Some Scientific Backdrop To Stalking

My previous past concerned my own harrowing experience with a determined stalker. I had intended though I had not specified in that post that I would follow it up with a more studied explanation from “the literature” of my profession on stalking.

The author is a forensic psychologist of great skill and renown, having read a number of his articles and heard a few addresses by him at really good meetings, I turned to his body of work to try to find a single piece that I hoped would cover this subject well. My memory was right and through the magic of Google I found just such a source that is comprehensive and well written enough to actually be understood, no small task in our complex field who subject matter often strains the limits of language.

The author is Dr. J. Reid Meloy and his piece though a bit dated, published in 2007, is quite good and worth reading. The reference in the old fashioned method is “Editorial: Stalking: the state of the science,” in Criminal Behavior and Mental Health, 17: 1-17, 2007, John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Focusing on the psychological phenomenology of stalking, he writes of the legal consensus that “three elements are necessary: an intentional activity, a credible threat, and the induction of fear in the victim.” He further expands these elements writing :it seems apparent that there must be a pattern of unwanted pursuit, the behavior must pose an implicit or explicit threat o the safety of the victim, and the victim must experience fears as a result of the intentional behavior of the pursuer.”

Dr. Meloy goes on to explore this apparent contradictory behavior of pursuing someone who is very much UNinterested in the stalker’s attentions, in the field of attachment theory. Normal attachment behavior studies sort of began many decades when one of the earliest animals ethnologists, behaviorists, Konrad Lorenz of Austria noticed that baby ducks immediately “bonded” to the mama duck after hatching. And the ever goofy scientific mind bent on confirming and testing ostensible discoveries found that if he had the ducklings see another animal, a dog, cat or another extra-species mammal such as Konrad Lorenz dressed in his Eastern Alpine lederhosen and Austrian hiking shorts, suspenders, with a mustache and goatee and one of those cool mountain hats with the proverbial feather sticking out from the hat bring could easily “imprint” the future famous baby ducks who would quack and happily march after him their “mama.” Countless cartoons for decades after Lorenz’ discovery utilized this vignette to  humorous effect. Austrian Dr. Lorenz and his baby ducks pointed the way to Jane Goodall’s work with the great apes and many others who started to study the lifelong importance of those earliest bonding attachments.

In stalking behavior interview based research of hundreds of stalking perpetrators demonstrated their attachment modes through control, following, jealousy and separation behaviors.

Epidemiologically, stalkers are more men than women, that victims are far more women than men. Approximately half the stalkers would have had an intimate relationship with their stalker victim. And as can be surmised, stalking is very often precipitated into action by a rupture of that relationship with the rejected party being unable to accept the break off of the relationship. Stalking episodes can and do typically last up to two years. One out of seven stalkers are psychotic and often fixated on celebrities or famous or glamorous figures or leaders. Ominously the incidence of violence in stalking is not minor, up to one third of stalkers escalate to violence toward the object of their pursuit.


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