The complex link between forgiveness, PTSD symptoms and well-being in female victims of intimate partner stalking
Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research
Article publication date: 10 July 2017
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 victims’ forgiveness or lack of forgiveness towards their perpetrators, controlling for escalation of stalking, age of victims and dispositional forgiveness.
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 victims’ forgiveness of perpetrators and victims’ PTSD symptoms and general well-being. Interviews took place after one, two or three years following the PO.
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.
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 woman’s 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.
This study addresses the relationship between forgiveness and lack of forgiveness among victims of IPS and PTSD symptoms and victims’ poor 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.
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.
Baldry, A.C., Cinquegrana, V., Regalia, C. and Crapolicchio, E. (2017), "The complex link between forgiveness, PTSD symptoms and well-being in female victims of intimate partner stalking", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 230-242. https://doi.org/10.1108/JACPR-08-2016-0247
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