In the shadows: perceptions of in-person, phone, and cyberstalking
Previous research has found that our perceptions concerning stalking characteristics and behaviours are misaligned with actual data on criminal harassment. In order to evaluate the extent to which views of stalking are influenced by our beliefs, the present study assessed perceptions of harassment in relation to the type of stalking (in-person/phone/cyber), gender of the stalker (man/woman), the stalker-victim relationship (stranger/acquaintance/ex-partner), and the types of threat involved (victim harm/self harm). Participants (N = 813) read a vignette detailing a series of related stalking incidents, and then completed a judgment questionnaire to assess perceptions of the crime, victim and perpetrator, and necessity of criminal justice intervention. Results indicated that cyberstalking was minimized, and that participants often failed to recognize behaviours associated with this form of harassment. Stalking perpetrated by men was seen as the most serious, and woman-perpetrated stalking was viewed as a sign of flattery and not violence. Finally, participants most readily identified stalking by strangers and associated this with the greatest levels of threat, dangerousness, and mental illness. Victim blaming also was evidenced in this study and was most prominent when stalkers and victims knew each other, especially as former intimate partners. These results reveal how public views on stalking are often in conflict with statistical data on crime commissions and how these could have legal ramifications on the perceptions of defendants and accusers in court.
Presented on April 21, 2022 at Student Research Day at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.
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