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OPINION

What Motivates Stalkers? The Evil Purposes Behind Pursuit

law enforcement on crime scene following a stalking based crime
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Wendy L. Patrick By Saturday, 22 June 2024 08:42 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Research Reveals a Common Purpose Fueling a Dangerous Fire

Having prosecuted stalking cases for almost 30 years, I can share what survivors and their friends and families already know: stalking is an insidious crime that often flies under the radar and is significantly underreported.

Although it does not result in physical marks, stalking behavior inflicts trauma through emotional abuse and pain.

Victims can help us understand the dynamics of stalking through sharing their experiences. But actual stalkers can too.

Research explains:

Why Stalkers Stalk

Cristina Civilotti et al. (2023) sought to explore why stalkers stalk by asking actual stalkers. In their study evaluating 14 detained male stalkers they discovered the men had difficulty linking mental status and behaviors.

Those men additionally possessed ruminative thinking, with a "recurrent sense of injustice" as well as mental processes which were distorted, as well as a low state of awareness of the mental state of themselves or others.

Their research discussed some important aspects of stalking behavior. Civilotti et al.  (ibid.) note that a critical factor underlying the persistence of staking behavior is ruminative thinking.

They describe rumination as repetitive self-focused thoughts linked with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, less effective problem-solving, and enhanced recall of negative memories: all characteristics associated with stalkers.

Further, Civilotti et al. (supra) note that distorted thinking patterns in people who engage in stalking behavior is obsessive rumination of a sentimental type, focused on a victim who becomes the stalker’s focus.

They explain: a stalker’s thoughts and behaviors toward the target are motivated by the objective and desire to establish or re-establish contact, a goal which becomes obsessive to the extent that personal worth and happiness becomes dependent on its attainment.

They also note that in contrast to most people, who move on after being rejected, stalkers intensify the pursuit, convinced that at some point, he or she will receive a positive response from the victim.

Unfortunately, as many stalking victims find out the hard way, it doesn’t take much to signal a "positive" response.

Attempts to Dissuade Pursuit

Stalking victims, especially if they know the stalker, may try to stop the behavior themselves. Some try to "be nice" and try to reason with the pursuer, or otherwise attempt to talk the stalker into ending his or her behavior.

These techniques are ineffective. 

Why? 

Because they involve contact — which is often the stalker’s goal, regardless of how hard they must try. If a victim answers the 30th phone call or text message, the stalker learns it takes 30 tries to reach the victim.

Instead of engaging in any type of reciprocity, a solid, unequivocal, firm "No!" followed by zero contact is the best practice.

Victims can also find assistance from law enforcement, health care professionals, supportive friends and family, and workplace threat assessment teams.

By understanding stalking behavior, as well as best practices to stay safe and where to seek help, we can work together as a community to protect each other.

This article was originally published in Psychology Today.

Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, Ph.D., is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.

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WendyLPatrick
Victims can find assistance from law enforcement, health care professionals, supportive friends and family, and workplace threat assessment teams. By understanding stalking behavior, as well as best practices to stay safe, we can protect each other.
pursuit, pursuer
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2024-42-22
Saturday, 22 June 2024 08:42 AM
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