Postseparation stalking experienced by battered women within the context of domestic violence: A phenomenological analysis

Darlene DePorto, Fordham University


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore and document how postseparation battered women experience, perceive, and respond to stalking perpetrated by male ex-abusers. This research agenda was pursued with an eye toward understanding how this form of victimization relates to the issues of retraumatization and functionality. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 postseparation battered women, each of whom provided experiential accounts of stalking victimization. A five-stage data analysis process yielded 10 primary themes and 16 subthemes. Themes emerged from reading and memoing of 330 pages of transcript data, horizonalization of 1182 meaning statements, categorization of 466 nonrepetitive and nonoverlapping statements, and thematic analysis of 10 categories of meaning. Participants described the postseparation stalking as obsessive, unbearably relentless, invasive, violating, and as escalating and adaptive. The women experienced the stalking as intensely terrorizing, infused with manipulation, and unnervingly "creepy." All of the women reported that the stalking victimization was more terrifying and debilitating than the abuse that they had endured preseparation. Central to all of the interviews was the perception that the stalking was driven by the ex-abuser's agenda to continue to exert control over the victim's life. The women's accounts underscored the deleterious impact of the stalking victimization---documenting fear-induced debilitation, persistent trauma responses, and shattered assumptions about safety and starting a new life. This study extends and enhances the literature on the conceptualization of postseparation stalking as a variant of domestic violence by explicating how and why the dynamics and tactics of postseparation stalking function as an extension of the dynamics of preseparation abuse. The contextual role of the domestic violence is identified as a key factor in the manifestation of the stalking and its effects on postseparation battered women. Significant clinical implications are discussed, highlighting the conceptualization of postseparation stalking as retraumatization in cases of domestic violence, the impact of this form of stalking on PTSD symptomatology, and the need for future empirical examinations of the current framework for and orientation to trauma treatment with this population. A number of clinical imperatives for effective and safe therapeutic work with postseparation battered women are offered.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Womens studies|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

DePorto, Darlene, "Postseparation stalking experienced by battered women within the context of domestic violence: A phenomenological analysis" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3255002.