian college students that this was true only when there was explicit evidence of the perpetrator's intent to stalk the victim. Without explicit evidence of intent, male and female observers' perception of seriousness was the same. However, in Cupach and Spitzberg's (2000) US college student sample, women judged a variety of pursuit behaviors as more annoying, upsetting, threatening, and as privacy violations than did men. Emerson et al.'s (1998) community sample of victims also reveal that men felt less vulnerable and threatened than did women.
Women are more likely to judge that the perpetrator intended to cause harm and fear (Dennison & Thomson, 2002) and that women would be more likely to call for police intervention and to feel afraid in response to the stalking, as found in an Australian community-based sample (Hills & Taplin, 1998). However, Dennison and Thomson (2002) and others (e.g., Sheridan et al., 2001; Hills & Taplin, 1998) in the UK and Australia, did not alter the perpetrator and victim gender for all participants, and often used the prototypical stalking scenario of a male perpetrator stalking a female victim. Very few studies have found any link between personal experience with stalking and judgments of it, both conducted with US college students. Cupach and Spitzberg (2000) found that only violations of privacy were differentially judged; those with no experience judged it as more upsetting than those with experiences. Yanowitz (2006) found that men (but not women) who had been stalked or knew someone who had been rated less severe stalking behaviors as stalking more so than men without such personal experience. The extent to which these gender differences may extend if the perpetrator is female and the victim is male is unknown.
Victim and Perpetrator Gender
Several researchers in US and Australian student samples have found differences in perceptions of stalking scenarios based on participant and target gender (Dennison & Thomson, 2002; Phillips et al., 2004; Sheridan, Gillett, Davies, Blaauw, & Patel, 2003; Sheridan & Scott, 2010), while similar samples have found similar results by men and women (Kinkade et al., 2005; Phillips et al., 2004; Sheridan, Gillett & Davies, 2002). While we generally find that the gender of the perpetrator does not influence people's perceptions of whether behaviors constituted as stalking (e.g., Dennison, 2007; Kinkade et al., 2005; Phillips et al., 2004; Sheridan et al., 2003), we do find gender differences for slightly different questions. Consistent with reality (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007), male stalkers are seen as more serious, threatening, and injurious while female stalkers are not seen as much of a threat when pursuing men (e.g., Cupach & Spitzberg, 2004; Phillips et al., 2004; Sheridan et al., 2003; Sheridan & Scott, 2010). Women's pursuit of men is judged as less serious than men's pursuit of women and male victims are assigned more responsibility for their own victimization of physical violence and should be able to handle themselves better (Sheridan et al., 2003; Sheridan & Scott, 2010).
Perpetrators are likely to blame victims for their own pursuit (e.g., Baumeister, Wotman, & Stillwell, 1993; Sinclair & Frieze, 2005). It appears that males are more likely to minimize the behaviors of a male perpetrator, and instead blame female victims. Such minimization reflects sociocultural beliefs, which are examined by both Sinclair (this issue) and Dunlap et al. (this issue). This minimization is consistent with the finding that men tend to endorse more stalking myths. However, perpetrators in general tend to blame their victims, in particular male victims, for their own victimization. Male victims of stalking are judged both as more responsible for their own victimization and able to handle the situation more than female victims (e.g., Hall, 1998; Phillips et al., 2004; Purcell et al., 2001; Sheridan et al., 2003). Even when spontaneously describing a typical stalking case, we may find gender differences. . Yanowitz and Yanowitz (this issue) have US college student participants generate stalking scripts to examine the extent to which gender roles, which have been established according to society and determine appropriate behaviors for men and women, may make stalking appear more or less acceptable depending on the context in which the stalking occurs.
Much of the previous perception research has asked samples of college students their perceptions of whether something constitutes stalking. Dunlap et al. (this issue), examine whether lay people's perceptions of intimate partner stalking is influenced by the gender of the victim/perpetrator and the amount of fear expressed by the victim when giving verdicts in a mock trial. Cass and Rosay (this issue) explore the next step of perceived consequences of the stalking incident, or how the incident may make its way through the criminal justice system. US college students are used as an analogue of legal professionals' judgments of potential police investigations, and perpetrators' potential for arrest, conviction, and incarceration. These authors further address the degree to which legal factors (e.g., level of fear, intent to harm) and extra-legal factors (e.g., prior relationship, gender) influence how hypothetical perpetrators and victims are judged. Studies such as these shed light on why few stalkers are actually arrested, let alone convicted or incarcerated.
Many law officials believe that the anti-stalking laws are effective and are serving to prevent a great deal of stalking behaviors (National Institute of Justice, 1996). However, in the National Crime Victimization Survey in the US (NCVS: Baum et al., 2009), victims in the US general population who reported stalking did not always receive help from law enforcement officials. Of the people who reported stalking, only 8% reported that the perpetrator was arrested and 20% said that the police did not take any action at all. However, in a national survey in the UK, 61% victims of stalking who reported the stalking to police said that they were satisfied with the police intervention, while 35% of victims said they were unsatisfied with the police intervention (Budd & Mattinson, 2000). It is possible that the gender of both the victim and the perpetrator influence judgments of stalking not only by laypeople, but legal professionals. They ultimate determine whether or not a situation is perceived as stalking and can thus alter the outcome of legal actions taken against the perpetrator. It is crucial to examine how the legal system and law enforcement addresses issues and occurrences of stalking. The relationship between the perpetrator and victim and stalking situations can also be influential in determining the seriousness of the incident, and thus the legal ramifications that will occur as a result (Farrell, Weisburd, & Wyckoff, 2000; Logan, Walker, Stewart, & Allen, 2006).
Members of the justice system and victim services also have varying opinions on how they judged intimate partner stalking (Logan et al., 2006). In general, members of the justice system did not view intimate partner stalking as seriously as victim services personnel. Both justice system and victim service personnel, as a majority, felt that women would not be able to recognize intimate partner stalking, and thus would not seek help for their problems for a number of reasons. These alarming findings suggest that professionals in both fields may also not recognize a difference between partner violence and intimate partner stalking. This is especially true when justice system representatives tend to rely on physical harm rather than psychological harm when assessing the seriousness of a situation (Finch, 2001). As a result, the professionals of both the justice system and victim services may not know the best course of action to take for helping victims of stalking.
There is evidence that police officers feel that stranger stalkers results in more need for intervention and arrest of a perpetrator than intimate partner stalking (Farrell et al., 2000). However, police officers were not always able to correctly identify cases of intimate partner stalking (Klein, Salomon, Huntington, Dubois, & Lang, 2009; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). The victim's gender also appears to influence the way that police officers respond to stalking situations. US general population studies find that victims report that law enforcement officials provided female stalking victims with more information about protective services than to male victims; officials are also more likely to arrest stalking perpetrators when the victim was a woman. Women who are victims of stalking are also more likely to have their stalkers criminally prosecuted than male victims, even though men and women are equally likely to report stalking to the police (Baum et. al, 2009; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Law enforcement officers are also more likely to take the stalking incident more seriously when the stalker was a stranger rather than a former intimate partner (Farrell et al., 2000; Modena Group on Stalking, 2005). In a US forensic sample of victims who took their cases through the court system, women who suffered both domestic violence and stalking from former intimate partners were more likely to employ the help of law enforcement to prevent future violence and stalking instances. While there was a decrease in physical violence after police intervention, stalking behaviors lasted longer in both strength and frequency (Melton, 2007). These results are consistent with the perception that male victims should be "man enough" to take care of themselves.
Only one study has examined law enforcement personnel's judgments of stalking. One particular study of interest was conducted with four different European samples of police officers sheds light on some alarming trends (Kamphuis et al., 2005). Police officers were able to discriminate between stalking and non-stalking scenarios, but they were biased in other ways. Specifically, Italian and Belgian police officers were more likely to blame on the victim for the stalking and endorse stalking myths, such a belief that stalking is flattering. Italian police officers were the least sensitive officials to victim reports of stalking. These trends reveal that some legal professionals may not take stalking seriously, especially intimate partner stalking. As a result, stalking victims may not receive appropriate police intervention and protection.
It is critical that more research be conducted on judgments of stalking according to the legal system and law enforcement professionals. When men and women do need assistance or legal intervention, the legal system may not regard their situation seriously as stalking. A number of factors might contribute to how people perceive stalking situations, such as the gender of the victim and perpetrator of the stalking and the relationship between the victim and perpetrator. Understanding how law enforcement officials judge stalking situations could help determine how to educate law enforcement officials about what constitutes stalking, what actions need to be taken, assessing the seriousness of the situation and re-evaluating anti-stalking laws.
Contributions of the current issue
We have reviewed the current state of the literature regarding the role of gender in stalking research. The present special issue adds to our knowledge in the following ways..." While there are meaningful gender differences in the experience of stalking, many of these differences are dependent upon sample type. While there are real gender differences in the experience of being stalked, some may be minimal, as found by a meta-analysis of college student samples (Spitzberg et al., 2010). It is too simplistic to say that stalking is or is not gendered - certainly the answer is that sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. (blah, I hate that last sentence!) MORE.
This special issue contains several articles that contribute to theoretical understanding of stalking and to stimulate new research. Duntley and Buss (this issue) outline how stalking may be shaped by evolutionary processes a functional mating strategy. The authors hypothesize eight functions of stalking, including acquiring, guarding, and reacquiring a mate, as well as sexual predation. While some of these functions may apply equally well to men and women, others are more gendered. In addition, they propose 30 falsifiable hypotheses to stimulate testing of the theory. Sinclair (this issue) applies attribution theory (Heider, 1958) to examine how lay people's beliefs (e.g., endorsement of stalking myths) shape their perceptions of a stalking case. In particular, she focuses how gender, perspective of the pursuer or the rejecter, and stalking myths influence how people make attributions for rejecters and pursuers in an unwanted pursuit scenario. Thompson et al. (this issue) investigate how sociocultural beliefs may influence stalking violence, with special emphasis on female perpetrated violence. Davis et a. (this issue) review current theories relevant to stalking, all with an underlying construct of self-regulation: relational goal pursuit theory (Cupach & Spitzberg, 2004), adult attachment theory (Hazan & Shaver, 1987), and coercive control theory (Dutton & Goodman, 2005). In particular, Davis and colleagues use these theories to highlight the context, means, and motives of stalking, suggesting ways to integrate these theories in new investigations.
Thompson et al. (this issue) strive to resolve these findings by answering the question of whether we underestimate moderate violence by female stalkers. Using a sample of Australian college students, the authors examine whether commonly held sociocultural beliefs may lead female perpetrators to justify their level of moderately violent behavior within the context of intimate partner stalking.