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Power and Control Dynamics in Prestalking and Stalking Situations

NCJ Number
Journal of Family Violence Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: August 2003 Pages: 207-217
Date Published
August 2003
11 pages

This exploratory study examined the role of power and control in stalking situations and in the prior relationship between the stalker and the victim.


Although definitions of "power" and "control" vary in the literature, the key feature of nearly every definition of "power" is the ability of one person to affect another person. If one person can get another person to do something they would not otherwise do, the first person has exercised power. Data for this study were obtained from a nonrandom sample of 187 women who had been stalked by former intimates. The women had been repeatedly harassed, followed, and/or threatened during the past 5 years by a former intimate partner, to the extent of having experienced emotional distress, fear of bodily harm, actual bodily harm, or the belief that the stalker intended harm. The women were interviewed about the characteristics of the stalking behavior, perceived motivations of the stalker, and the prior relationship with the stalker. Seventy-five percent of the subjects reported having experienced controlling behavior during the former relationship with the stalker. The ways in which the male partners/stalkers exercised control or power over their partners varied, and it included behaviors in the financial, social, psychological, and physical aspects of their interactions. Nearly all of the women indicated that the relationship began without a perception that their partners were controlling, but their partners became controlling early in their relationship. Victims typically reported that on one or more occasions when they threatened to leave their partners, they were convinced to stay. When victims finally left the relationship, former partner's power was perceived to be threatened, and attempts were made to regain power over the victims through various means that constituted stalking. Psychological control during the stalking was reported by nearly all of the victims, and social control during stalking was reported by over two-thirds of the women. Fewer than half of the victims reported a physical assault during the stalking; and just over 25 percent of the women reported efforts at financial control during the stalking period. 8 tables and 37 references

Date Published: August 1, 2003