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Keywords:

  • epidemiology;
  • harassment;
  • Stalking

Objective: This study examines the extent and nature of stalking victimisation in a random community sample.

Method: A postal survey was distributed to 3700 adult men and women selected from the electoral roll in the State of Victoria. Outcome measures included the lifetime and annual cumulative incidence of stalking, the duration and methods of harassment, rates of associated violence and responses to victimisation.

Results: Almost one in four respondents (23.4%;432) had been stalked, the unwanted behaviour they were subjected to being both repeated and fear-provoking. One in 10 (197) had experienced a protracted course of stalking involving multiple intrusions spanning a period of at least one month. Women were twice as likely as men to report having been stalked at some time in their lives, though the rates of victimisation in the 12 months prior to the study did not differ significantly according to gender. Younger people were significantly more likely than older respondents to report having been stalked. Victims were pursued by strangers in 42% of cases. The most common methods of harassment involved unwanted telephone calls, intrusive approaches and following. Associated threats (29%) and physical assaults (18%) frequently arose out of the stalking. Significant social and economic disruption was created by the stalking for 63% of victims. Most sought assistance to manage their predicament (69%).

Conclusions: The experience of being stalked is common and appears to be increasing. Ten percent of people have been subjected at some time to an episode of protracted harassment. Assaults by stalkers are disturblingly frequent. Most victims report significant disruption to their daily functioning irrespective of exposure to associated violence.