Stalking, while it may not seem as harmful as other forms of abuse, can be just as dangerous, and even harder to stop. Generally defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes fear, stalking may include harassing, annoying, alarming, abusing, tormenting or embarrassing an individual through obscene communication, threatening bodily harm, falsely reporting another person’s death or injury, or repeatedly calling by phone or sending electronic messages. Message and threats can also extend beyond the victims to include their families or households, or partners.
According to research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Crime Victims Institute (CVI), nearly half of all stalking victims experience at least one unwanted contact per week, with nearly one-quarter reporting harassment on a daily basis. Further, the majority of victims express that the stalking behaviors have occurred for more than six months, with more than one in ten victims reporting occurrences for more than five years. More than half of stalking victims express fear for themselves, their children or other family members, and victims frequently miss work for fear of being stalked.
Research also indicates that stalking victims experience various economic, social, physical and mental difficulties as a result of this crime, including increased anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares, suicidal ruminations, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
And according to research done by Matt Nobles of Sam Houston State University, along with Bradford Reyns of Weber State University, Kathleen Fox of Arizona State University and Bonnie Fisher of the University of Cincinnati, the outcomes are even worse for the victims of cyberstalking.
Defining cyberstalking as repeated harassment or threats facilitated by technology, including electronic communication using the internet, email and social media, Nobles and his team found that while victims of both stalking and cyberstalking use many similar self-protective behaviors, a greater proportion of cyberstalking victims reported that they had to take time off; change or quit a job or school; avoid relatives, friends or holiday celebrations; and change their email address when compared to victims of traditional stalking.
The financial costs associated with victimization, which could include legal fees, property damage, child care costs, moving expenses or a change in phone number, were also found to be much higher for cyberstalking victims, with an average dollar value of more than $1,200 spent compared to about $500 for traditional stalking victims.
Finally, there were interesting differences in how stalking and cyberstalking victims responded to their experiences. Fear at the onset of victimization was related to adopting self-protective behaviors for both groups, but fear over time was associated with adopting more self-protective behaviors for cyberstalking victims only. This suggests that the stalking episode may provoke an immediate reaction for many victims, while the cyberstalking condition tends to build and becomes more severe over time (Nobles et al., 2014).
In addition to the differential impact on victims, the study also revealed differences between age and gender of cyberstalking versus stalking victims. In cases of stalking, approximately 70 percent of the victims were women, while female victims only represented 58 percent in cyberstalking cases. In addition, the average age for stalking victims in the sample was 40.8 years old, while cyberstalking victims averaged 38.4 years old (Nobles et al., 2014).
Beyond the effects on the victims, stalking presents unique challenges in the criminal justice system because there generally isn’t much evidence to investigate, law enforcement must rely heavily on the victim to investigate and collect evidence and, when stalking occurs after a romantic relationship, it often become a battle of anecdotal evidence.
Clinicians, psychotherapists and counselors, however, can play a pivotal role in helping victims of stalking. Through recognizing the signs of stalking, addressing the common emotions and taking steps to restore a sense of safety, skilled clinicians can help victims reclaim their life, and recover their sense of self.
Stalking: Recognizing and Responding is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines the prevalence of stalking and provides therapists with the means to identify and assist victims/survivors.
Stalking is a crime that is far more prevalent and more dangerous than most people realize. It is a crime that is not well understood and that often goes unrecognized. Findings from various studies examining the prevalence of stalking suggest that community-based interventions are critical to raising awareness about this crime and promoting prevention efforts. Mental health professionals have an important role in identifying and treating victims/survivors of stalking through educating themselves about this crime.
Researchers have found that stalking victims have a higher incidence of mental disorders and comorbid illnesses compared with the general population, with the most robust associations identified between stalking victimization, major depressive disorder, and panic disorder. Additionally, intimate partner stalking has been identified as a common form of IPV experienced by women veterans that strongly contributes to their risk for probable PTSD. These findings indicate that it is important to assess for these symptoms and diagnoses when working with victims/survivors of stalking.
This course is designed to enhance your understanding of stalking by reviewing key findings from research on stalking, identifying common tactics used by stalkers, and exploring the intersections between stalking, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence. This course will also examine common reactions experienced by victims/survivors of stalking and discuss ways to assist victims/survivors in clinical practice. Course #11-17 | 2018 | 18 pages | 10 posttest questions
This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document).
Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more. Have a question? Contact us. We’re here to help!
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
Target Audience: Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapist (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), School Psychologists, and Teachers