Female Stalkers, Part 1: What is Stalking and Can Men Be Stalked by Women? discusses statistics and research on stalking behaviors, which gender engages in stalking behaviors more, what constitutes stalking, who is more likely to stalk, and why it’s important for men to be able to identify stalking behaviors in women. This article provides a list of common stalking and harassment behaviors in which some women (and men) engage and the distinction between non-dysfunctional romantic pursuit behaviors and stalking and harassment.
Why Men Are More at Risk
Many men don’t realize that their exes, girlfriends and wives engage in behaviors that can be described as stalking and harassment. In many cases, these behaviors could be classified as criminal. Stalking and harassment are also a form of abuse. In some ways, men are more at risk for these behaviors because many stalking acts engaged in by female stalkers are considered to be acceptable female courtship behaviors (they’re not normal; they’re often an indication of pathology) and/or because society and law enforcement do not take male stalking victims seriously.
Male stalking victims are more vulnerable than their female counterparts because men are more likely to be held responsible for their own victimization (e.g., he deserved it), female perpetrators aren’t considered as dangerous as male perpetrators, and because stalking by an ex-partner is generally considered less dangerous than stalking cases involving strangers (Sheridan et al, 2003). Several studies show that male victimization can be just as severe as female victimization and ex-partners have been consistently shown to be the most common and dangerous kind of perpetrator (Palarea et al., 1999; Zona, Palarea, & Lane, 1998). It’s high time that law enforcement, the courts, psychology and society at large gets up to speed on this issue.
Stalking and Harassment Behaviors List
When you first begin dating someone and are in the first blush of excitement, it’s acceptable to text or email repeatedly throughout the day, explore the other person’s interests, drop by to visit without an invitation and generally make yourself available to her or him. After a break-up, many of these behaviors may also be acceptable if one or both parties are attempting a reconciliation, but when do these behaviors cross the line from romantic pursuit to stalking and harassment?
In order to compile a list of stalking behaviors, I reviewed 4 stalking/harassment/perpetration assessment scales: 1) the Composite Stalking Scale (Davis, Ace, & Andra, 2000; Dye & Davis, 2003); 2) the Courtship Persistence Inventory (Sinclair & Frieze, 2000); 3) the Relationship Pursuit (Cupach & Spitzberg, 2000; 2004) and 4) the Unwanted Pursuit Behavior Inventory (Palarea & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 1998; Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Palarea, Cohen, & Rohling, 2000). The following list of behaviors are a compilation from these 4 scales:
- Spying on you.
- Following you.
- Driving by your house, place of work, school or other locations where you’re likely to be.
- Tracing your whereabouts, activities and other relationships on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
- Hacking into your computer, email, Facebook accounts, etc. (i.e., electronic stalking).
- Creating a false identity to gain access to your Facebook/social media pages or enlisting a friend to do so.
- Stealing your post mail.
- Going through your trash.
- Breaking into your car, home or office.
- Seeking out your friends, family and colleagues to talk about you/get information about you.
- Searching for information about you by means other than asking you for it.
- Threatening to harm/kill herself.
- Threatening to harm/kill you.
- Threatening to harm/kill your children.
- Threatening to harm/kill your new wife/girlfriend, children, family members or friends.
- Threatening to harm/kill a pet.
- Threatening your job and your reputation.
- Threatening your freedom by making false allegations to the police.
- Threatening to/destroying your property or your loved one’s property.
- Sending you unwanted gifts.
- Violating protective orders.
- Verbally abusing you.
- Physically abusing you.
- Psychologically abusing you.
- Vandalizing your property or a loved one’s property.
- Threatening to divulge information that would be harmful to you.
- Blackmailing you.
- Holding you physically or blocking your egress to force you to speak with/listen to her.
- Taking you someplace against your will to force you to talk with her.
- Forcing you or tricking you into having sex (e.g., getting you intoxicated).
- Calling you repeatedly to discuss “the relationship” or showing up on your doorstep uninvited to discuss “the relationship.”
- Showing up uninvited to your home, school or place of work to see you.
- Invading your personal space by standing too close or brushing against you.
- Doing unrequested favors.
- Insisting that you “be friends.”
- Seeking physical proximity by applying for jobs where you work, joining your gym, church, professional/social/sports groups or clubs, moving into your neighborhood or building, etc.
- Manipulating/coercing you into dating or rekindling the relationship.
- Making exaggerated expressions of affection to you and your friends and family (e.g., saying , “I love you” within a few days/weeks of knowing you or after the break-up; doing unwanted favors, giving your friends and family gifts, etc.)
- “Befriending” your current romantic partner in order to harm the relationship and/or monitor you.
- Telling stories about you to family, friends and loved ones to show how well she knows you.
- “Befriending” your friends to get close to you.
- Enlisting your friends to intercede on her behalf to talk or be involved with her.
- Trying to destroy your other relationships—both platonic and intimate.
- Calling you repeatedly and hanging up.
- Repeatedly texting/emailing/leaving voicemails.
- Sending photos of herself or of the two of you or posting photos of the two of you together on Facebook and other social networks.
- Writing about you or tweeting about you.
- Smearing and defaming you online to get your attention or to punish you.
- “Objectifying” you so that she can abuse, attack, malign and hurt you without feeling empathy or remorse.
- Leaving or sending threatening objects (e.g., marked up photos of you, photos taken without your knowledge, pornography, weapons, drugs, bizarre objects like an animal heart or soiled feminine hygiene product, etc.)
- Stealing your personal objects to possess “a part of you.”
- Using the court and law enforcement to harass you (e.g., making false allegations, filing restraining orders, petitioning the court for frivolous changes in custody, etc.)
- Attempting to take your children away or limit your access by making false allegations or engaging in Parental Alienation.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Additionally, research finds that female stalkers tend to be more “creatively aggressive” in their stalking acts, tend to engage in cyberstalking with greater frequency, are more motivated by the desire for an intimate relationship with their victim, and are more likely to engage in stalking activities during daylight hours than their male counterparts (Alexy et al, 2005; Purcell el al., 2001, p. 2056). [*To spare myself comments pointing out that men engage in these behaviors, too; yes, they do. However, I tailor myself writing for a male audience. When women-focused abuse/domestic violence websites make their language gender neutral, so will I.]
The Courtship-Pursuit-Stalking Behaviors Distinction
So how does one distinguish between enthusiastic romantic pursuit behaviors and stalking/harassment? From the studies I’ve read and my professional experiences, here’s my litmus test for distinguishing between courtship/reconciliation behaviors and stalking/harassment:
- Are her behaviors unwanted?
- Do her behaviors make you uncomfortable, annoyed, irritated, fearful, anxious, paranoid or angry?
- Do her behaviors cause your loved ones, family, friends, current girlfriend/wife to feel uncomfortable, annoyed, irritated, fearful, anxious, paranoid or angry?
- Are her behaviors causing you to change your routine, look over your shoulder and be secretive about your plans, so that she won’t be able to “accidentally show up” where you plan to be?
- Are her behaviors causing you to be secretive about your life, accomplishments or good fortune because you fear she will act out or go crazy out of jealousy and/or a longing to be included in these aspects?
- Are her behaviors causing you to spend money, time and energy to avoid her, neutralize the effects of her behaviors and/or get her to back off?
- Does she persist in these behaviors after you’ve specifically told her ‘not interested,’ ‘leave me alone’ and/or told her to stop?
Please check back in a few days for the third article in this series, which will discuss common personality characteristics of women who stalk and the personality characteristics of men who are more likely to become their targets.
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Alexy, E. M., Burgess, A. W., Baker, T., & Smoyak, S. A. (2005). Perceptions of cyberstalking among college students. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 5, 279-289.
Davis, K. E., Ace, & Andra, M. (2000). Stalking perpetrators and psychological maltreatment of partners: anger-jealousy, attachment insecurity, need for control, and break-up context. Violence and Victims, 15: 407-425.
Dye, M. L. & Davis, K. E. (2003). Stalking and psychological abuse: common factors and relationship-specific characteristics. Violence and Victims, 18: 163-180.
Palarea, R. E., Zona, M. A., Lane, J. C., & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J. (1999). The dangerous nature of intimate relationship stalking: Threats, violence, and associated risk factors. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 17, 269-283.
Sheridan, L., Gillett, R., Davies, G., Blaauw, E., & Patel, D. (2003). ‘There’s no smoke without fire’: Are male ex-partners perceived as more entitled to stalk than acquaintance or stranger stalkers? British Journal of Psychology, 94, 87-98.
Sinclair, H. C. & Frieze, I. H. (2000). Initial courtship behavior and stalking: how should we draw the line? Violence and Victims, 15: 23-40.
Zona, M. A., Palarea, R. E., & Lane, J. C. (1998). Psychiatric diagnosis and the offender-victim typology of stalking. In J. R. Meloy (Ed.), The psychology of stalking (pp. 69-84). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.