‘There's no smoke without fire’: Are male ex-partners perceived as more ‘entitled’ to stalk than acquaintance or stranger stalkers?


School of Psychology, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK (lph1@le.ac.uk).


In a stalking scenario, the prior relationship between and the gender of stalker and victim were systematically manipulated in order to judge culpability and consequences for the persons involved. Written vignettes were presented to 168 participants who responded via seven Likert scales. Stalker-victim relationship had three levels: ex-partner, acquaintance and stranger. In accordance with the ‘Just World’ hypothesis (Lerner, 1980), the victim was judged as having greater responsibility for the stalking when their harasser was an ex-partner or a prior acquaintance rather than a stranger, and police intervention was felt to be most necessary when the stalker was a stranger. Sex of stalker and victim was manipulated, and the following comparisons proved significant: when the perpetrator was male, bodily injury to the victim was seen as more likely and police intervention as more necessary than when the perpetrator was female; and male victims were viewed as more responsible for the scenario and as possessing greater powers to alleviate it. The Just World hypothesis and gender stereotypes provide a plausible account for these findings. Future research should determine whether criminal convictions show similar biases towards convicting male and stranger stalkers more often than female and ex-partner stalkers.