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The Criminal Justice System Response to Intimate Partner Stalking: a Systematic Review of Quantitative and Qualitative Research

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Abstract

Intimate partner stalking (IPS) is a significant public health and public safety issue, yet it remains a largely understudied area especially related to effective practices for victim engagement and response. This study uses systematic review methods to assess the range of criminal justice responses to IPS victimization and the extent to which these responses are successful in promoting survivor safety, well-being, and justice. Multiple scholarly and gray-literature databases were searched to locate studies on criminal justice responses to IPS. Over 336 records were reviewed dating back to 1993 and screened for inclusion in the study, resulting in a final sample size of 22 studies. Findings identify both formal and informal strategies used by the criminal justice system to address IPS. However, pervasive barriers exist including a lack of knowledge and training on stalking, difficulties in investigation and prosecution, and negative perceptions of victims. Successful strategies for mitigating IPS were linked to increased training of law enforcement and prosecution and the granting and enforcement of civil protective orders. Complexity of charging decisions was identified as a challenge for criminal justice entities and methodological and definitional issues make stalking a difficult area to study. Despite numerous barriers in effectively responding to victims of IPS, recommendations for improving responses across the criminal justice system include enhanced training and periodic refreshers across criminal justice entities, coordinated reviews of IPS cases, and better incorporation of the stalker’s criminal history to strategically pursue charges.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Librarians James Fort and Scott Hertzberg for their assistance in the systematic search process.

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The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Correspondence to Bethany L. Backes.

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Backes, B.L., Fedina, L. & Holmes, J.L. The Criminal Justice System Response to Intimate Partner Stalking: a Systematic Review of Quantitative and Qualitative Research. J Fam Viol 35, 665–678 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-020-00139-3

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