Have you ever been the victim of a stalker? Were you forced to shut down your social media pages? Did you invest in a big dog? Move house? Or take legal action?
It is estimated that 19% of women in Australia will be stalked at some stage in their lives*, with approximately one-fifth of all victims suffering from some form of physical assault by their stalker.
Bond University researcher, Matthew Raj, is looking for stalking victims to participate in the comprehensive nationwide study into how victims have responded to stalking behaviours and what they’ve found to be effective.
This is the first study worldwide to examine, in-depth, the impact of ‘when’ victims respond, to help determine what action, when taken, is the most effective.
“The aim of the study is to identify what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the victim’s response to stalking,” said Mr Raj, a British barrister who is undertaking the research at Bond as part of his PhD in Criminology under the supervision of Dr Terry Goldsworthy.
“We’re looking specifically for female participants, aged 18 years or over, who have been stalked at some time in their lives, who are willing to complete an online survey.
“The questionnaire will take around 40-60 minutes and looks at what behaviours the victims were subjected to, what actions they took, when they took them, and how effective those actions were in stopping the stalker, as well as any physical, emotional, financial and social consequences they suffered.”
According to Mr Raj, there are any number of ways that victims respond to stalking – from ignoring it altogether or simply asking the stalker to stop bothering them through to moving house or taking legal action.
“Until now, there’s been no evidence-based research undertaken into when it is best to take action. This survey will allow us to see what actually works and how quickly it stops the behaviour in different circumstances.
“Ultimately, the responses will be used to develop a series of best practice recommendations based on what has proven to be effective in a range of situations.
“This sort of detailed information will not only help future victims but will assist the work undertaken by victim support groups and law enforcement agencies, as well as providing a solid basis for public education campaigns.
“It will also significantly enhance the database of information about stalking offences generally in terms of the different behaviours that characterize stalking, and their duration and intensity.”
Stalking episodes can extend over periods ranging from a few weeks up to more than a decade, with victims describing their experiences as “emotional or psychological rape” and “psychological terrorism”.
In more recent years, the popularity of social media has also seen the emergence of cyber stalking via Facebook, Twitter and other public sites.
Last month, singer/model/actress Sophie Monk became the first Australian celebrity to have an alleged cyber stalker charged with harassing her on social media after she was bombarded with up to 150 sexually explicit and threatening Twitter posts every day over a period of five years.
“The option of taking legal action against a stalker by involving the police, taking out a restraining order or filing charges is often criticised as being ineffectual or, in the worst cases, serving to escalate the behaviour,” said Mr Raj.
“Hopefully, our research will provide more evidence-based data as to whether legal action is the best approach or if there are more effective ways to put a stop to the stalking.”
The results of this nationwide survey are due to be published by the end of this year.
The Victim Responses to Stalking Survey can be completed anonymously online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/stalkingresponses or you can contact Matthew Raj at Bond University at [email protected]
* http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/4906.0Chapter9002012