Victims of cyberstalking take more self-protective measures,
pay higher out-of-pocket costs to combat the problem and experience greater
fear over time than traditional stalking victims, said Matt Nobles of Sam
Houston State University.
Nobles, along with Bradford Reyns of Weber State University,
Kathleen Fox of Arizona State University and Bonnie Fisher of the University of
Cincinnati, recently published "Protection Against Pursuit: A Conceptual
and Empirical Comparison of Cyberstalking and Stalking Victimization Among a
National Sample" in Justice Quarterly. The study compares the similarities
and differences in experiences reported by victims of stalking and
While a precise definition of cyberstalking is elusive, one
common definition is repeated harassment or threats facilitated by technology,
including electronic communication using the Internet, e-mail and social media.
What the study found
The study found that while victims of both stalking and
cyberstalking use many similar self-protective behaviours, a greater proportion
of cyberstalking victims reported that they had to take time off; change or
quit a job or school; avoid relatives, friends or holiday celebrations; and
change their email address when compared to victims of traditional stalking.
The financial costs associated with victimisation, which
could include legal fees, property damage, child care costs, moving expenses or
a change in phone number, were also much higher for cyberstalking victims, with
an average dollar value of more than $1 200 spent compared to about $500 for
traditional stalking victims.
Finally, there were interesting differences in how stalking
and cyberstalking victims responded to their experiences. Fear at the onset of
victimization was related to adopting self-protective behaviors for both
groups, but fear over time was associated with adopting more self-protective
behaviours for cyberstalking victims only. This suggests that the stalking
episode may provoke an immediate reaction for many victims, while the
cyberstalking condition tends to build and becomes more severe over time.
The research was based on the 2006 Supplemental
Victimization Survey from the National Criminal Crime Victimization Survey,
which explored stalking as part of a national sample conducted by the US Census
Bureau to identify the extent and characteristics of crime in a given year. The
2006 Supplement was the most current data available for analysis.
70% of victims were
In addition to the differential impact on victims, the study
also revealed differences between age and gender of cyberstalking versus
stalking victims. In cases of stalking, approximately 70% of the victims were
women, while female victims only represented 58% in cyberstalking cases. In addition,
the average age for stalking victims in the sample was 40.8 years old, while
cyberstalking victims averaged 38.4 years old.
As an emergent crime type, the cyberstalking study can be
used by professionals and state legislatures to better understand the causes
and consequences of cyberstalking and how the crime can be addressed in the
criminal justice system.