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Investigating Stalking in New Zealand

15 August 2005

Study to Investigate Prevalence of Stalking in New Zealand

Researchers at The University of Auckland are about to begin an exploratory study to investigate the prevalence of stalking in New Zealand.

The study, by Professor Frances Hughes and Associate Professor Robyn Dixon from the Faculty of Medical and Health Science, will be split into two parts, focussing on university students and on mental health nurses and doctors. Both groups have been found by overseas studies to be at particularly high risk of being stalked.

Professor Hughes, of the School of Nursing, says stalking has been defined as repeatedly imposing unwanted contacts and/or communications to such an extent that the victim fears for his or her safety.

"According to research in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, stalking afflicts a greater proportion of the population than previously thought," says Professor Hughes. "A recent Australian study found that 25% of respondents reported having been stalked, with victims suffering a range of negative effects - both social and economic."

Associate Professor Dixon, the director of the Centre for Child and Family Policy Research, is leading the student component of the study.

She says that international research indicates that stalking is a significant problem for young people and appears to be on the increase. However, there was no research available on its prevalence in New Zealand.

The study, which will involve surveying students at The University of Auckland, will explore the characteristics of young adult victims and perpetrators. Associate Professor Dixon says it will also explore the development of stalking behaviours and in particular explore the links between childhood bullying and stalking.

"Overseas research shows us that most young victims are stalked by someone they know with whom they have had a prior relationship, including friends, acquaintances and those they have dated."

Professor Hughes says mental health clinicians experience a higher incidence of stalking than either students or the general population and a high proportion of this is related to their work.

"Clinicians are of particular interest, not only because they may have been victims themselves, but because they are often required to treat perpetrators and victims. Instances that would be seen as stalking by the general population may not be seen as such by clinicians, so little is done in response.

"Even when the behaviour is seen as stalking, if the perpetrator is a client then clinicians often feel that they should be able to deal with it, or that it is an expected part of their job."

Doctors and nurses working in mental health will be surveyed through their professional organisations.

Dr Hughes says the research is part of an international study which will compare the stalking experiences of mental health clinicians and university students between several countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.

ENDS

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