Under the supervision of Dr Lorraine Sheridan, one of the world’s leading experts on stalking, four Curtin undergraduate psychology students are researching attitudes towards stalking and harassment in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities.
Anecdotal evidence suggests there are higher rates of unwanted attention in LGBTI communities than non-LGBTI communities, but to-date there have been no studies on how individuals view and experience stalking.
“Preliminary studies have shown same-gender stalking and harassment cases are present and prevalent, but they don’t discuss whether these are LGBTI or non-LGBTI cases,” says Alex, one of the students conducting the study.
Jade, another student involved in the research, believes minorities such as LGBTI communities tend to experience greater levels of harassment and discrimination than wider society.
However, the rates of stalking and harassment among individuals within LGBTI communities are not yet known. By identifying common attitudes towards stalking, the study aims to ascertain whether there is a greater risk of being a victim of stalking in LGBTI communities than in the general population.
Comprising a diverse range of behaviours, stalking itself is difficult to define. Generally it involves a series of directed behaviours that induce anxiety in the receiver. However, actions such as phone calls, gift-giving and emailing may not seem like stalking until they are considered in the context of multiple actions over time.
One member of the Curtin undergraduate psychology team, who prefers not to be named, has been personally affected by stalking and is keen to shed light on this still under-examined phenomenon.
“I’ve felt the terrible effects that stalking can have,” he says. “But the experience simultaneously gave me insight into the justifications of why a person would engage in stalking behaviours, and empathy for people who engage in stalking.
“Stalking is a little-known topic and educating the public on what it is may encourage people who experience stalking to seek assistance,” he says.
The students hope their findings will enable police and support services to better respond to, and mitigate, incidents of stalking and harassment in LGBTI communities.
The research is part of a wider study involving twelve countries, with results already coming in from Japan, Indonesian, Egypt, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Finland and Italy.