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Domestic Stalkers

Domestic stalking occurs when a former partner, family member, or household member threatens or harasses another member of the household. This definition includes common law relationships as well as long-term acquaintance relationships. The domestic stalker is initially motivated by a desire to continue or reestablish a relationship, a desire that can evolve into an attitude of "If I can't have her no one can."

A study by Burgess and others (1997) examined data from 120 male and female batterers of varied age, marital, educational, and economic status, who attended group treatment for batterers or who were charged with domestic violence in a district court. One-third of the sample group admitted to stalking, and their behaviors indicated the possibility of continuing violent acts even though separation with the partner had occurred. Researchers determined that both open and clandestine stalking occurred. At this point it is not clear if this sample is representative of a particular pattern. Stalkers feel that they have a right to do what they do. They also did not feel that the victim provoked their stalking behaviors. Such attitudes suggest that the triggering event is less predicated on behavior of the victim and resides more in the fantasy life of the stalker. A potential stalker might be provoked by displacement, for example, being humiliated or disappointed in areas of life outside of the home.

Factor analysis of batterers who stalk compared to nonstalking batterers found three stalking patterns of pursuit. First, stalkers are open in their attempts to contact their former partners; when this fails they begin to contact others and discredit the partner. The second factor is the conversion of positive emotion of love to the negative emotion of hate. Stalkers essentially go underground with the clandestine behavior, including anonymous or hang-up phone calls and entering the residence without permission. Just before they go public again, there is a phase of ambivalence indicating the splitting of love and hate, when, for example, they might send gifts and flowers. The third factor is when they move from the mix of public and secret behavior to a public display of stalking and targeting behavior, and, in the sample just cited, entered the victim's residence and displayed violence.

The stalking behavior reveals far more personal disturbance in the perpetrator than the loss of control and anger arising purely within an interpersonal exchange, for example, the man who has had a bad day at work, comes home and becomes enraged at the wife, feeling she has slighted him or not attended to the house. This is in contrast to a man who is fixed on a partner and pursues her with little or no provocation from the victim.

The stalking behavior represents a self-generating pattern within the individual rather than being linked to the victim. Such intense predatory preoccupation suggests such diagnostic categories as: obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychotic behavior, delusional fixation, or a combination of behaviors.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawStalking - Victimology And Targets Of Stalkers, Motivation, Relationship To Target: Nondomestic Stalkers, Domestic Stalkers