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Psychiatric Times. Vol. 23 No.

4 April 1, 2001

Psychiatric Times. Vol. 23 No. 4

Stalkers and Their Victims
By Paul E. Mullen, M.B.B.S., D.Sc., and Michele Pathý, M.B.B.S. | 01 aprilie 2001

"Stalking" is defined as repeated and persistent unwanted More Like This
communications and/or approaches that produce fear in the victim. The
stalker may use such means as telephone calls, letters, e-mail, graffiti and
placing notices in the media. A stalker may approach or follow the Stalking: The Veiled
victim, or keep their residence under surveillance. Stalking is often Epidemic
associated with other forms of harassment, such as ordering goods on the
victim's behalf, sending unsolicited materials and initiating spurious legal Being Stalked--An
actions (Mullen et al., 1999). Stalking intrudes on the victim's privacy Occupational Hazard?
and evokes a fear of violence. Such fears are justified, as threats,
property damage and assault occur all too frequently in association with Comprehensive Treatment of
stalking. Stalking Victims

Community surveys suggest that each year between 1% and 2% of Psychiatrists and Clinical
women and 0.25% to 0.5% of men are stalked (Australian Bureau of Sexuality
Statistics, 1996; Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998). Although these behaviors
have been documented for centuries, stalking has been recognized as a More > >
social problem only during the last decade (Meloy, 1999; Mullen et al.,
2000). The media began using the word stalking in the late 1980s to describe persistent following of
celebrities. It was soon generalized to include a wide range of recurrent harassments and an equally
diverse range of victims. Successful media campaigns established stalking as a public issue and
stimulated legislative changes to allow the more effective prosecution of stalkers.

California passed the first anti-stalking statute in 1990, followed shortly by the rest of the United States
as well as Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and now some European countries. It was only after
stalking became a specific form of offensive behavior that behavioral scientists and health care
professionals began to systematically study stalkers and, equally important, the impact of their conduct
on the victims.

The Stalker's Victim
Stalking is predominantly a victim-defined crime. The victim's fear changes the perception of the
behaviors from inappropriate, intrusive and inept, to damaging and criminal. This is not to trivialize
being stalked, but to place the experience of the victim in its proper place as the defining characteristic.

A criminal offence usually requires both criminal intent and an action. A significant proportion of
stalkers, however, have no obvious criminal intentions. For example, they might wish to initiate a new 1

Hall (1998) reported that 41% of the 145 victims studied had been 2 . reported that 58 had been threatened. Vol. McAnaney et al. The Violence of Stalkers Zona et al. Meloy. yet rarely results in serious physical injury. Nonetheless. media.. Psychiatric Times. 1995. and many resorted to substance abuse. http://www. 38% were hit or beaten. Sleep disturbance was common. Similar levels of distress and disturbance were reported in Hall's study (1998). 1999). In addition. 2001 relationship or restore a lost one. 6% of stalkers assaulted third parties whom they believed were impeding their access to the target. (1993) were the first to systematically study assault in stalking. 1998. Pathý and Mullen (1997). and 22% were sexually assaulted. Harmon and colleagues (1998) reported that 46% of stalkers exhibited violent conduct. Meloy (1999. Personal victims are most likely to be stalked by an ex-partner. Over half had symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Professional victims (such as health care providers. 4 April 1. are in our view the most reliable source of information about intimidation.. it was thought to be a problem peculiar to celebrities. 1998) concluded that approximately half of all stalkers threaten the victim. if they are to be effective. The majority of stalkers who threatened their victims subsequently acted upon their stated intentions. Several classifications of victims have been proposed. however. The majority had to severely restrict their lives by changing or abandoning work. 1998). 1995.. employment. Zona et al. Mullen et al. and nearly a quarter of the victims were actively considering suicide as a means of escape. with assault higher among the nonpsychotic subjects with personality disorder or substance abuse. separated prior relationships into personal. Stalker Types There have been several attempts to describe the different types of stalker (Harmon et al. threats should be taken seriously.. Pathý and Mullen (1997) studied 100 victims of persistent stalking. 1993. have to define the offence in terms of the victim's reactions and not the perpetrator's intentions (Gilligan. The majority of those who threaten do not proceed to subsequent violence. 23 No. curtailing all social activities. They suggested a low risk of overt violence. Meloy and Gothard. Over 80% developed significant anxiety symptoms. These studies are based on samples of stalkers. and becoming virtual recluses. 1992. 1997. Anti-stalking laws. with only two out of 74 stalkers physically assaulting their victims. 1999. 1998. for example. No generally accepted classification has yet emerged. threats and violence. In contrast.. who come into contact with the lonely. Harmon and colleagues (1995). Zona et al. usually on the basis of the stalker's relationship to them (Fremouw et al. Kienlen and colleagues (1997) reported that 32% of stalkers in their study committed assaults. Victims. 43% had their property damaged. In addition. Violence occurs in approximately a third of the cases. Mullen et al.. Threats preceded assault in 70% of cases. (1999) reported over a third of the victims in their study were attacked by their stalker. professional. the inadequate and the aggrieved) are particularly vulnerable. Mullen et al. The impact on the victim's psychological and social well-being is considerable. 36% were assaulted and 7% suffered sexual attacks. Sohn. 11 subjects were kidnapped and two were victims of arson attacks.. acquaintance or none. Feelings of powerlessness and depression were common. in their sample of 100 victims. as those who proceed to assault have usually threatened previously. lawyers and teachers. It is the way in which they pursue their apparently benign goals that a reasonable person might find distressing and frightening. 1993).psychiatrictimes. Assault was significantly more likely for victims who had had a former intimate relationship with the stalker.. 1993). Now it is recognized that virtually anyone can fall victim to a stalker. When stalking first emerged as an issue. These victims often reported having been subjected to domestic violence prior to the end of the relationship (Tjaden and Thoennes. 1994). They are typically exposed to a wide range of harassments and are the most likely to be assaulted (Harmon et al.

the second from the prior relationship to the victim. Intimacy seekers were largely impervious to judicial sanctions. although often issuing threats. This attempted to capture the stalker's behavior in terms of both motivation and the needs and desires the stalking itself satisfies. however. The stalking is the act of vengeance. The Predatory pursue their desires for sexual gratification and control. The stalking provides an approximation of finding a partner. who could usually calculate their own advantage. 2001 Mullen et al.psychiatrictimes. such as following. When assaults were combined with substance abuse and a history of prior convictions. The psychotic subjects were most likely to send unsolicited materials. Mullen et al. In contrast. by the victim. and the nonpsychotic to follow and maintain surveillance. telephoning. They often had a treatable psychiatric disorder. do have significant levels of psychopathology. The Resentful respond to a perceived insult or injury by actions aimed not just at revenge but at vindication. if any. 4 April 1. counterproductive and. Given their ignorance or indifference to the usual courting rituals. relationship with in the mistaken belief that they are 3 . 2000). an extraction of reparation from the victim or both. and often regarded court appearances and imprisonment as the price to be paid in the pursuit of true love. particularly connected to personality disorder. the behavior maintains some semblance of continued contact and relationship with the victim. at worst. Vol. The rejected type. The stalking is a rehearsal for the stalker's violent sexual fantasies and a partial satisfaction of voyeuristic and sadistic desires. letter-writing and leaving notes. In contrast. Also best predicted by typology were assaults. ended the stalking. they use methods that are. relationship to the victim and psychotic/nonpsychotic dichotomy were combined. and the third a division into nonpsychotic and psychotic subjects.. however. The psychotic and nonpsychotic were equally likely to threaten. at best. The Incompetent are would-be suitors seeking a partner. and. they accounted for most of the explained variance. They described five subtypes: The Rejected respond to an unwelcome end to a close relationship by actions intended to lead to reconciliation. the predatory stalkers concentrated almost exclusively on furtively following and maintaining surveillance. 23 No. the rejected. Intimacy seekers were the most prolific letter-writers. The rejected were the most likely type to assault and the resentful. to some extent. the risks of threatening and violent behavior. http://www. (1999) proposed a multiaxial classification.. were the least likely to resort to overt violence. and they also sent the most unsolicited gifts and other materials. Psychiatric Times. Duration was longest in the rejected and intimacy seekers and shortest in the predatory. often responded to the threat or imposition of judicial sanctions by curbing their behavior. that when effectively managed. When the typology. or inevitably will be loved. the result predicted the duration and nature of the stalking. The Intimacy Seekers pursue someone they have little. repeatedly approaching. terrifying. The rejected used the widest range of behaviors. and therapeutic interventions can play a role in preventing a relapse. For the stalker. but the nonpsychotic were twice as likely to proceed to assault. the response to management strategies (Mullen et al. 1999. The first axis was a typology derived primarily from the stalker's motivation. The stalking satisfies needs for contact and closeness while feeding fantasies of an eventual loving relationship. The best predictor of stalking duration was typology.

Stalking is criminal (in most jurisdictions). in terms of judicial sanctions. becomes too high. however. References Australian Bureau of Statistics (1996). 2000). Victims' distress can only be relieved by stopping the stalker. Vol. Stalking on campus: the prevalence and strategies for coping with stalking. Conclusions Stalking.. evoked a rapid response from the criminal justice system. J Forensic Sci 42(4):666-669. can be very difficult to engage therapeutically. Knowledge about the nature and impact of stalking has been less forthcoming but is gradually accumulating. Hopefully the combination of appropriate criminal justice and therapeutic interventions will soon be able to relieve the distress of both victims and stalkers. 23 No. the latter often prisoners of their futile and self-damaging pursuits. Gilligan MJ (1992). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Pathý is assistant clinical director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health. Psychiatric Times. In managing the stalker. usually abandon their harassment if the cost to them.psychiatrictimes. The resentful. The predatory were generally paraphilics. 4 April 1. The challenge is to prevent them from harassing the next victim who catches their fancy. they rarely benefit from mandated treatment. Australia 1996. selecting the appropriate balance of judicial sanctions and therapy that will best end the stalking and reduce the chances of future recurrences (Mullen et al. http://www. They 4 . who all too often were both self-righteous and self-pitying. Dr. the choice between criminal sanctions and therapy is not either/or. but is a behavior in which mental disorder can often play a role. Unless they have an overt paranoid illness. Mullen is professor of forensic psychiatry at Monash University in Australia and clinical director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health. the choice should be pragmatic. 2001 The incompetent type could usually be persuaded to abandon the pursuit of their current victim with relative ease. Women's Safety. Dr. Pennypacker J (1997). Westrup D. Stalking the stalker: developing new laws to thwart those who terrorize others. Rather. Management of their sexual deviance is central to the prevention of stalking recidivism. Georgia Law Review 27:285-342. once established as a social problem. Fremouw WJ.

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