Contemporary Rorschach Interpretation

By J. Reid Meloy; Marvin W. Acklin et al. | Go to book overview

12
A Rorschach Case Study of
Stalking: "All I wanted was to love
you . . . "

J. Reid Meloy
University of California, San Diego

The crime of stalking is usually defined as the willful, repeated, and malicious following or harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety. There are now explicit laws that prohibit this conduct throughout the United States and Canada, progenies of the first law born in California in 1990.

Although prosecuting people for stalking is quite new, the behavior itself is quite old. Louisa May Alcott was probably the first to write about it in her recently discovered and published novel, A Long Fatal Love Chase ( Alcott, 1866/1995). The French psychiatrist de CLérambault ( 1942) vividly described it in the context of erotomanic delusional disorder. And two prominent forensic cases in the United States, U.S. v. John Hinckley, Jr. (No. 81-306) and Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California ( 17 Cal. 3d 425, 1976), captured its essentials in the latter half of the 20th century.

Stalking, clinically labeled "obsessional following" ( Meloy & Gothard, 1995), has received an enormous amount of legal attention ( Guy, 1993). Clinical research, however, has been meager. I reviewed the extant studies published during the past 25 years -- 10 scientific papers involving 180 subjects -- and offered, in part, the following preliminary findings: Individuals who engaged in stalking were usually above average IQ, single or divorced males in their 30s, with prior criminal, psychiatric, and drug abuse histories. They pursued women about their age, the majority of whom were prior acquaintances (neither former sexual intimates nor complete strangers).1 Pursuits

____________________
1
This empirical finding contradicts the passionate assertions of professionals who work with victims of domestic violence that all stalking arises from violent marriages that were torn asunder. Stalking is not a synonym for domestic violence, but may be a variant of it in some cases ( Kurt, 1995). Zona recently reported that less than half of their sample of 200 obessional followers (of whom 74 were included in my review) were preceded by domestic violence ( M. Zona, personal communication, August 1995).

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