Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Gender Differences in Acknowledgment of Stalking Victimization: Results from the NCVS Stalking Supplement

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Gender Differences in Acknowledgment of Stalking Victimization: Results from the NCVS Stalking Supplement

Article excerpt

Research suggests that a significant portion of victims of interpersonal violence do not acknowledge or label their experience as a criminal victimization. Studies exploring unacknowledged victimizations have found that individuals are more likely to acknowledge victimization when the experience meets certain, often stereotypical criteria. This study addressed this issue by integrating literature on victim acknowledgment and stalking victimization to identify correlates of victimization acknowledgment among stalking victims. Data were drawn from the 2006 stalking supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), and the sample included both female and male victims of stalking. Findings revealed support for a "classic stalking script," which included a reliance on stereotypical types of stalking behavior (i.e., being spied on) that were shown to increase acknowledgment for victims of stalking. Results also described gender based correlates of victimization acknowledgment.

Keywords: decision making; victim acknowledgment; stalking; scripts; rape myths

A significant portion of victims who meet the legal criteria for criminal victimization do not label the experience as such (e.g., Bondurant, 2001; Botta & Pingree, 1997; Frazier & Seales, 1997; Harned, 2004; Kahn, Mathie, & Torgler, 1994; Koss, 1985; Pitts & Schwartz, 1993). These victims are often referred to as unacknowledged victims (Koss & Oros, 1980). In response to this discrepancy, research has begun to explore the mechanisms related to crime victims' likelihood of acknowledging and labeling a victimization experience as a crime. Much of this research has focused on sexual assault and reported that victims are more likely to label an experience as rape when the victimization meets certain criteria (e.g., extremely violent, use of a weapon, the offender is a stranger). These criteria, often described as stereotypical or myth-based, can greatly affect an individual's view of their own victimization experiences (Bondurant, 2001; Burt, 1991; Estrich, 1987; Hammond & Calhoun, 2007; Kahn et al., 1994; Melton, 2010; Ryan, 1988). Similarly, within the context of the perceptions of stalking victims, Sheridan, Davies, and Boon (2001) have suggested that comparable classic stalking criteria also exist (e.g., following the victim, watching or spying on the victim, making excessive unwanted phone calls, and sending the victim excessive notes, letters, or gifts, among others; see also Jordan, Wilcox, & Pritchard, 2007; Sheridan, Gillett, & Davies, 2000, 2002).

Stalking is a crime of repeated pursuit, and while variation exists at both the state and country levels with regard to legal definitions of stalking (Fox, Nobles, & Fisher, 2011; Tjaden, 2009; Tjaden, Thoennes, & Allison, 2000), an individual is generally considered to be a victim of stalking if they have been "repeatedly pursued in a manner that causes a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety" (Fisher & Stewart, 2007, p. 211). There are two key elements to this definition: one behavioral, indicating a course of conduct on the part of the offender characterized by repeated pursuit (two or more occasions) of the victim and one emotional, with the victim experiencing some form of emotional harm (i.e., fear) because of the offender's pursuit. In many jurisdictions, it must also be established that the stalker had intent to cause the victim fear or a comparable harm (Fisher, 2001; Tjaden, 2007). The subjective nature of fear, coupled with the difficulty in establishing intent on the part of the stalker to cause fear, has led to various definitions and legal criteria for stalking in the United States and abroad (Fox et al., 2011; see also Dietz & Martin [2007] for a discussion of the fear standard). Often these definitions are inconsistent, leading to an ambiguity of the stalking label that may have implications for acknowledgment among stalking victims. …

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