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In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics

Statistics of men's and women's experiences of stalking, including characteristics of the most recent episode of stalking by a male/female stalker

Reference period
Stalking - June 2017
Released
14/06/2017

Key statistics

  • 1 in 5 women (1.6 million) and 1 in 13 men (663,800) have experienced stalking during their lifetime.
  • 4.1% of females compared to 1.8% of males were more likely to experience stalking in the last 12 months.

Key findings

The 2012 Personal Safety Survey (PSS) collected information from men and women aged 18 years and over about their experience of stalking by a male and by a female. Stalking is defined by a range of behaviours which the person believed were undertaken with the intent to harm or frighten them. Behaviours include loitering, watching and following, interfering with or damaging a person's property, leaving material for the person that is offensive, being telephoned, sent mail or contacted electronically with intent to harm or frighten.

Image: An infographic with key figures on lifetime experiences of stalking. See text below for more information.
  • 1 in 5 women (1.6 million) and 1 in 13 men (663,800) have experienced stalking during their lifetime.
  • Women were more likely to have experienced stalking by a male (94.5%) than by a female (11.6%)(a).
  • Men were as likely to have experienced stalking by a male (51.9%) as by a female (58.2%)(a).
     
Image: An infographic with key figures on the characteristics of people who experienced stalking in the last 12 months. See text below for more information.

The following groups were more likely to experience stalking in the 12 months:

  • Females (4.1%) compared to males (1.8%).
  • Persons born in Australia (3.7%) compared to persons born overseas (1.9%).
  • Persons aged 18-54 years (3.9%) compared to persons aged 55 years and over (1.6%).
  • Unmarried persons (4.9%) compared to married persons (2.1%).
     
Image: An infographic with key figures on the relationship to stalker in the most recent episode of stalking. See text below for more information.
  • Both men and women were more likely to have experienced stalking by someone they knew than by a stranger.
  • An estimated 68% of women who experienced stalking by a male and 82% of women who experienced stalking by a female knew the stalker.
  • An estimated 59% of men who experienced stalking by a male and 87% of men who experienced stalking by a female knew the stalker.
     
Image: An infographic with key figures on whether the most recent episode of stalking was perceived as a crime. See text below for more information.
  • Men were more likely to perceive stalking as a crime when they were stalked by a male (55%) than by a female (18%).
  • Women were equally likely to perceive stalking by males and females as a crime (both 47%).
     
Image: An infographic with key figures on whether police were contacted about the most recent episode of stalking. See text below for more information.
  • Less than half of persons who have experienced stalking contacted the police about the most recent episode of stalking.
  • An estimated 42% of women who experienced stalking by a female and 37% of women who experienced stalking by a male contacted the police.
  • An estimated 21% of men who experienced stalking by a female and 53% who experienced stalking by a male contacted the police.
     
Image: An infographic on whether people experienced fear or anxiety after the most recent episode of stalking. See text below for more information.
  • Women were more likely to experience anxiety or fear as a result of stalking than men.
  • An estimated 42% of men stalked by a male and 28% of men stalked by a female experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode of stalking.
  • An estimated 62% of women stalked by a male and 54% of women stalked by a female experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode of stalking.
     
Image: An infographic with key figures on the duration of the most recent episode of stalking. See text below for more information.
  • Of women who experienced stalking by a female, an estimated 48% reported the most recent episode of stalking lasted for less than 6 months, 28% reported that it lasted between 6 months and 2 years, and 24% reported that it lasted for 2 years or more.
  • Of women who experienced stalking by a male, an estimated 56% reported the most recent episode of stalking lasted for less than 6 months, 29% reported that it lasted between 6 months and 2 years, and 15% reported that it lasted for 2 years or more.
  • Of men who experienced stalking by a female, an estimated 50% reported the most recent episode of stalking lasted for less than 6 months, 34% reported that it lasted between 6 months and 2 years, and 16% reported that it lasted for 2 years or more.
  • Of men who experienced stalking by a male, an estimated 56% reported the most recent episode of stalking lasted for less than 6 months, 28% reported that it lasted between 6 months and 2 years, and 16% reported that it lasted for 2 years or more(f).
     

Footnotes

  1. Men and women could have experienced stalking by both a male and a female, resulting in proportions summing to over 100%.
  2. Relates to all persons who have ever been stalked during their lifetime.
  3. Relates to persons who were stalked in the last 20 years.
  4. Contacting police includes contact made to the police directly by the person who experienced stalking, and contact made by someone else.
  5. Relates to persons who were stalked in the 20 years and the stalking has stopped.
  6. Estimate for men stalked by male for 2 years or more has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

Introduction

Stalking is considered a crime in every state and territory in Australia; however, the definition of stalking and the applicable legislation vary from one jurisdiction to another. Nevertheless, in Australia it is generally accepted that stalking consists of protracted and unsolicited behaviours, whether online or in ‘real life’ that instil feelings of apprehension and fear (AIC, 2000b).

An estimated 1.6 million women and an estimated 663,800 men in Australia have experienced stalking during their lifetime (ABS, 2013). The effects of stalking on an individual may include psychological impacts such as anxiety, panic attacks or chronic sleep problems, as well as lifestyle changes such as changing jobs, moving house or increasing personal security measures (AIC, 2000a).

This article examines the prevalence of stalking experienced by Australian men and women by using the results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Personal Safety Survey 2012 (PSS). Where a person had experienced an episode of stalking, additional information was collected about their most recent episode of stalking by a male and/or a female, in order to provide insight into the following:

  • their relationship to the stalker;
  • types of stalking behaviours experienced;
  • whether the stalking was perceived as a crime at the time;
  • whether police were contacted;
  • whether they experienced anxiety or fear; and
  • the duration of the stalking.
     

The additional information sheds light on the similarities and differences in how Australian men and women experience stalking, which may provide valuable insight for policy makers, service providers and researchers.

Overview of stalking experiences

Lifetime experience of stalking

An estimated 19% of women (1.6 million) and 7.8% of men (663,800) aged 18 years and over had experienced stalking during their lifetime.

Women were more likely to have experienced stalking by a male than by a female. Of the estimated 1.6 million women aged 18 years and over who had experienced stalking during their lifetime, 94% (1.5 million) had been stalked by a male.

Men were about as likely to have experienced stalking by a male as by a female. Of the estimated 663,800 men aged 18 years and over who had experienced stalking during their lifetime, 52% (344,800) had been stalked by a male and 58% (386,200) had been stalked by a female.

Men and women could have experienced stalking by both a male and a female, resulting in the proportions summing to more than 100%.

Experience of stalking in the previous 12 months

In the 12 months prior to the survey in 2012, an estimated 3.1% of Australians aged 18 years and over experienced at least one episode of stalking (538,000). This was an increase from the estimated proportion of persons who experienced stalking in 2005 (2.0% of the population aged 18 and over or 306,100) (ABS, 2006).

The following groups were more likely to experience stalking in the last 12 months:

  • females (4.1%) compared to males (1.8%);
  • unmarried persons (4.9%) compared to married persons (2.1%); and
  • persons born in Australia (3.7%) compared to persons born overseas (1.9%).
     

Persons aged 55 and over were less likely to experience stalking (1.6%) than all other age groups. The prevalence of stalking was similar across all other age groups.

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Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

Detailed information on the most recent episode of stalking

The remaining analysis focuses on the individual’s most recent stalking episode by a male and the most recent stalking episode by a female.

Due to difficulties associated with recall, if the most recent stalking episode occurred more than 20 years ago, only information about the individual’s relationship to the stalker and the type of stalking behaviours experienced was collected. All other details about the most recent episode of stalking were collected if the episode occurred within the 20 years prior to the survey.

Relationship to stalker in the most recent episode of stalking (Endnote 1)

Relationship to stalker in the most recent episode, relates to all persons who have ever been stalked during their lifetime.

Of the estimated 1.5 million women who experienced stalking by a male, about two-thirds (68% or 1.0 million) knew the stalker in the most recent episode. Of the estimated 187,700 women who experienced stalking by a female, about four out of five (82% or 154,100) knew the stalker in the most recent episode.

Of the estimated 386,200 men who experienced stalking by a female, almost nine out of ten (87% or 337,100) knew the stalker in the most recent episode. Of the estimated 344,800 men who experienced stalking by a male, about three-fifths (59% or 203,800) knew the stalker in the most recent episode.

Types of behaviours experienced in the most recent episode of stalking

Types of behaviours experienced in the most recent episode, relates to all persons who have ever been stalked during their lifetime.

During the 2012 PSS, respondents were asked to identify the behaviours which they experienced during their most recent episode of stalking. Respondents were provided with a list of selected stalking behaviours and asked to identify all that applied.

The behaviours experienced by men and women who experienced stalking by a male were different from those who experienced stalking by a female.

Stalking behaviours experienced by women in their most recent episode of stalking by a male were most likely to be:

  • having someone loiter or hang around outside their home (50%);
  • being watched (50%);
  • being followed (48%); and
  • being telephoned, sent mail or contacted electronically (46%).
     

The most common stalking behaviour experienced by women in their most recent episode of stalking by a female was being telephoned, sent mail or contacted electronically (61%).

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  1. Persons may have experienced more than one behaviour, resulting in the proportions summing to more than 100%.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

Stalking behaviours experienced by men in their most recent episode of stalking by a male were most likely to be:

  • having someone loiter or hang around outside of their home (40%);
  • being followed (39%);
  • being watched (39%); and
  • being telephoned, sent mail or contacted electronically (33%).
     

The most common stalking behaviour experienced by men in their most recent episode of stalking by a female was being telephoned, sent mail or contacted electronically (60%).

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  1. Persons may have experienced more than one behaviour, resulting in the proportions summing to more than 100%.
  2. Estimate for men who experienced stalking by a male and experienced having someone give or leave offensive or disturbing material where they could find it during the most recent episode, has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

Whether the most recent episode of stalking was perceived as a crime at the time

Whether the most recent episode of stalking was perceived as a crime at the time, relates to persons who were stalked in the last 20 years.

Approximately half of all women who reported experiencing stalking by either a male or a female and approximately half of all men who reported experiencing stalking by a male perceived the most recent episode as a crime at the time that it occurred. In contrast, less than one in five men who reported experiencing stalking by a female perceived the most recent episode as a crime at the time that it occurred.

Women who were stalked by a male were more likely to perceive the most recent episode of stalking as a crime (47% or 563,300) than as something that was wrong but not a crime (35% or 414,600), or as something that just happens (16% or 193,800).

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Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

Similarly, women who were stalked by a female were more likely to perceive the most recent episode of stalking as a crime (47% or 79,500) than as something that was wrong but not a crime (32% or 53,400), or as something that just happens (19% or 31,300).

Men who were stalked by a male were more likely to perceive the most recent episode of stalking as a crime (55% or 163,200) than as something that was wrong but not a crime (24% or 71,100), or as something that just happens (17% or 48,900)(Endnote 3).

In contrast, men who were stalked by a female were more likely to perceive the most recent episode of stalking as wrong but not a crime (48% or 168,900) than as a crime (18% or 61,300), or as something that just happens (33% or 116,500)(Endnote 2).

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Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

Whether police were contacted about the most recent episode of stalking

Whether police were contacted about the most recent episode, relates to persons who were stalked in the last 20 years.

Police were contacted about the most recent episode by less than half of respondents who experienced stalking. This includes contact made to the police directly by the person who experienced stalking and contact made by someone else.

Women who experienced stalking were about as likely to contact the police about the most recent episode irrespective of whether the stalker was male (37% or 440,200) or female (42% or 70,800).

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  1. Contacting police includes contact made to the police directly by the person who experienced stalking and contact made by someone else.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

Men who experienced stalking were far more likely to contact the police about the most recent episode if the stalker was male (53% or 139,400) than if they were female (21% or 73,000).

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  1. Contacting police includes contact made to the police directly by the person who experienced stalking and contact made by someone else.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

For persons who perceived the most recent episode of stalking as a crime, the proportion of those who contacted the police range from 46% for men who were stalked by a female, to 67% of women who were stalked by a female.

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  1. Contacting police includes contact made to the police directly by the person who experienced stalking and contact made by someone else.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

In contrast, for persons who did not perceive the most recent episode of stalking as a crime, the proportion of those who contacted the police range from 16% for men who were stalked by a female and women who were stalked by a male, to 29% of men who were stalked by a male.

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  1. Contacting police includes contact made to the police directly by the person who experienced stalking and contact made by someone else.
  2. Did not perceive stalking as a crime includes persons who perceived the most recent episode of stalking as wrong but not a crime and persons who perceived the episode as something that just happens.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

Whether experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode of stalking started

Whether someone experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode of stalking started, relates to persons who were stalked in the last 20 years.

Women were just as likely to experience anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode started irrespective of whether the stalker was male or female. Of the estimated 1.2 million women who were stalked by a male, 62% (742,900) experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode started. Similarly, of the estimated 167,700 women who were stalked by a female, 54% (90,700) experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode started.

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Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

In contrast, men were more likely to experience anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode of stalking by a male than by a female.

Of the estimated 296,700 men who were stalked by a male, 42% (124,700) experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode started. Of the estimated 350,600 men who were stalked by a female, 28% (98,700) experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent episode started.

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Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2012

Duration of the most recent episode of stalking

Duration of the most recent episode of stalking, relates to persons who were stalked in the last 20 years and the stalking has stopped.

Approximately half of all persons who experienced stalking stated that the most recent episode lasted for less than 6 months. This was the case for:

  • 56% of women who were stalked by a male (549,700);
  • 48% of women who were stalked by a female (57,900);
  • 56% of men who were stalked by a male (138,500); and
  • 50% of men who were stalked by a female (140,300).
     

A smaller proportion of people stated that the most recent episode of stalking lasted between 6 months and 2 years. This was the case for:

  • 29% of women who were stalked by a male (284,400);
  • 28% of women who were stalked by a female (33,700);
  • 28% of men who were stalked by a male (70,200); and
  • 34% of men who were stalked by a female (95,600).
     

Endnotes

Endnote 1 - Men and women could have experienced stalking by both a male and a female, resulting in the proportions summing to more than 100%.
Endnote 2 - Estimate for women who experienced stalking by a female and perceived the most recent episode as something that just happens has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
Endnote 3 - Estimate for men who experienced stalking by a male and perceived the most recent episode as something that just happens has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

Conclusion

This article analysed data collected through the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey 2012 to examine the prevalence of stalking for both men and women in Australia. Further analysis of the characteristics of the most recent episode of stalking by a male and female stalker, highlighted the similarities and differences in how Australian men and women experience stalking.

Overall, the analysis showed that the sex of both the person being stalked and the perpetrator exert an influence on the type of stalking experienced, and on the person’s emotional and behavioural responses to the episode. For example, men were more likely to perceive stalking behaviours as a crime, more likely to contact the police, and more likely to experience anxiety or fear if the stalker was male than if they were female. In contrast, women were just as likely to perceive stalking behaviours as a crime, just as likely to contact the police, and just as likely to experience anxiety or fear, regardless of whether the stalker was male or female.

References

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ABS (Australia Bureau of Statistics), 2006. Personal Safety, 2005. ABS Cat. no 4906.0 Canberra.
ABS (Australia Bureau of Statistics), 2013. Personal Safety, 2012. ABS Cat. no 4906.0 Canberra.
AIC (Australian Institute of Criminology), 2000a. Stalking: legislative, policing and prosecution patterns in Australia, Research and public policy series no. 34 Canberra
AIC, 2000b. Cyberstalking, Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice no. 166 Canberra.

Previous In Focus articles

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The In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics series presents analysis and commentary on a range of topics using ABS Crime and Justice statistical sources. Other topics covered in this series include:

In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics October 2013 - Mental Health, Disability, and Crime: A Victim's Perspective

In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics June 2013 - Victims of Personal Fraud: A Statistical Snapshot

In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics July 2012 - Exploring relationships between crime victimisation and social wellbeing

In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics December 2011 - Youth victimisation and offending: A statistical snapshot

In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics September 2011 - In the eye of the beholder: Perceptions of social disorder in Australia

About the Personal Safety Survey

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The 2012 Personal Safety Survey (PSS) was conducted from February to December 2012 and collected information from men and women aged 18 years and over about their experiences of violence (including any occurrence, attempt or threat of either physical or sexual assault), partner violence, emotional abuse by a partner, abuse before the age of 15, sexual harassment, and stalking.

To obtain a comprehensive understanding of stalking, the survey collected information about the respondent’s experience of stalking over their lifetime and in the 12 months prior to the survey, as well as detailed information about their most recent episode.

In the stalking component of the survey, respondents were asked if anyone had done any of the following things to them, with the intent to harm or frighten them:

  • loitered or hung around outside their workplace;
  • loitered or hung around outside a place of leisure/social activities;
  • loitered or hung around outside their home;
  • followed them;
  • watched them;
  • interfered with or damaged their property;
  • gave them or left offensive or disturbing material where they could find it; and
  • telephoned, emailed, or contacted them electronically.
     

To be classified as experiencing stalking, more than one type of behaviour had to occur or the same type of behaviour had to occur on more than one occasion. The PSS refers to this experience as a stalking episode, as the behaviours were likely to occur over a protracted period of time.

Where a person had experienced stalking by a male and stalking by a female, they were counted separately for each perpetrator type, but were only counted once in the aggregated total.

All comparisons reported in this article have been tested for statistical significance at the 95% confidence level. Only data with relative standard errors of less than 25% (considered sufficiently reliable for general use) have been included in the analysis, unless stated otherwise.

Data downloads

Stalking (tables 1 - 6a)