Intersections of Stalking and Technology-Based Abuse: Emerging Definitions, Conceptualization, and Measurement

Abstract

Intimate partner violence, stalking, and technology-based abuse increasingly intersect as online surveillance has become more easily accessible. Despite the ubiquity of information communication technologies across all aspects of social life, definitions and measurement of stalking have not kept pace with this cultural shift. This article describes stalking and technology-based abuse across three samples of intimate partner violence survivors. Over a period of 6 years (2012–2018), data were collected from survivors of intimate partner violence (n = 1137) receiving services from domestic violence programs (including shelter). Three forms of data collection were employed across two studies: pen-and-paper surveys, web-based surveys, and qualitative semi-structured interviews. Data were combined and analyzed to document and compare women’s reports of stalking and technology-based abuse. Across the two quantitative samples, 62–72% of women reported experiencing direct stalking and 60–63% reported experiencing technology-based abuse by an intimate partner. Qualitative data are used to describe and contextualize women’s reports of stalking and technology-based abuse. Stalking and technology-based abuse are contingent upon the context, including frequency, duration, history of abuse, and patterns of behavior. Due to the subjective nature of online interactions, it is challenging to create definitions and measures that capture these forms of abuse. Indeed, survivors themselves may not have a clear understanding of the threshold at which monitoring behaviors become abusive. Researchers should work to better understand definitions, measurement, and consequences of technology-based abuse and stalking while advocates and legislators move toward creating legal protections for survivors.

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Correspondence to Jill Messing.

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Messing, J., Bagwell-Gray, M., Brown, M.L. et al. Intersections of Stalking and Technology-Based Abuse: Emerging Definitions, Conceptualization, and Measurement. J Fam Viol 35, 693–704 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-019-00114-7

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Keywords

  • Intimate partner violence
  • Technology
  • Abuse
  • Stalking