The Role of Stalking in Domestic Violence Crime Reports Generated by the Colorado Springs Police Department

Article excerpt

A review of 1,785 domestic violence crime reports generated by the Colorado Springs Police Department found that 1 in 6 (16.5 percent) contained evidence the suspect stalked the victim. Female victims were significantly more likely than male victims to allege stalking by their partners (18.3 vs. 10.5 percent). Most stalkers were former rather than current intimates. Regardless of victims' gender, reports with stalking allegations were significantly less likely to mention physical abuse or victim injury in the presenting condition, to involve households with children, or to involve victims and suspects who were using alcohol at the time of the report. Female victims who alleged stalking by their partner were significantly less likely than female victims who did not allege stalking to be emotionally distraught at the time of the report, but significantly more likely to have an active restraining order against the suspect, and to sign releases to facilitate the police investigation. Police almost never charged domestic violence stalking suspects with stalking, preferring instead to charge them with harassment or violation of a restraining order.

Although stalking research is still in its infancy, several studies have established a link between stalking and violence in intimate relationships. Meloy (1998) conducted a profile of known stalkers and found that stalkers who had been sexually intimate with their victims were most likely to be violent toward their victims. Tjaden and Thoennes (1998) found that 81 percent of the women in the National Violence Against Women (NVAW) Survey who were stalked by a current or former husband or cohabiting partner also were physically assaulted by that partner, while 31 percent were raped by that partner. Tjaden and Thoennes (1998) also found that ex-husbands who stalked their partners were significantly more likely than ex-husbands who did not stalk to have engaged in emotionally abusive (e.g., shouting or swearing) and controlling behavior (e.g., limiting contact with others, jealousy, possessiveness, denying access to family income). Moracco and colleagues (1998) found that nearly a quarter (23.4 percent) of femicide victims in North Carolina who were murdered by a current or former intimate partner had been stalked before the fatal incident. And most recently, McFarlane and associates (1999) found that 76 percent of partner femicide victims and 85 percent of attempted partner femicide victims in 10 cities were stalked by their assailant in the 12 months preceding their victimization. McFarlane and colleagues (1999) also found a statistically significant association between intimate partner physical assault and stalking for both femicide and attempted femicide victims. Given these findings, it is not surprising that several researchers have recommended that stalking be considered a risk factor for further physical abuse or lethality in cases involving violence perpetrated against women by intimates (Felder & Victor, 1997; Jacobson & Gottman, 1998; McFarlane et al., 1999; Schaum & Parrish, 1995; Walker & Meloy, 1998).

In light of the apparent link between stalking and physical violence in intimate relationships, the U.S. Department of Justice encourages state and local jurisdictions to train police officers and other justice system officials about the potential risks associated with intimate partner stalking and the efficacy of implementing collaborative efforts to respond more effectively to domestic violence and stalking (Violence Against Women Grants Office, 1998). However, because antistalking laws have been enacted only recently (Hunzeker, 1992), there is no systematic information about the prevalence of stalking allegations in domestic violence crime reports or the use of antistalking statutes to respond to these allegations. Thus, it is unclear how often domestic violence crime reports involve stalking and whether suspects in these cases are charged with stalking. …