Abstract: Characteristics of Stalking Victimization Among College Students in the U.S (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Characteristics of Stalking Victimization Among College Students in the U.S

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 10:15 AM
Union Square 16 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Lisa Fedina, PhD, Transitional Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Bethany Backes, PhD, MSW, MPH, Director of Research and Evaluation, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Caitlin Sulley, LMSW, Director of Sexual Assault Research Portfolio, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Leila Wood, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Noel Busch, Ph.D., Professor & Director, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background: College students are considered a high-risk population for exposure to sexual assault and dating violence. Although campus climate surveys have provided needed information on sexual assault and dating violence among students, less attention has been directed towards understanding experiences of stalking victimization among students. Consequently, limited research exists on the characteristics of stalking, including the extent to which various sub-populations of students are at risk for stalking. This study aims to describe the prevalence, characteristics, and sociodemographic correlates of stalking victimization among college students to build empirical knowledge in this area.                                                                                                                     

Methods: Data were collected through an anonymous, web-based survey using a random sample of students across 8 campuses in a Southwest university system (N = 26,417). Descriptive statistics, chi-square, and t-tests were used to assess prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of stalking. Logistic regression analyses examined associations between sociodemographics and stalking, adjusting for other variables. Sociodemographics included age, gender identity (cisgender male, cisgender female, transgender/gender non-conforming), sexual orientation (heterosexual or sexual minority), race/ethnicity (White non-Hispanic, Black or African American, Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native [AIAN], Asian, Multiracial), student type (undergraduate or graduate), living situation (on or off campus), U.S. or foreign-born, and student status (international or domestic). Stalking was assessed using 7 items adapted from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which were combined to indicate any stalking experience since entering college.

Results: A total of 11.1% of students reported stalking victimization since entering college. Among stalking victims, 32% were stalked by a stranger, followed by an acquaintance (28.8%), friend (14.5%), and current/former intimate partner (13.3%). A total of 54% of stalking incidents happened off campus compared to 46% on campus. Stalking victims were on average 2.22 years younger than students without stalking victimization (t = 13.74, p<.001). Transgender and gender-non-conforming students reported the highest rates of stalking (29.9%), followed by cisgender females (20.2%) and cisgender males (11.9%) (χ2 = 202.86; p < .001). AIAN students reported the highest rates of stalking (22.6%), followed by Multiracial (21.2%), Asian (18.1%), White non-Hispanic (18%), Latino/a (16.4%), and African American (15.9%). Compared to students living off campus (16.7%), students living on campus reported significantly higher rates of stalking (19.3%) (χ2 = 12.78; p < .001). Logistic regression results suggest that students who were younger (OR = .95), transgender/gender non-conforming (OR = 1.94), sexual minorities (OR = 1.54), and domestic status (OR = 1.51) had significantly higher odds of stalking victimization, adjusting for other variables in the model.

Conclusion: Stalking is a significant problem on college campuses and appears more highly prevalent among student sub-populations (i.e. transgender/non-conforming, sexual minorities). Targeted stalking prevention and response strategies are needed to address the unique needs and experiences of LGBTQA+ students, including policy that enhances protections, services, and resources for students who may be at higher risk. In addition to training on sexual assault and dating violence, training specifically on stalking is needed for campus administrators, staff, and social workers working with student populations to understand the unique dynamics stalking victimization and implementing effective campus responses.