When it comes to stalking, there is an underlying community perception that ‘stalking is romantic’, ‘stalking is not serious’ and ‘victims are to blame’, Australian researchers have found.
A joint study by Swinburne University of Technology and Monash University on understanding community attitudes towards stalking identified the three underlying attitudes that minimise and justify stalking behaviour.
In the study, 244 community members and 280 police officers completed the Stalking Related Attitudes Questionnaire (SRAQ), a scale that attempts to measure stalking-related attitudes and beliefs by asking participants to agree or disagree with statements about stalking.
Dr Troy McEwan from the Centre for Forensic and Behavioural Science at Swinburne said the primary aim of the study was to investigate what kinds of attitudes and beliefs about stalking exist in the community, and whether these attitudes influence people’s behaviour.
“Understanding and being able to reliably measure stalking-related attitudes and beliefs would be of use in anti-stalking education campaigns and offender and victim treatment programmes,” McEwan said.
Researchers also wanted to identify whether gender differences were evident in attitudes about stalking; whether police officers endorsed these myths, which would affect how they respond to stalking cases; and whether attitude endorsement had any effect on determination of guilt in a fictional stalking case.
Results showed that more men than women supported the stalking myths. There was not a huge difference between police and community members, although responses indicated that police officers took stalking behaviour more seriously than community members.