Welcome to our September newsletter.
First of all, for those of you attending the ASIS International Annual Seminar this year in Philadelphia, I will be there on September 10th and 11th. If you would like to meet up, please email me (email@example.com), and I'll send you my contact info. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting those in our database whom I have not yet had a chance to meet personally.
As mentioned in our last newsletter, I have recently returned from the annual Threat Management Conference, sponsored by the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP). A great conference and a great organization.
I am especially pleased to say that, while at the conference, I was able to make use of the opportunity to meet with some of my international colleagues, as part of our endeavor to expand our global professional network. In an upcoming newsletter, I will have more details, and will be introducing you to our new associates.
I want to also bring your attention to our recently developed Workplace Violence Risk Assessment Survey (WVRAS), which we rolled out a few months back. This survey is designed to help companies quickly analyze their capability in being able to adequately prevent and manage high-risk behavior in their workplace. It is available on the Home Page of our website, and you will receive a response back from us, with a summary analysis, within 3 - 5 business days. We hope that you will find it to be a useful tool for your organization. It is complimentary and takes only a few minutes to complete.
Our article this month is presented by one of our associates, Dr. Tom Evans. Tom has just completed a chapter on the Risk Assessment of Stalking for an upcoming book entitled, Violence Against Women Across the Lifespan: An International Perspective. Many of you have worked with Tom. He is based in Cleveland, Ohio, and is President of The Institute of the Study of Interpersonal Violence, a non-profit organization that conducts research in all aspects of violence. Tom is involved in all aspects of the risk assessment process, and serves often as our specialist in stalking behavior and fitness-for-duty evaluations.
As always, please let us know if there are subjects that you would like for us to cover in future newsletters. We always are glad to hear from you.
Marc McElhaney, Ph.D.
While we frequently may think of stalking as something that only happens with highly visible celebrities or public figures, most cases of stalking occur with ordinary citizens. The most recent research revealed that 1.4% of persons over the age of 18 have been victims of stalking.
Stalking is a behavior that not only potentially causes physical and psychological harm to the targeted individual, it often affects others, such as new love interests, acquaintances and fellow employees. When a stalker's need for revenge overrides his concern for consequences, including imprisonment, all persons connected to the stalking victim are at an increased risk to be harmed.
Behaviors identified as elements of stalking include unwanted phone calls, unsolicited and unwanted letters or emails, following or spying on the victim, showing up or waiting at places the victim is at without legitimate reason, leaving unwanted presents for the victim, and posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in public places or by word of mouth. While any of these acts may not individually be criminal, collectively and repetitively, these behaviors may cause a victim to fear for his safety or the safety of a family member.
How does a person know how long the stalking will last? How do they know if harmless but annoying acts will escalate into violence? What can they do to protect themselves? These are but a few questions that victims of stalking ask. Before they can be answered, we have to know what we are dealing with.
The first step is to conduct a Violence Risk Assessment. Usually, this will be an indirect threat assessment of the stalker. This means that by obtaining as much behavioral data as possible about the nature of the relationship between the stalker and his victim, the approach methodology employed, and the individual characteristics of the stalker, a wealth of information can often be obtained that enables a forensic psychologist or another professional trained in threat assessment to offer estimates of risk for violence - and to also develop a safety plan to help reduce the risk for being harmed.
Stalking behaviors that enhance the likelihood for violence include: antisocial personality traits, history of substance abuse/dependence, history of criminal behavior, previous history of domestic violence, anger/impulse control problems, homicidal or suicidal ideation, destruction of victim's property, history of previous violence (not toward victim), onset of stalking, frequency of stalking, number of methods used, access to weapons and availability of such, previous violation of protection orders, previous violations of probation ,and the presence of certain kinds of mental illness, among others.
The professional who is conducting the risk assessment does not often have to conduct a face-to-face interview with the stalker to develop an estimate for the potential for violence perpetrated by the stalker. Obtaining the information from various sources acquainted with the stalker often provides robust information that enables the professional to develop a violence risk assessment based on variables that has been validated in the behavioral science literature as the most reliable indicators of staking violence.
Once the risk for violence has been established, a plan to minimize the risk for violence can then be developed. The guiding principles of threat management do not change when considering cases involving these kinds of behaviors. However, we should be particularly cautious, as these behaviors are, by definition, the result of more goal-directed and sometimes sinister motives in individuals who may be quite focused, organized and manipulative. Obviously, for high-risk situations, extreme measures may need to be taken, such as obtaining a restraining order, informing employers of the situation, and possible temporary relocation.
Tom Evans, Ph.D.
Critical Response Associates