Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Harms Caused by Partner Stalking

By Logan, T. K.; Walker, Robert | Violence and Victims, July 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Harms Caused by Partner Stalking


Logan, T. K., Walker, Robert, Violence and Victims


This study examined stalking prevalence, patterns, and harm among 210 women with civil protective orders (PO) against violent male partners or ex-partners. Results suggest that stalking is associated with PO violations and almost every other type of partner violence. Also, women who have been stalked by violent partners report significantly more distress and harm than even women who experience PO violations but not stalking. Results of key informant perceptions suggest many victim service (n = 116) and criminal justice professionals (n = 72) do not seem to understand the extent or gravity of the harms caused by partner stalking especially when contrasted with victim reports of harm. Furthermore, key informant reports of their advice to women being stalked by an ex-partner were not consistent with recommendations for stalking victims in general.

Keywords: partner violence; partner stalking; coercive control; abuse; domestic violence; stalking

In very general terms stalking can be described as an unwanted and repeated course of conduct directed toward a specific individual that induces fear or concern for safety (Cupach & Spitzberg, 2004 ; Westrup & Fremouw, 1998 ). Prevalence studies estimate that between 1 in 12 to 1 in 14 women (7%-8%), and 1 in 45 men (2%) had been stalked at some point in their lives (Basile, Swahn, Chen, & Saltzman, 2006 ; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998 ). Close to 80% of stalking victims 1 know their stalker (Baum, Catalano, Rand, & Rose, 2009 ; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007 ), and the largest category of stalkers targeting females is intimate partners (including boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, husbands, and ex-husbands; Melton, 2000 ; Sheridan, Blaauw, & Davies, 2003 ; Spitzberg, 2002a ; Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007 ; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998 ).

There is substantial evidence suggesting that stalking is a form or extension of partner violence and that relational history provides a context where cues of implicit or explicit threat are more meaningful and more menacing to the victim than they would be to someone being stalked without a relationship history with the stalker (Logan, Cole, Shannon, & Walker, 2006 ; Logan & Walker, 2009a ). The relationship history also gives stalkers a wider range of opportunities and of tactics to use in stalking, including their intimate knowledge of victims and their life, children, and others close to the victim (Logan, Cole, et al., 2006 ; Logan & Walker, 2009a ). Adding to the terror of being stalked by a prior violent partner, there is evidence that intimate partner stalkers are more likely to threaten their victims and to follow through on those threats than stalkers targeting non-intimates (James & Farnham, 2003 ; Mohandie, Meloy, McGowan, & Williams, 2006 ; Palarea, Zona, Lane, & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 1999 ; Rosenfeld, 2003, 2004 ; Rosenfeld & Harmon, 2002 ; Sheridan & Davies, 2001 ). Furthermore, research indicates stalking is a significant predictor of violations of a protective order (PO) and is associated with every other kind of violence (Logan & Cole, 2007 ; Logan & Walker, 2009b ). Some studies also suggest that stalking by a violent partner contributes uniquely to psychological distress (Basile, Arias, Desai, & Thompson, 2004 ; Logan & Cole, 2007 ; Logan, Shannon, Cole, & Walker, 2006 ; Mechanic, Weaver, & Resick, 2008 ). Given all of the risks associated with stalking it is surprising that arrest rates, prosecutions, and convictions for stalking are low, especially when compared with the incidence estimates of stalking (Brewster, 2001 ; Logan, Walker, Faragher, & Hoyt, 2009 ; Miller, 2001 ; National Center for Victims of Crime, 2007 ; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998 ).

There may be several reasons for this discrepancy between prevalence and incidence estimates and the number of legal cases of stalking (Logan & Walker, 2009b ). First, criminal justice representatives may not understand the true nature of the stalking, or the extent of the harm that stalking causes victims (Klein, Salomon, Huntington, Dubois, & Lang, 2009 ; Logan, Walker, Stewart, & Allen, 2006 ). …

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