Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Covid-19, Stalkers, and Policy: Profiling Stalkers Using Unsupervised Learning on Factors That Mediate Violence in Interpersonal Relationships and Its Implications to Pandemic Preparedness
by Miller, Barbara C., Psych.D., The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 2020, 226; 28087132
Abstract (Summary)

Particularly problematic during the coronavirus quarantine, intimate-partner stalking is (a) a crime that comprises a constellation of threatening and repeatedly intrusive behaviors, (b) predominantly committed against women, and (c) often an attempt to maintain control within an intimate relationship. Once intimate-partner violence is present within an intimate relationship, research shows that the relationship tends to degenerate into a cycle of violence. Results from simulations using logistic regressions suggest that pre-stalking violence increases the chance of stalker-on-victim violence 2.9-fold (from 25% [0.17 0.39] to 72% [0.50 to 0.88] probability). At present, due to the limited precedent that exists for the current crisis, law enforcement and legal agencies have yet to develop pandemic preparedness plans to guide the prioritization of resources. We seek to add to the guidelines, yet to be developed, to assist law enforcement and court policy in guiding identification and management of intimate-partner stalkers most likely to engage in repeated acts of violence using unsupervised learning to profile perpetrators and understand what are the populations that are most at risk of being victimized.

Employing hierarchical clustering, this study profiled two types of stalkers, nonviolent and repeatedly-violent, using archival data from interviews with female victims formally intimate with their stalkers collected by Brewster (1998b). Results show that nonviolent stalkers tend to stalk more educated, wealthier victims and engage in fewer threats, but they are more persistent after short relationships without children. Findings indicate that this profile of stalker is typically deterred as soon as things turn violent. By contrast, repeatedly-violent stalkers are more likely to prey on low-income women, who have a history of intimate-partner violence victimization prior to becoming victims of stalking and who are more likely to become the victims of violence during stalking. Furthermore, these repeatedly-violent stalkers have a propensity to attempt and achieve reconciliation, multiple times prior to, or after, the stalking event. Most (~70%) previously intimate stalkers do not attempt reconciliation; however, repeatedly-violent stalkers almost always do. In light of the stay at home measures and extensive organizational closures caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), early reports have demonstrated increased rates of domestic violence worldwide in areas that have implemented shelter-at-home mandates (Campbell, 2020; Dong & Bouey, 2020). In addition, closed courtrooms, rescheduled trials, and unstaffed victims’ service agencies have reduced victims’ capacity to access legal means to address their safety through access to legal resources that can insulate them from previously-intimate perpetrators of violence. Our findings suggest law enforcement should prioritize stalking and intimate-partner violence victims who have a history of violence with their perpetrator, especially if the couple has reconciled previously. In turn, our results show, where possible, courts should attempt to consider a more nuanced understanding of circumstances surrounding victims of intimate-partner violence who reconcile with their stalker due to the dynamics inherent within the cycle of violence and ultimately avoid engaging in victim-blaming. Finally, future plans should consider how these dynamics are exacerbated during a crisis, including during the current COVID-19 pandemic and develop preparedness plans to meet the victims’ needs (Campbell, 2020). In conclusion, while the future is uncertain, pandemic emergencies might be here to stay, so the law enforcement community needs to be educated about reconciliation patterns in intimate-partner violence victims. Courts and the judicial system should avoid judging victims who reconcile with their assailants too harshly, especially during national emergencies. This underscores the role of the clinical psychology community in guiding these institutions to adapt to our new reality. Put simply, “It has always been the high privilege of the learned profession to brave special interests and even at times, the ‘ethical sense of the community’” (Witmer, 1915, p. 12).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Scherer, Michael, Dass-Brailsford, Pricilla
School: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Department: Clinical Psychology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Clinical psychology, Individual & family studies, Criminology, Behavioral psychology
Keywords: COVID-19, Domestic violence, Interpersonal violence, Pandemic, Profiling, Stalking
Publication Number: 28087132
ISBN: 9798672189307
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