Violations of privacy and law : The case of Stalking

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This paper seeks to identify the distinctive moral wrong of stalking and argues that this wrong is serious enough to criminalize. We draw on psychological literature about stalking, distinguishing types of stalkers, their pathologies, and victims. The victimology is the basis for claims about what is wrong with stalking. Close attention to the experiences of victims often reveals an obsessive preoccupation with the stalker and what he will do next. The kind of harm this does is best understood in relation to the value of privacy and conventionally protected zones of privacy. We compare anti-stalking laws in different jurisdictions, claiming that they all fail in some way to capture the distinctive privacy violation that stalking involves. Further reflection on the seriousness of the invasion of privacy it represents suggests that it is a deeply personal wrong. Indeed, it is usually more serious than obtrusive surveillance by states, precisely because it is more personal. Where state surveillance genuinely is as intrusive as stalking, it tends to adopt the tactics of the stalker, imposing its presence on the activist victim at every turn. Power dynamics —whether rooted in the power of the state or the violence of a stalker —may exacerbate violations of privacy, but the wrong is distinct from violence, threats of violence and other aggression. Nor is stalking a simple expression of a difference in power between stalker and victim, such as a difference due to gender.
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Archival date: 2021-02-21
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