Cutting edge: Stalking

Paul E. Mullen, Michele Pathé and Rosemary Purcell provide some insights into a modern-day problem.
STALKING is a new crime, and a new category of fear for a new century. The infringer on our privacy, the watcher at the window, the cyberspace intruder, the follower, and ultimately the attacker. Both the isolation of modern urban living and the fear of others are embodied in stalking. Aloneness, both as valued privacy and feared loneliness, has a place in its construction. The term stalking has come to describe persistent attempts to impose on another person unwanted communications or contact. Communications can be by telephone, letters, e-mail and graffiti, with contact being via approaches, following, and maintaining surveillance. Associated behaviours include sending unsolicited gifts and ordering or cancelling services on the victim’s behalf (e.g. pizzas and electricity supply). Stalking may also involve threats and can escalate to both physical and sexual violence. The term ‘stalking’ began to be used by the American media in the late 1980s to describe repeated intrusions upon the famous, usually by disordered fans. Stalking was then generalised, first to include the harassment of women by their ex-partners and subsequently to all forms of ongoing harassment that create fear whatever the relationship between stalker and victim (Lowney & Best 1995).

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