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«Cyberstalking, or technology-aided stalking, is the use of electronic communications or tracking technologies to pursue another person repeatedly to ...»

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ABSTRACT

Title of Dissertation: CYBERSTALKING VICTIMIZATION: IMPACT AND

COPING RESPONSES IN A NATIONAL UNIVERSITY

SAMPLE

Nancy Felicity Hensler-McGinnis, Doctor of Philosophy, 2008

Dissertation directed by: Professor Ruth Fassinger

Department of Counseling and Personnel Services

Cyberstalking, or technology-aided stalking, is the use of electronic

communications or tracking technologies to pursue another person repeatedly to the point of inducing fear. This study investigated the impact of cyberstalking victimization on psychological trauma and impairment of academic/career functioning, controlling for ongoing cyberstalking. Financial impact also was examined. The potential moderating relationship of resilient coping on the association between cyberstalking victimization and the outcome variables was explored. In addition, the study investigated the potential

mediating relationship of perceived threat on the associations between victimization and:

trauma, academic/career impairment, and formal reporting. The study explored relationships between the reported effectiveness of coping responses and: victim’s sex, self-defined victimization, and type of prior relationship with pursuer. Finally, the study investigated predictors of cyberstalking victims’ informal and formal reporting behaviors, as well as frequency of reporting, disciplinary outcomes for the cyberstalkers, and victims’ reporting satisfaction.

Participants were 452 female and male, currently-enrolled, U.S. college/university undergraduate and graduate/medical/law students who responded to an online survey requesting individuals who had been stalked via technology. Results indicated that the experiences of almost half (46%) of the university sample met legal criteria for cyberstalking victimization. Cyberstalking victimization predicted psychological trauma and impairment in academic/career functioning; significant predictors of both outcomes included self-defined victimization and the number of distinct cyberstalking behaviors experienced. In addition, prior dating/intimate partner-stalkers were predictive of psychological trauma, while unknown and female stalkers were associated with more academic/career impairment in university victims. The present study found no evidence for a moderating effect of resilient coping. Perceived threat was found to partially mediate the relationships between cyberstalking victimization and psychological trauma, impairment in academic/career functioning, and formal reporting. Coping response effectiveness was consistent with limiting one’s exposure and accessibility; lack of effectiveness was characterized by contact with the pursuer. Coping responses were less effective for students whose victimization met legal definitions of cyberstalking and for those stalked by dating/intimate partners. A majority of students did not formally report victimization; approximately 14% indicated that formal reports resulted in disciplinary action for their cyberstalkers. Additional findings and implications for future research, practice, and policy/advocacy are discussed.

CYBERSTALKING VICTIMIZATION: IMPACT AND COPING RESPONSES

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Advisory Committee:

Professor Ruth Fassinger, Chair Dr. Evan Golub, Lecturer Associate Professor Donna Howard Associate Professor Karen O’Brien Professor Harold Sigall  Copyright by

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For the victims/survivors with whom I have worked during my graduate years— residents at House of Ruth, patients at the Center for Posttraumatic Disorders at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, and students and staff members who bravely came to the Victim Advocate Office at the University of Maryland during those first growing years…Each week, you reminded me that trauma has many faces and multiple layers.

You inspired me with your courage and your resilience, and you taught me to have patience with and faith in the healing process as it unfolds, often through slow, subtle, but lasting revolutions of the spirit. Each one of you are in my heart and you will continue to guide me as I deepen my clinical practice in the coming years.

iii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to acknowledge my dissertation committee members—Dr. Evan Golub, Dr. Donna Howard (my Dean’s Representative), Dr. Hal Sigall, Dr. Karen O’Brien—and particularly my honorary committee member, Dr. Dennis Kivlighan, who was so generous with his time and statistics knowledge over these past weeks. Each of you provided helpful feedback that focused and improved the study tremendously; I appreciate your support and encouragement throughout my dissertation project and graduate career. I also want to say a special thank you to my two advisors. Karen O’Brien, who directed my thesis project and served as my advisor for the first half of the program, opened the first door for me to work with survivors of relationship violence, an experience that moved me to seek additional clinical and research opportunities in the areas of interpersonal violence and trauma. Ruth Fassinger, who welcomed me on her qualitative research team and then as an advisee, has been an inspirational teacher, professional mentor, social justice advocate, university administrator, artist, and wise counselor throughout these challenging graduate school years; it has been an honor to know her and work with her.





I also would like to thank my clinical and administrative supervisors who have been (and continue to be) true mentors as I have deepened my training in sexual, relationship, and stalking violence prevention, treatment, and victim advocacy: Chris Courtois, Nancy Harris, Laura Dyer and Pat Johnston. Thank you for believing in me and for teaching me essential clinical, administrative, and life skills that will carry me through my career. My internship supervisors and future colleagues have challenged, empowered and supported me with their clinical savvy, generous hearts, quirky humor, and appreciation for good food: Bruce and Mollie Herman, Greg Reising, Jim Spivack, and the entire Towson University Counseling Center staff. Susan Drumheller, a University of Maryland Counseling Psychology graduate, has been a source of constant support throughout my graduate career—I am thankful for her clinical and life wisdom. I also want to thank those University of Maryland staff members who are the real reason any of us ever graduate—thank you for your tireless dedication and for your friendship: Carol Gorham, Peggy Barott, Ellen Lockwood, James Malone, Tony Chan, and Pat Gaffke (Psychology Department); Carol Scott, Tony Araneta, Jane Wang, and Rhonda Torki (CAPS Department); and Kit Johnson and Elizabeth Zapata (Health Center).

I have tremendous gratitude for my dissertation support team, who generously assisted me with my statistical analyses, study and survey design, technology challenges, and survey distribution: Jessica Mislevy; Joann Prosser; Bruce Herman and our Friday morning internship research crew; Mollie Monahan-Kreishman, Laura Milcetich, Cortney Fisher, Lauren Stewart, and all of the students from the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and the Office of the Victim Advocate at the University of Maryland; staff members from the NCVC Stalking Resource Center and NNEDV; Joan Zorza from the Domestic Violence Reporter; Thomson Ling; Marianne Dunn; and my highly talented nephews, Colin and Tim Ellis. Thank you especially to Colin, who generously shared many hours of his time and who was a patient and thoughtful teacher, peer theorist, and statistics consultant throughout this final year of my dissertation project.

iv My dear family has held me up and kept me going through these graduate school years; you are treasures untold. My mother has taught me about vitality, about never letting fear or anxiety stop you from taking on challenges or enjoying life’s daily pleasures or great adventures, and about the depths of the heart and of family connection.

My father’s pride in my studies and his love, support, and good sportsmanship have been a source of strength throughout my life. My sisters Mary Lynn and Julie are my lifeline, my safe and solid ground, my wise hearts, and the reason that I have poetry and music in my soul. My brother Bob and his wife Peg have been my biggest supporters since I was young, and conversations and dinners with them about life, marriage, family, legal cases, and religion enrich and sustain me. I also am so thankful for the lifelong support of my brothers-in-law, Paul and Tom, and for being graced with the most amazing, gifted, bighearted, funny, and social-justice-minded nieces and nephews: Colin, Tim, Chris, Kevin, Marian, Jack, and Jenny. Aunt Betty and Uncle Ralph have been a wonderful support through their calls and care packages and generous gifts of vacations. Finally, I am very grateful to my Maryland relatives, who have fed me in many ways since I arrived here for graduate school: Maryrita Wieners and Dan Glaser, and Bill and Clare Ferguson.

I especially wish to thank my graduate school colleagues who have walked, talked, studied, conferenced, cried, and laughed with me throughout these significant growing years—I never could have done this without your support and care and amazing friendship: Mollie Monahan-Kreishman, Nicole Taylor, Susy Gallor, Laura Kasper, Jana Frances-Fisher, and Lisa Ades. My dear friends also have walked every step with me, keeping the faith for me when mine was flagging, and inspiring me with their life dreams and their graceful and determined approaches to life’s biggest challenges: Christa (and Tripp) Tyner, Chris Wnuk (and Mom Wnuk and Reuel Deppen), Diana Day (and Dwayne Booth), Sandy Horning and Brendan Kane, Sheila Duffy-Cyr (and Andy Cyr), Brian McCaffrey, Susie (and Mitchell) Dascher, Gregg Tucci (and Helen McNamee), Laura Stevens (and Tom Buoye), Ann Hooper, Bethany and Scott Hase, and Brian (and Tanya) Regli. My friends from St. Matt’s also have encouraged me for many years and I am thankful for their support and prayers: Fr. James Donlon, Dolores Lewandowski, Joseph Leddy, Maryellen Horgan, Joyce Kelly, and the many other folks from the parish with whom I’ve served.

Finally, these acknowledgements would not be complete without thanking Michael for the two decades of support, encouragement, love, and creative spirit that he has shared with me; I am deeply grateful for the gift of his presence in my life. Lucille and Henry McGinnis (Mother & PapaDoc), my second parents, welcomed me into their family and have provided steadfast love, faith, professional advice, and support of all kinds, for which I am eternally grateful. Thanks also to Jean and the rest of the McGinnis clan for their support throughout the years.

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Dedication………………………………………………………………………………....ii Acknowledgements.….…….…………………………………………………………….iii Table of Contents……………………………………………………………………….…v List of Tables…………………………………………………………………………….vii List of Figures…………………………………………………………………………...viii Chapter 1: Introduction...…………………………………………………………….…..1 Terminology and Definitions…….………………………….……………………….1 Need for Research on Cyberstalking in the University-Student Population…………6 Need for Research on Impact of and Responses to Cyberstalking Victimization…...9 Chapter 2: Review of the Literature…………………………………………………….13 Nature and Perception of Offline Stalking in the University Population..………....13 Nature and Perception of Cyberstalking in the University Population……………..24 Impact of Offline Stalking Victimization……… …………………………………..34 Coping With Offline Stalking and Cyberstalking……..……………………………49 Overall Summary of the Literature and Statement of the Problem…………………56 Research Questions

Chapter 3: Method……………………………………………………………………...63 Design……………………………………………………………………………….63 Participants………………………………………………………………………….64 Measures

Procedure……………………………………………………………………………80 Chapter 4: Results………………………………………………………………………87 Preliminary Analyses……..….....…………………………………………………..87 Primary Analyses…………………………………………………………………...97 Additional Analyses……………………………………………………………….135 Chapter 5: Discussion…………………………………………………………………138 Summary of Findings and Comparison to Existing Literature……….……………138 Limitations…………………………………………………………………………154 Implications for Research, Practice, and Policy/Advocacy………………………..159 Conclusion………………………………………………………………………….167 Appendix A: Demographic Form………………………………………………………168 Appendix B: Cyberstalking Victimization Questionnaire……………………………...170 Appendix C: Impact of Event Scale-Revised…………………………………………..174

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Appendix E: Impact on Career and Educational Functioning………………………….176 Appendix F: Brief Resilient Coping Scale….…………………………………………..177 Appendix G: Coping Responses Measure……………………………………………...178 Appendix H: Reporting Measure……………………………………………………….179 Appendix I: Survey Invitation E-mails…………………………………………………181 Appendix J: Resources Page……………………………………………………………184

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