Interpersonal Relationships and Stalking: Identifying When to Intervene
One of the issues arising out of the introduction of stalking legislation is how to distinguish between the kinds of courting behaviours, reconciliations, termination of relationships and other social interactions that are within the 'normal range' and those behaviours that are perceived by the wider community as stalking. This study examined the impact of intent, persistence, perspective and gender on perceptions of behaviours following the dissolution of a relationship. Responses of 868 community members indicated that behaviour was only perceived as illegal when explicit evidence of intent was present rather than when it was absent. Ratings for foreseeability of arousing fear were higher when explicit evidence of intent was present rather than absent and when behaviour constituted a repeated rather than single episode. Participants were more likely to determine that the behaviour of the actor would be repeated when the scenario depicted a repeat episode rather than a single episode. Suggested target responses differed according to whether or not the scenario depicted explicit evidence of intent to arouse fear. Results are discussed in relation to previous studies on community perceptions of stalking as well as the capacity of the research to inform interpretations of stalking legislation.
Law and Human Behavior