Stalking information

The incidents of domestic violence, bullying, harassment and stalking are increasing in Australian Society according to statistics. The following article in "The Age" newspaper reported that the number of stalking victims in Victoria is about one in four in the population of that State. The same statistic probably applies to most States of Australia.

One in four have been stalked: study

October 5, 2003

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/10/04/1064988455400.html?oneclick=true

Quote starts here "Its perpetrators are obsessed, its victims under siege. Melissa Marino reports on the crime that cost one woman everything.

One in four Victorians has been a victim of stalking, and one in 10 subjected to protracted harassment over at least a month as rates of the crime continue to rise, according to the most recent research.

A study by clinicians at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health has shown that victims were frightened by being stalked and that assaults by stalkers were "disturbingly frequent" - in 18 per cent of cases.

The most common methods of harassment involved unwanted telephone calls, intrusive approaches and being followed.

Most victims reported significant disruption to their daily lives, irrespective of whether violence was involved.

Stalking made headlines last week with the sentencing of athlete Robin Rishworth to 14 months' jail after he was convicted of stalking cross-country skiing champion Belinda Phillips.

Rishworth had stalked Ms Phillips since 1995, been convicted twice before and had breached intervention orders in the process.

Psychiatrist Michele Pathe - one of the study's authors and the director of the Stalking and Threat Management Centre - said athletes and celebrities were at a higher risk than others of being stalked, particularly by people seeking intimacy who became obsessed and could even believe they were in a relationship with them.

Overall, women were at the biggest risk of being stalked.

Dr Pathe said studies around the world consistently showed about 80 per cent of perpetrators were men with women most often the victims.

In her study, which involved a survey of 3700 Victorians, twice as many women reported being stalked at some time in their lives than men.

Younger people were also significantly more likely to report being stalked than older people, she said.

Dr Pathe said there was no doubt stalking rates were increasing - a growth that could not just be put down to a greater awareness of the crime, which was legislated against in 1994.

She said the increase reflected a culture of blame, more social instability and relationship breakdown leaving people feeling lonely and rejected.

The internet had also fuelled the rise, she said.

"There is no doubt it (the internet) is becoming a wonderful new mode of harassment," she said. "It's certainly increasing as more and more stalkers have access to it."

Dr Pathe said the internet was now a factor in 10 per cent of cases seen at the Stalking and Threat Management Centre, up from about 2 per cent in the mid-1990s.

Dr Pathe said stalkers could intrude into their victims' lives very effectively through the internet and laws could not appropriately address it.

The Victorian Government currently has legislation before parliament to make cyberstalking a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison - the first of its kind in the country.

Dr Pathe said stalking had a big impact on victims, with most drastically altering their lifestyle to cope. Some moved house or left jobs, others increased alcohol or drug use and some became suicidal, she said.

"They often become withdrawn, fearful and hyper-vigilant, and many of them develop anxiety disorders. Many develop depression, and a quarter of victims actually become suicidal," she said. "They really are quite major disruptions to their lifestyle and unless it's very minor stalking for a very short period of time, most are very significantly affected by it." End of quote

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The following partial extract is taken from " Stalking : policing and prosecuting practices in three Australian States" This whole paper is downloadable in pdf form from Stalking : policing and prosecuting practices in three Australian States

Reading the following extract (it is stongly recommended that you read the whole pdf paper on the above link), it can be seen that there are problems in convicting stalkers in some states of Australia and differences between the states in conviction rates etc

Quote from Stalking : policing and prosecuting practices in three Australian States

Tables have been left out of this extract, see the pdf version for the complete article

"Before examinining the numbers of stalking incidents recorded by the courts,it is important to clarify the difficulties entailed in comparinginter-jurisdictional data. It iscrucial to note that the following data is not being presented as acomparative analysis of the three different states. Given the number of ways in which differentjurisdictions count various of-fences, there is no methodologically sound manner in which different data can be compared(see Ogilvie 2000).

The number of stalking casesreported to police is intrinsically linked to victim responses to thecrime. Police statistics are notnecessarily representative of the“real” extent of criminality,because victims do not always report crimes.

In relation to stalking, the research data indicate that responses from victims to stalking range from ignoring the pursuer, to obtaining restraining orders against them. For example, in Fremouw et al.’s(1997) research, the coping strategies employed by victimsaltered according to the sex of thevictim, but none of the top five responses included contacting the police.

Instead, the females were more likely to ignore or hang upon unwanted phone calls while the males were more likely toconfront their stalker (Fremouwet al. 1997). In general, however, it would appear that a reasonable percentage of victims report stalking to the police.

The National Violence against Women survey recorded that 55 per cent of female victims and 48 per cent of male victims reported stalking to police (NationalInstitute of Justice 1998, p.15). The Women’s Safety Survey recorded that 58 per cent of women who had been stalked by a male in the last 12 months,reported the incidents to police,followed by 57 per cent having reported the behaviour if they experienced stalking at some timeduring their lifetime (AustralianBureau of Statistics 1996, p. 68).Similarly, Pathé and Mullen report that 69 per cent of their respondents referred the matter to the police (1997, p. 14).

What has not been examined previously is the number of cases that are reported to police, and the proportion of those reported that are eventually cleared.

It must be noted, however,that just as police data cannot readily be compared across jurisdictions, so, too, court data cannot be readily compared across jurisdictions. For this reason the counting strategy adopted here is to use individual units (that is, each convicted charge is counted just once) wherever possible.Turning to the three jurisdictions, Figures 4, 5 and 6 show the numbers of stalking offences reported and cleared forVictoria, Queensland and South Australia.It can be seen that in Victoria, cases are more likely to be proven than dismissed, and in 1998/99, 172 stalking charges were proven in relation to 98 which were dismissed (see Figure 4).

In South Australia, however,the pattern changes with themajority of cases being dismissed. This was most noticeable in 1997,where of the 18 cases that reachedcourt, 15 were dismissed, and similarly in 1998 of the six cases that reached court, five weredismissed (see Figure 5). A similar pattern occurs in Queensland (see Figure 6).Indeed, in 1998/99 of the 62 charges that were either proven or dismissed in the lower court,50 were dismissed. This trend of a higher number of charges being dismissed than proven was evident across all of the years with the exception of 1997/98,where the numbers were exactly equal, with 28 charges being dismissed and proven respectively. It is important to note at this point that Queensland is one of the few states that recorded whether charges were committed to a higher court for either trial or sentencing. Between 1994/95 and1998/99, nine cases were committed to a higher court for sentencing, and 259 werecommitted to a higher court for trial (Ogilvie 2000).

Conclusion It would appear that in all three states examined there is arelatively high level of reportingof stalking to the police. There are substantial differences, however,in the number of charges ultimately cleared, and the number resulting in the imposition of some sentence.What does this indicate withrespect to current stalking legislation, and police and courtpractices?

No “hard and fast”conclusions can be drawn from these indicative findings, the data is preliminary, the samples are small and the issues of different police and court practices are complex. While the research is at an early stage, there are nonetheless a range of policy interventions that might usefully be considered. Specific considerations that need to betaken into account with respect to both criminal justice system interventions and future research priorities include:\
•Addressing weaknesses in the legislation :Issuesrelating to intent,overbreadth and credible threat need to be considered in relation to the possibilities for prosecuting different stalking behaviours. Strategies such as utilising a variety of different sentencing levels could beconsidered (as has occurredin Western Australia) in order to better address th erange of stalking behavioursthat may occur.
•Provision of training for police units:Briefing sessionscould be provided to police units, detailing the criteria involved in stalking legislation, the range ofpossible manifestations ofstalking, and the potential lethality of stalking when it occurs as an aspect ofdomestic violence(McFarlane et al. 1999).
•The necessity of sustained intervention:Even in caseswhere an intervention has been successfully implemented, the stalking behaviours may “flare up”following the cessation of intervention strategies."

End of extract

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