Women who stalk: Who they are and how they do it
When we hear about stalkers, we generally think of men. But there are certainly women who stalk [estimated at 6% to 26% of stalkers] and now we have some research to give us information on identifying them. Like their male stalker counterparts, women who make threats are more likely to be violent; women who write letters are less likely to be violent; and women [and men] who stalk their prior sexual intimates are the most likely to be violent.
This research article was based on a large database of stalkers (N=1005) from which a sample of 143 female stalkers was gathered. [We would like to believe that this is not a study using college student subjects at a major university…] According to the article abstract,
“the typical female stalker was a single, separated, or divorced woman in her mid-30s with a psychiatric diagnosis, most often a mood disorder. She was more likely to pursue a male acquaintance, stranger, or celebrity, rather than a prior sexual intimate. Their pursuit behavior was less proximity based and their communications more benign than those of the male stalkers”.
There are many other ways that female stalkers vary from males and the article is a good (if somewhat disturbing) read. According to the researchers, the incidence of female stalkers appears to be rising over the past decade. While men still comprise the majority of stalkers, women “comprise a large minority of those who engage in unwanted pursuit which frightens another”. A review of the literature on gender differences in stalking behavior shows that:
- Male stalkers are more likely to be prosecuted than female stalkers.
- There appear to be comparable rates of violence [1 of 3 female stalkers will threaten and 1 of 4 will be violent toward the target or the targets property in equal measure] and psychopathy with male and female stalkers.
- Female stalkers are more persistent than male stalkers given certain motivations.
In the current study, the researchers found that “contact frequency” was different between men and women stalkers. While there was no difference in the stalkers who contacted more than once a week or weekly, women were more likely to contact sporadically every month or every 2-3 months.
There was also a difference in what the researchers call the “primary pattern of pursuit”. Female stalkers never used third parties to deliver their messages. They were more likely to fax, write letters, or send gifts or packages but less likely to make personal contact with the target or commit burglaries.
Women stalkers were also more benign in their communications than were male stalkers. They were more likely to “just communicate” or “seek help” than the men but also “less insulting”. Women made fewer threats (either implied or direct) and women were more likely than men to threaten the family or friends of the target (or even threaten to harm themselves). When women were violent, it was more likely to be predatory than emotionally driven. And women were more likely (much more likely) to be violent if they were stalking a victim with whom they had a prior history of sexual intimacy.
There is much more in this article and if you have a situation where you are trying to understand or learn more about female stalkers, this is a good place to start. Although we rarely find differences between male and female jurors in pre-trial research, there are such differences in the subset of men and women who stalk.
Meloy JR, Mohandie K, & Green M (2011). The female stalker. Behavioral sciences & the law, 29 (2), 240-54 PMID: 21351135