BACKGROUND This paper examines the social and psychological impact on victims of stalking.
METHOD A group of 100 victims of stalking completed a 50-item questionnaire on their experiences.
RESULTS The majority of the victims were subjected to multiple forms of harassment including being followed, repeatedly approached and bombarded with letters and telephone calls for periods varying from a month to 20 years. Threats were received by 58 subjects, and 34 were physically or sexually assaulted. All but six victims made major changes in their social and work lives, with 53% changing or ceasing employment and 39% moving home. Increased levels of anxiety were reported by 83%, intrusive recollections and flashbacks by 55%, with nightmares, appetite disturbances and depressed mood also being commonly reported. Suicidal ruminations were acknowledged by 24% of victims. The criteria for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder were fulfilled in 37% of subjects, with a further 18% having the clinical features but not qualifying for a stressor involving threatened or actual physical harm.
CONCLUSIONS The study indicates the extent of the social and psychological damage sustained by those subjected to persistent stalking, and underlines the inadequacy of the current legal and medical responses to the needs of these victims.