Social perceptions of stalking in Spain: The behaviour's seriousness and legal response
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The recent process of criminalisation of stalking in various European countries has proved to be complex, due to the diffuse nature of the phenomenon. One tool for helping to identify the most appropriate legal response to this issue is social perception studies. This paper presents the findings of one such study conducted with a sample of 1,010 university students, one of the population segments most victimised by stalking, based on two case scenarios. The aim was to determine, first, this population segment's perceptions of the incidence and seriousness of the stalking phenomenon and, second, its attitude regarding the proportionate legal response in cases of stalking, depending on both certain personal characteristics of the sample members and other variables related to the case scenario itself. The results show that the sample population's attitude with regard to the appropriate legal response in such cases is relatively nonpunitive. They also reveal distortions in the sample population's view of the incidence and seriousness of these behaviours: contrary to the findings of stalking victimisation studies, the respondents considered cases of stalking by strangers to be more serious.