Stalking of battered women before and after seeking criminal justice help

Date

1999-08

Authors

Lemmey, Dorothy

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Abstract

Stalking of intimate partners is a new problem only currently being researched. Most studies on stalking are on high profile celebrity stalking victims, despite the fact that the vast majority of stalking cases are perpetrated by current or past intimate partners. Tjaden and Thoennes (1998) found 1.4 million Americans are stalked every year and women are four times more likely to be stalking victims and twice as likely to be stalked by an intimate partner. Tjaden and Thoennes found that 50% of stalking victims reported the behavior to police and indicated a warning from police was more effective to stop stalking behavior than any other formal law enforcement intervention. This study's purpose was to determine presence of stalking behaviors at the time of women's helpseeking (filing charges against an intimate) and if the occurrence of stalking behaviors changed over time.

A descriptive, longitudinal, repeated-measures design was used to determine difference in number of stalking behaviors at time of helpseeking and at 3 and 6 months following initial helpseeking. A nonprobability, consecutive sample of 90 women attempting to file assault charges against an intimate partner during a 30-day period was used. Stalking was measured by the 17-item Stalking Victimization Survey (SVS), based on Tjaden and Thoennes' (1998) National Victim Survey and Sheridan's HARRASS (1998) instrument. Items include: being followed or spied on, sent unsolicited letters or written correspondence, or finding the perpetrator standing outside the victim's home, school, or work place.

The research question, “What is the difference in the number of stalking behaviors experienced by women before as compared to 3 and 6 months after these women seek help from the criminal justice system?”, was analyzed using a one-way repeated-measures ANOVA. Results from multiple comparisons indicated significant differences between number of stalking behaviors at initial and (a) 3 months (t (82) 9.368, p < .0001) and (b) 6 months (t (82) = 9.561, p < .0001).

Results indicated helpseeking with the criminal justice system can significantly decrease stalking behaviors and they remain at reduced levels at 6 months. Nursing implications are that referring battered/stalked women to file charges with the police department may result in a decrease in stalking behaviors and may possibly save women's lives.

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Keywords

Health and environmental sciences, Social sciences, Battered women, Criminal justice, Help-seeking, Stalking, Women victims

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