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Courting Disaster: Intimate Stalking, Culture, and Criminal Justice

Jennifer L. Dunn
Aldine de Gruyter: New York
0202306623 (pb)

ix + 204

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Front Cover
Reading this book forces one to confront the links between stalking and domestic violence and it will certainly be useful for those who are beginning to develop structures to assist stalking victims. The first chapter is a history of the development of the structures which help stalking victims on USA. The state of California is used as an example of enacting antistalking statutes. Jennifer L. Dunn gives historical and cultural frameworks for antistalking legislation. I liked this discussion and found it particularly interesting. The personal effects of stalking are highlighted: as Dunn states, "stalking behaviors create a reasonable fear in reasonable person that he/she is in danger".

The second chapter leads us into the victim's emotional world. I consider this section a wonderful basic source of information for those who know nothing or little about stalking. There you will find tables with description of strategies stalkers use against their victims and ways victims manage the situations; the psychology of both parts is seen through the abstracts taken from victims' files (excerpts from courtroom testimonies, letters, notes, phone-calls etc.) and it allows us to understand the patterns and complexities of behaviour which emerge in response to stalking. Dunn gives a thoughtful and well considered answer to a widespread question "Why do women tolerate the violence in intimate relationship?" I'd highly recommend you read this part of the book.

The third chapter examines the question "How do women become `stalking victims` in criminal justice system?" and "What difficulties does a `victim` identity bring to her as a member of society?". It contains a fascinating discussion of what gives a victim a "credible" identity. This part of the book illustrates the stereotypes we have about victims and the dilemmas they face: you have to be strong and active to manage the situation and at the same time you should be seen as week and meek to be heard. The discussion suggests that we reflect on this treatment of stalking victims and develop better strategies for responding to their experiences.

The next chapter introduces additional material which examines how undergraduate women in long-term and dating relationships seek to terminate relationships and how they respond emotionally to hypothetical and real attempts at forcible interaction. This helps the reader to better understand women's psychology and forces us to think about the way women are expected to display forgiveness, hope and appreciation. Another part of this chapter explores romantic movies and their role in our understanding relationships, courtship, love and the cultural logic of romance. The most frightening aspect of this chapter is the discussion of "romantic strategies" by stalkers, such as those stalkers who present a less threatening image of themselves by showering women with gifts such as flowers.

The final, fifth chapter is about experiences and feelings of victims within the criminal justice system. Issues of revictimization and possible humiliation in the courtroom, the role of a "worthy victim", and the behavior of defense attorneys are all discussed. Unfortunately, what victims and their advocates should remember is that stalking victims rarely emerge the winners.

This book is remarkable for its descriptions and the connections it makes between domestic violence and stalking. I would like to send my gratitude to Jennifer L. Dunn for all the tremendous work she has done and to all volunteers working in sphere of prevention violence against women. Elena Maslova

Estonian Society of Crime Victim Support.

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