4906.0.55.003 - Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/11/2017   
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STALKING

POPULATION

Information regarding experiences of stalking since the age of 15 was obtained from men and women aged 18 years and over in the 2016 PSS.

DEFINITION

In the PSS, stalking is defined as any unwanted contact or attention on more than one occasion that could have caused fear or distress, or multiple types of unwanted contact or behaviour experienced on one occasion only that could have caused fear or distress.

METHODOLOGY

The stalking module consists of a set of questions about experiences of stalking since the age of 15. The same set of questions is asked separately for stalking by a man and then stalking by a woman.

Respondents are asked if a man or a woman, including both people they know or a stranger, had ever done any of the following things to them, that could have caused them to feel fear or distress. Respondents were instructed to only include incidents where the contact was unwanted.

  • Loitered or hung around outside their home
  • Loitered or hung around outside their workplace, school or education facility
  • Loitered or hung around outside their place of leisure/social activities
  • Followed or watched them in person
  • Followed or watched them using an electronic tracking device (e.g. GPS tracking system, computer spyware)
  • Maintained unwanted contact with them by phone, postal mail, email, text messages or social media websites
  • Posted offensive or unwanted messages, images or personal information on the internet about them
  • Impersonated them online to damage their reputation
  • Hacked or accessed their email, social media or other online account without their consent to follow or track them
  • Gave or left them objects where they could be found that were offensive or disturbing
  • Interfered with or damaged any of their property

The questions that determine if the definition of stalking is met are repeated for up to 5 male and up to 5 female experiences, that is until the definition of stalking is met or the respondent identifies they have no (or no more) experiences to report.

Information about the types of stalking behaviours experienced in the most recent episode, the relationship to the perpetrator of the most recent episode, and when the most recent episode of stalking stopped, was collected for the most recent episode of stalking by a man and by a woman since the age of 15. If the most recent episode of stalking occurred in the last 20 years, further information about the episode was collected.

Once it was identified that a respondent had experienced a stalking episode, they were then asked to identify the current relationship of the perpetrator as follows:
  • Current partner [husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend] they live with
  • Current partner [husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend] they don’t live with
  • Someone they went on a few dates with (includes 1 date only)
  • Ex-partner [husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend] they no longer live with
  • Ex-partner [husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend] they never lived with
  • Ex-partner [husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend] they live with
  • Father/Mother (this can include step parents)
  • Son/Daughter (this can include step children)
  • Brother/Sister (this can include step siblings)
  • Other [male/female] relative or in-law
  • Stranger
  • Friend or housemate
  • Acquaintance or neighbour
  • Employer/manager/supervisor
  • Co-worker
  • Teacher/tutor
  • Client/patient/customer
  • Medical practitioner (e.g. doctor, psychologist, nurse, counsellor)
  • Priest/Minister/Rabbi or other spiritual advisor
  • Carer (includes paid or unpaid helper)
  • Someone else that they knew

Respondents are also asked if the stalker had ever assaulted or threatened to assault them. This is not confined to the most recent stalking episode, and may have occurred at any point in time in the past, including before any stalking had begun or prior to the age of 15, as the question does not restrict to any age period. The meaning of ‘assault’ and ‘threatened assault’ are open to the respondent’s interpretation, rather than adhering to the definitions of these terms used elsewhere in the survey, and therefore may not be relatable to data collected regarding experiences of assault or threatened assault.

DATA ITEMS

The data items and related output categories for this topic are contained within the SPS Level – STK tab in the data item list which is available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads tab of this product

DATA USES

Stalking prevalence data can be used to examine:
  • The estimated number and proportion (rate) of persons that have experienced stalking by a man and/or woman during the last 12 months and since the age of 15
  • Differences in the stalking prevalence rate between the male and female population

Persons that have experienced stalking by both a man and a woman are only counted once in the aggregate data item ‘Whether experienced stalking since age 15’.

Most recent episode data can be used to examine:
  • Differences between men’s and women’s experiences of stalking, including stalking behaviours experienced, impacts, actions, and outcomes
  • Differences between male perpetrated stalking and female perpetrated stalking, including stalking behaviours experienced, impacts, actions, and outcomes

Most recent episode data cannot be used to obtain stalking prevalence rates for specific perpetrator types, as information about the perpetrator is only collected for the most recent episode. This means that information about any other stalking episodes prior to the most recent episode is not collected. As such, most recent episode data cannot be used to produce data that is considered to represent all incidents of stalking.

INTERPRETATION

Points to be considered when interpreting data for this topic include the following:
  • Whilst the PSS definition of stalking is based on state and territory legislation, whether or not any stalking behaviour amounted to a criminal offence cannot be determined from the information collected.
  • The PSS only asks respondents about selected stalking behaviours, and therefore may not capture all forms of stalking that exist.
  • The recognition and identification of any behaviour as stalking is based on the respondent’s subjective beliefs regarding the perceived intent behind the behaviour. Individual differences in thresholds for what constitutes unwanted contact or attention resulting in fear or distress will affect how respondents answer these questions.
  • Information about the relationship of the stalker was collected based on the relationship at the time of the survey. However, the data output refers to the relationship status at the time of the stalking. Additional relationship questions were asked about experiences of stalking by ex-partners in order to determine their relationship status at the time of the episode. Current partners are assumed to have been current at the time of the episode. While other types of relationships may change (for example a friend now being considered to be an acquaintance) based on the categories used and the way they are responded to, these occasions are likely to be minimal, but should be considered when interpreting the data.
  • In rare instances where a third party was involved in the stalking, respondents were instructed to select the person they perceived to be mainly responsible.
  • Characteristics information is only collected for the most recent episode of stalking by a male and most recent episode of stalking by a female, and is therefore not necessarily representative of all stalking episodes that may have occurred. Users should avoid generalising these findings to all stalking episodes when evaluating the data.
  • When asked about the duration of the stalking, if the stalking had stopped and started, respondents are asked to estimate the total time they thought they had been stalked, excluding the period/s of time it stopped.
  • Where a person has experienced stalking by both a male and a female, they are counted separately for each sex of stalker but are counted only once in the aggregated total.
  • Most recent episode detailed data for a male stalker and a female stalker cannot be added to produce an aggregated total, as this would double count persons that have experienced stalking by both a male and female perpetrator. For example, if they had reported their experience by a male stalker to the police but had not reported their experience by a female stalker to the police they would be in both reported and did not report categories, when combined. As a result, most recent episode data can only be understood in the context of the sex of the stalker.
  • Information about the perpetrator is only collected for the most recent episode and does not provide information about previous experiences by another perpetrator type. As such, it cannot be used to identify the total number of people who have reported episodes of stalking to the police, as people may not have reported their most recent episode but may have reported previous experiences. So when referencing the data it must always be in the context of representing most recent episodes only.

When looking at the item ‘Whether most recent male/female stalker assaulted or threatened to assault’ data users should take note of the following:
  • The assault or threat could have occurred at any point and not only during the episode(s) of stalking.
  • The definition of assault and threat is broad and a detailed set of questions/prompt cards were not included when respondents were asked this question. Respondents answered based on their own perception of assault/threat.
  • This question was presented in the context of ‘ever’, with no reminder to limit age to 15 years and older.

COMPARABILITY WITH PREVIOUS SURVEYS

Information about experiences of stalking was collected in the 2005 and 2012 editions of the PSS, as well as the 1996 Women’s Safety Survey (WSS). The following should be noted when making comparisons:
  • The 1996 WSS and the 2005 and 2012 PSS asked respondents about any experiences of stalking in their entire lifetime. The 2016 PSS asks respondents about any experiences of stalking since the age of 15. This difference in timeframe should be taken into account when comparing prevalence estimates from the 2016 PSS with previous editions of the survey.
  • The 1996 WSS collected information about the most recent episode of stalking, regardless of when it occurred. The 2005, 2012, and 2016 PSS collected information about the most recent episode of stalking only if it occurred in the last 20 years.
  • The 1996 WSS only collected information about women’s experiences of stalking by a man. The 2005, 2012, and 2016 PSS collected information about men’s and women’s experiences of stalking by both a man and a woman.
  • The types of stalking behaviours asked about have evolved over time to accommodate the increasing use of digital technologies as a medium for following and monitoring individuals. The stalking behaviours asked about in the 2016 PSS have been expanded to include newer emerging communication and surveillance technologies, such as various electronic tracking devices, computer spyware, and tampering with online accounts, such as social media and email. Whilst the core stalking behaviours asked about are consistent across the different surveys, users should remain mindful of the additional stalking behaviours included in the 2016 PSS when comparing this data with data from previous surveys and account for them where possible.

COMPARISONS WITH OTHER CYCLES

1996 Women's Safety Survey2005 Personal Safety Survey2012 Personal Safety Survey2016 Personal Safety Survey

Population



Timeframe
Women aged 18 years and older



Prevalence - Whether ever experienced stalking in lifetime

Most Recent Episode - Any stalking that occurred in lifetime
Men and women aged 18 years and older


Prevalence - Whether ever experienced stalking in lifetime

Most Recent Episode - Stalking that occurred in the last 20 years
Men and women aged 18 years and older


Prevalence - Whether ever experienced stalking in lifetime

Most Recent Episode - Stalking that occurred in the last 20 years
Men and women aged 18 years and older


Prevalence - Whether ever experienced stalking since age 15

Most Recent Episode - Stalking that occurred in the last 20 years
Sex of stalker

Question
Male


Has a man ever done any of these to you?
Male and female

Has a man/woman ever done any of these to you?
Male and female

Has a man/woman ever done any of these to you?
Male and female

Has a man/woman ever done any of these things to you that could have caused you fear or distress? Include contact that was unwanted and ongoing occurrences of harassment or stalking.
Stalking behaviours
  • Watched
  • Telephoned, sent mail, or contacted electronically
  • Followed
  • Loitered outside home
  • Loitered outside workplace
  • Loitered outside place of leisure/social activities
  • Interfered with or damaged property
  • Gave or left offensive/disturbing material where it could be found
  • Loitering outside a person's home, workplace or place of leisure or social activities
  • Following or watching a person
  • Interfering with their property
  • Giving or leaving offensive material
  • Telephoning and sending mail or contacting electronically
  • Loitered or hung around outside person's home
  • Loitered or hung around outside person's workplace
  • Loitered or hung around outside person's place of leisure or social activities
  • Followed them
  • Watched them
  • Interfered with or damaged any of the person's property
  • Gave them, or left material where they could find it, that they found offensive or disturbing
  • Telephoned them, sent them mail or contacted them electronically with the intent to harm or frighten
    • Loitered or hung around outside home
    • Loitered or hung around outside workplace, school or education facility
    • Loitered or hung around outside place of leisure/social activities
    • Followed or watched in person
    • Followed or watched using electronic tracking device (e.g. GPS tracking system, computer spyware)
    • Maintained unwanted contact by phone, postal mail, email, text messages or social media websites
    • Posted offensive or unwanted messages, images or personal information on the internet about you
    • Impersonate you online to damage your reputation
    • Hacked or accessed email, social media or other online account without your consent to follow or track you
    • Gave or left objects where they could be found that were offensive or disturbing
    • Interfered with or damaged any property

    Comparability1996 stalking data is comparable with 2005 and 2012 stalking data. It is comparable with 2016 stalking data only when both are restricted to a 12 month timeframe, due to the difference in the broader timeframe (lifetime experiences of stalking in contrast to experiences of stalking since the age of 15). Most recent episode data (proportions) remains comparable despite differences in the timeframe. Users should also consider the addition of behaviours introduced across cycles.2005 stalking data is comparable with 1996 and 2012 stalking data. It is comparable with 2016 stalking data only when both are restricted to a 12 month timeframe, due to the difference in the broader timeframe (lifetime experiences of stalking in contrast to experiences of stalking since the age of 15). Most recent episode data (proportions) remains comparable despite differences in the timeframe. Users should also consider the addition of behaviours introduced across cycles.2012 stalking data is comparable with 1996 and 2005 stalking data. It is comparable with 2016 stalking data only when both are restricted to a 12 month timeframe, due to the difference in the broader timeframe (lifetime experiences of stalking in contrast to experiences of stalking since the age of 15).Most recent episode data (proportions) remains comparable despite differences in the timeframe. Users should also consider the addition of behaviours introduced across cycles.2016 stalking data is comparable with 1996, 2005 and 2012 stalking data only when restricted to a 12 month timeframe, due to the difference in the broader timeframe (experiences of stalking since the age of 15 in contrast of lifetime experiences of stalking). Most recent episode data (proportions) remains comparable despite differences in the timeframe. Users should also consider the addition of behaviours introduced across cycles.