The complex link between forgiveness, PTSD symptoms and well-being in female victims of intimate partner stalking

Published date10 July 2017
Date10 July 2017
AuthorAnna Costanza Baldry,Vincenza Cinquegrana,Camillo Regalia,Eleonora Crapolicchio
The complex link between forgiveness,
PTSD symptoms and well-being in female
victims of intimate partner stalking
Anna Costanza Baldry, Vincenza Cinquegrana, Camillo Regalia and Eleonora Crapolicchio
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) symptoms and poor general health reported by female victims of intimate partner stalking (IPS) and
victimsforgiveness or lack of forgiveness towards their perpetrators, controlling for escalation of stalking, age
of victims and dispositional forgiveness.
Design/methodology/approach A total of 120 Italian female victims of IPS, who had obtained an
administrative protective order (PO) issued by police in stalking cases (Ammonimento), took part in a
retrospective study that examined the relationship between the presence or absence of victimsforgiveness
of perpetrators and victimsPTSD symptoms and general well-being. Interviews took place after one, two or
three years following the PO.
Findings All participants reported some level of direct or indirect stalking, and up to 98 per cent had
suffered both. In half of all cases, a PO had been breached within a year of its issuance. Positive forgiveness
was not associated with lower PTSD symptoms and was marginally associated with well-being. Negative
forgiveness (e.g. holding a grudge, desiring revenge) was associated with greater PTSD symptoms; holding a
grudge was significantly associated with poorer general health.
Research limitations/implications Victims of IPS experience a state of fear and anxiety due to the
constant risk of being attacked, followed and controlled. Compared to studies about the protective role of
forgiveness in community couples, this study found that among couples where stalking is present not only
positive forgiveness does not take place at the same rate, but it is also not associated with the increased
well-being. On the contrary, lack of forgiveness by stalked victims was related to PTSD symptoms and poorer
health. Harbouring negative feelings, such a desire for revenge and holding a grudge towards a perpetrator,
worsened womans mental health. These findings are novel and may assist the criminal justice system, law
enforcement and service providers in their efforts to help women who are victims of IPS.
Originality/value This study addresses the relationship between forgiveness and lack of forgiveness
among victims of IPS and PTSD symptoms and victimspoor health. Although longitudinal studies are
needed to establish any causal relationship between stalking and mental health and the possibly mediating
effects of forgiveness, this study is a first contribution to this important field of inquiry.
Keywords PTSD, Well-being, Forgiveness, Intimate partner stalking (IPS), Intimate partner violence (IPV),
Paper type Research paper
Intimate partner stalking (IPS) is a specific form of intimate partner violence (IPV) that often occurs
following the end of a relationship (Baldry, 2002; Sheridan and Boon, 2002). IPS includes a set of
controlling and obsessive behaviours such as constant phone calls or instant messaging and
online surveillance, threats, physical attacks and destruction of victimsbelongings. Worldwide, it
affects primarily women (Ellsberg et al., 2014). A high proportion of IPS victims do not seek help
or report to the police due to fear of retaliation, lack of trust in the police or because they feel
ashamed (Baldry et al., 2016). Stalking leads to isolation, anxiety and fear, changes in victims
routines and psychological and mental impairment (Mullen et al., 2009). The mental states of IPS
Received 31 August 2016
Revised 18 November 2016
25 January 2017
17 February 2017
22 February 2017
Accepted 6 March 2017
The authors would like to thank
the Direzione Centrale Anticrimine
(DAC) of the Italian Police, Minister
of Interior, for their collaboration
and for facilitating the process of
getting in touch with victims.
Anna Costanza Baldry is a
Professor and Vincenza
Cinquegrana is a PhD Student,
both at the Department of
Psychology, Università degli
Studi della Campania Luigi
Vanvitelli, Caserta, Italy.
Camillo Regalia is a Professor
and Eleonora Crapolicchio is a
PhD Student, both at the
Department of Psychology,
Università Cattolica del Sacro
Cuore, Milan, Italy.
VOL. 9 NO. 3 2017, pp.230-242, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 DOI 10.1108/JACPR-08-2016-0247

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