Intimate Partner Stalking: Criminal Justice System Response

This Web page is based on Research on Partner Stalking: Putting the Pieces Together (pdf, 27 pages), prepared by T.K. Logan for NIJ.

April 20, 2012

On this page find:

Reporting Partner Stalking to the Police

Limited information exists about the rates of reasons victims do not report partner stalking to the reporting partner stalking to the police.

  • Several studies estimated that between 52 percent and 72 percent of partner stalking victims have talked to the police about stalking or incidents that occurred during the course of stalking.[1-4]
  • From a sample of female college women, only 17 percent of stalking incidents were reported to the police.[5]
  • Partner stalking victims cite a number of different reasons for not reporting their experiences to the police or for not reporting every incident of stalking.

Reasons victims do not report partner stalking to the police:

  • Police couldn't or wouldn't do anything. [6-8]
  • Afraid of the stalker. [9]
  • Lack of proof. [10-11]
  • Concerned nobody would believe them. [12]
  • Didn't want police or courts involved. [13]
  • Not a police matter/private or personal matter. [14]
  • Stalking not severe enough. [15]
  • Consequences of calling the police are too negative. [16]
  • Not always clear how to report. [17]

Police Identification of Partner Stalking

Police appear to have a limited understanding of partner stalking as shown through surveys, key informant interviews, and actual charges.

  • Police officers have limited understanding of stalking statutes, policies, or how to identify and handle stalking cases. [18] In addition, criminal justice system key informants have misinformation and limited knowledge about partner stalking cases. [19]
  • Several studies suggest police and other criminal justice system personnel are not always sensitive or helpful in partner stalking cases. For example, they sometimes do not take a report, which can be problematic in terms of victim documentation; and it appears they infrequently advise a victim to document their experiences, discuss safety planning, or refer them to victim services for more help. [20-27] There is some indication that, in some jurisdictions, partner violence is a lower priority than other crimes, which can impact responses to all types of partner violence including stalking. [28-29]
  • Police often do not charge stalking even when cases include elements of stalking. For example, in a review of 1,785 domestic violence crime reports, 1 in 6 cases had evidence of stalking but only 1 case had official stalking charges. And, for every 1 case of partner stalking identified by police, an estimated 21 were missed. [30]
  • Although it appears few stalking incidents reported to the police result in an arrest/charge (ranges between 29-39 percent), especially compared to the estimated or actual number of stalking cases, [31-36] a few studies suggest those most likely to call the police are those with more severe experiences of stalking threats and violence. [37-38]
  • If partner stalkers are charged, it appears they are often charged with crimes other than stalking such as protective order violations and assaults [39-41]
  • Even when partner stalking is charged, stalking charges are often amended to other, often lower, crimes such as assault, harassment, menacing, intimidation, terroristic threatening, protective order violation, vandalism, breaking and entering, robbery, trespassing, robbery, disorderly conduct and intimidation. [42-45]

Prosecution of Partner Stalking Cases

Consistent with arrests for partner stalking, charges and convictions for partner stalking are relatively rare.

  • Prosecutions and convictions for stalking are low especially when they are compared to the estimated number of stalking cases. [46-53]
    • In one study, 336 female partner stalking cases, only 15 percent were prosecuted (n=49), about 40 percent of those prosecuted were convicted (n=16), and about 56 percent of those cases were sentenced to jail or prison (n=9). [54]
    • Another study found that 36 percent of stalking cases were convicted. However, although partner stalkers were more violent than non-partner stalkers, stranger stalkers were more likely to be convicted of stalking-related offenses than partner stalkers. [55]
    • In a statewide analysis of males charged with stalking, the most frequent outcome for felony and misdemeanor stalking charges was dismissal (55 percent for felony and 62 percent for misdemeanor charges) and the least frequent outcome was a guilty disposition (14 percent for felony and 24 percent for misdemeanor charges). When amendment outcomes were considered, about one-third of all stalking charges resulted in a guilty conviction. [56]
  • Having a history of protective orders does not impact the rate of guilty dispositions for misdemeanor stalking charges, but those with two or more protective orders are more likely to be found guilty of felony stalking than those with no protective orders or just one prior protective order. However, protective order history is associated with subsequent felony charges, especially violent charges. [57]
  • Police reports of domestic violence incidents that compared police-identified stalking cases to cases that had elements of stalking but were charged with other domestic violence-related charges were examined. The researchers concluded, "Police identification of stalkers was significantly associated with increased likelihood of arrest and court prosecution compared to equivalent stalkers identified by police for non-stalking domestic violence offenders. Further, police identified stalkers without prior criminal histories or criminal abuse histories were significantly less likely to be charged with new domestic violence up to six years after police intervention." [58]
  • Researchers compared 5-year disposition trends for three common misdemeanor level partner violence related charges: Assault Fourth Degree Domestic Violence, Violation of a Protective Order, and Stalking Second Degree. An urban area and a rural area were compared. Across both areas stalking charges were about twice as likely to be dismissed and much less likely to have a guilty disposition compared to the other two crimes. [59]
  • There has been limited research on treatment for stalking offenders. However, one small study (sample of 29 individuals) found that stalking offenders on probation who completed a Dialectical Behavior Therapy program were less likely to be charged with another stalking offense during the follow-up period than offenders who dropped out of the program. Stalking offenders who completed the program also were less likely to re-offend compared to general published recidivism rates. [60]


[note 1], [note 21], [note 31], [note 37], [note 46] Brewster, M., "Legal Help-Seeking Experiences of Former Intimate-Stalking Victims," Criminal Justice Policy Review 12, 2 (2001): 91-112.

[note 2], [note 6], [note 15], [note 16], [note 23], [note 28], [note 48] Logan, T., J. Cole, L. Shannon and R. Walker, Partner Stalking: How Women Respond, Cope, and Survive, New York: Springer Publishing, 2006.

[note 3] McFarlane, J., J. Campbell and K. Watson, "Intimate Partner Stalking and Femicide: Urgent Implications for Women's Safety," Behavioral Sciences and the Law 20 (2002): 51-68.

[note 4] [note 9], [note 11], [note 12], [note 13], [note 14], [note 27], [note 35], [note 36], [note 52], [note 53] Tjaden, P., and N. Thoennes, "Stalking in America: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey," Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998, NCJ 169592.

[note 5] Fisher, B., F. Cullen and M. Turner, "Being Pursued: Stalking Victimization in a National Study of College Women," Criminology and Public Policy 1(2) (2002): 257-308.

[note 7], [note 10], [note 17], [note 29], [note 33], [note 40][note 59] Logan, T., R. Walker, W. Hoyt and T. Faragher, "The Kentucky Civil Protective Order Study: A Rural and Urban Multiple Perspective Study of Protective Order Violation Consequences, Responses, and Costs" (pdf, 183 pages), Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2009, NCJ 228350.

[note 20] Baum, K., S. Catalano, M. Rand and K. Rose, "Stalking Victimization in the United States," Special Report, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009, NCJ 224527.

[note 22] Logan, T., and J. Cole, "The Impact of Partner Stalking on Mental Health and Protective Order Outcomes Over Time," Violence and Victims 22(5) (2007): 546-562.

[note 24] Logan, T., R. Walker, C. Stewart and J. Allen, "Victim Service and Justice System Representative Responses about Partner Stalking: What Do Professionals Recommend?" Violence and Victims 21(1) (2006): 49-66.

[note 25] Melton, H., "Stalking in the Context of Domestic Violence: Findings on the Criminal Justice System," Women and Criminal Justice 15(3/4) (2004): 33-58.

[note 26], [note 34], [note 50] Miller, N., "Stalking Laws and Implementation Practices: A National Review for Policymakers and Practitioners," Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice,  2002, NCJ 197066.

[note 30] [note 41], [note 45] Tjaden, P., and N. Thoennes, "The Role of Stalking in Domestic Violence Crime Reports Generated by the Colorado Springs Police Department," Violence and Victims 15(4) (2000): 427-441.

[note 18] Farrell, G., D. Weisburd, and l. Wyckoff, "Survey Results Suggest Need for Stalking Training," The Police Chief  67(10) (2000): 162-167

[note 19], [note 32], [note 39], [note 43] Klein, A.K., A. Salomon, N. Huntington, J. Dubois and D. Lang, "A Statewide Study of Stalking and Its Criminal Justice Response," final report to the National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2009, NCJ 228354.

[note 38] Jasinski, J., and E. Mustaine, "Police Response to Physical Assault and Stalking Victimization: A Comparison of Influential Factors," American Journal of Criminal Justice 26(1) (2001): 23-41.

[note 42], [note 47], [note 56], [note 57] Jordan, C., Logan, T. Walker, R., and Nigoff, A., "Stalking Victimization: the Efficacy of Criminal Justice Response," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 18(2) (2003): 148-165.

[note 44] Purcell, R., M. Pathé, M. and P. Mullen, "Stalking: Defining and Prosecuting a New Category of Offending," International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 27 (2004): 157-159.

[note 49] Logan, T., A. Nigoff, C. Jordan, and Walker, R, "Stalker Profiles with and without Protective Orders: Do Protective Orders Make a Difference in Reoffending or Criminal Justice Processing?," Violence and Victims 17(5) (2002): 541-554.

[note 51] National Center for Victims of Crime, "The Model Stalking Code Revisited: Responding to the New Realities of Stalking," retrieved May 5, 2008

[note 54], [note 55] Sheridan, L., and G. Davies, "Violence and the Prior Victim-Stalker Relationship," Criminal Behavior and Mental Health 11 (2001): 102-116.

[note 58] Klein, A.K., A. Salomon, N. Huntington, J. Dubois and D. Lang, "A Statewide Study of Stalking and Its Criminal Justice Response," final report to the National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2009, NCJ 228354.

[note 60] Rosenfeld, B., M. Galietta, A. Ivanoff, A. Garcia-Mansilla, R. Martinez, J. Fava, V. Fineran and D. Green,  "Dialectical Behavior Therapy for the Treatment of Stalking Offenders," International Journal of Forensic Mental Health 6, 2 (2007): 95-103.

Date Created: April 20, 2012