Speaker brings stalking awareness to UCF

Contrary to popular belief, you’re more likely to be stalked by someone you know or used to be romantically involved with than by a crazed, psychopathic stranger, according to a leading expert on the subject of stalking.

William R. Cupach, a renowned author and researcher on stalking, spoke April 12 to about 200 students and faculty in the Harris Corp. Engineering Building. Cupach’s speech, titled “The Dark Side of Interpersonal Attraction: Obsessive Relational Intrusion and Stalking,” was sponsored by the Nicholson School of Communication as a part of the College of Sciences’ Distinguished Speaker Series.

Cupach says not all stalking is considered to be Obsessive Relational Intrusion (ORI), a term coined by Cupach and his colleague Brian H. Spitzberg. ORI is the repeated and unwanted pursuit and invasion of one’s sense of physical and symbolic privacy by another person who desires or presumes an intimate relationship. Persistent and threatening ORI constitutes stalking.

Cupach, who is a communications research scholar and director of graduate studies at Illinois State University, studies how people manage problematic, challenging, awkward or adverse social and personal relationships.

His research shows that while stalking is often assumed to be related to psychological disorders, “the vast majority of stalking cases are domestic in nature,” he said.

Most victims of stalking know their pursuer. In fact, 80 percent of victims know their pursuers and 44 percent are currently or have previously been romantically involved with their pursuers, Cupach said.Stalking is more widespread than many people believe. In the United States, 4 percent of women are stalked along with 1.7 percent of men.

That means, Cupach said, that 3.4 million people are being stalked annually.In addition to the psychological and social costs of stalking, Cupach said that the problem also costs about $342 million annually in terms of providing protective services, such as police and counseling services.

Cupach said the rise of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, has provided “an even greater repertoire available to stalkers.” He pointed out that there are even new smartphone applications that allow people to track the movement of others.

When asked what he wanted UCF students to get out of his speech, Cupach responded that “the biggest thing … is being direct, overt, and assertive” when dealing with a pursuer or stalker. Taking a direct approach has been shown to have the best results in stopping unwanted attention.

“Don’t be mean, but avoid being ambiguous,” Cupach said.Cupach has authored or co-authored 13 books and more than 50 journal articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries on his subject. Students and faculty alike responded positively to Cupach’s presentation.

Sherry J. Holladay, a public relations professor in the Nicholson School, said “I thought it was very good … the topic was particularly relevant for college students.” UCF student Victor Brenes, a philosophy major, said he “might read [Cupach’s] book. I want to know more details.”

This is an article by Jessica LaBruzzo and is courtesy of the NSC at UCF.

Comments are closed.