Published: March, 2016| TK Logan, Edited by Stephanie Avalon

The Stalking and Harassment Assessment and Risk Profile, a research informed tool for increasing awareness of stalking, can be used by victims or others on behalf of the victim.

Stalking can be defined as an “intentional course of conduct that induces fear or concern for safety.” According to a recent study, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will experience stalking at some point during their lifetime. Additionally, about 50% of female and 33% of male victims of stalking experienced it for the first time before 25 years old. By its nature, stalking is often difficult to investigate, charge and prosecute. It occurs over extended periods of time and relies on victims to document and preserve evidence. While stalking can create great fear and harm, disrupting and sabotaging victims’ lives, the criminal justice system is more oriented to addressing physical harm than psychological harm. SHARP is a tool designed to help overcome these barriers. 

Available online for free, the Stalking and Harassment Assessment and Risk Profile (SHARP) is a 43 item web-based assessment developed from empirical research, clinical literature, stalking victims’ stories, case studies, as well as feedback from victims, advocates, and other professionals in the field. SHARP provides an assessment of the “big picture” of the stalking situation. The conceptual framework for assessing stalking is based on key components of stalking. SHARP can also be used by law enforcement and other professionals to structure interviews and help present cases.

In addition, SHARP provides a situational risk profile that consists of 12 factors associated with a wide variety of harms including physical or sexual attack, harm to family and friends, ongoing and escalating stalking and harassment, and life sabotage. SHARP creates a dynamic narrative of stalking that validates the victims’ experience, explaining the fear created by the stalking and the chaotic impact on the victims’ life. 

The Stalking Problem

In domestic violence the question always is “why doesn’t she just leave?” But research shows that leaving does not necessarily stop the abuse, and it may even increase the risk of violence and abuse. Perhaps the better question is “Why doesn’t he just leave her alone?” Instead of leaving her alone, he often harasses and stalks her.

The Difficulty of Explaining the Fear

Stalking and harassment are crimes involving specific incidents that cumulatively create harm. But how can a stalking victim, a prosecutor or a probation officer convey the degree of harm these individual incidents have caused? This is the question that haunted TK Logan, a Kentucky researcher who studies stalking. TK knew stalking victims need meaningful support, but she says “It’s hard to support them if we don’t understand what is happening.”

Individual incidents can be so numerous they are distracting. They are often bizarre, or they don’t make sense to interveners. When victims describe their attempts to cope, law enforcement or others may react with skepticism, thinking “if you were so afraid why do something like that?” 
or “well, that could be a coincidence.” So they engage in denying, minimizing, and diminishing. Not because interveners want to silence the victim, but because they struggle to understand. 

Snapshots vs. a Film

The problem is like the difference between a snapshot and a film. The snapshot may very accurately record an incident but that’s not enough. What happened before and after? What does the incident mean for the victim experiencing it? What is the big picture in which the incident resides? Hearing incidents out of context, friends, family and professionals often respond inadequately. Snapshots suggest an underlying narrative, but do not provide one.
The Stalking and Harassment Assessment and Risk Profile (SHARP) creates a dynamic story that facilitates understanding and communication about the stalking situation, because, as TK says, “if we can understand we can help”. 

"I did SHARP yesterday - it is a great assessment! My concern about me not being able to plug in my facts were unfounded as the questions allowed for the fact that the stalking may have stopped for certain periods of time...I will be letting the victim advocate I am working with know of SHARP and recommend she let her peers in other cities and towns know about it as well. I thought it was such a great idea that it could not only be used for victims who know they are being stalked but as a tool to show victims who are in denial about being stalked what the date shows." -Stalking Victim

How SHARP was developed

SHARP was created by TK Logan, Ph.D., Robert Walker, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., and Jeb Messer, B.A.. Every component of SHARP is informed by research as outlined in Logan and Walker’s 2015 paper, Stalking: A Multidimensional Framework for Assessment and Safety Planning

Grounded in the research literature on stalking, SHARP is consistent with general legal components of stalking statutes and was developed collaboratively with professionals in the field as well as victims, including attorneys, victim advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement, and organizations such as the Battered Women’s Justice Project and the Stalking Resource Center. Research on SHARP continues and funding is being sought to expand the research. Evaluation of the tool’s utility in achieving its goal as an educational tool has been gathered only anecdotally at this point.  

The SHARP Assessment Tool

SHARP is a quick online assessment, consisting of 43 questions. It is dynamic, and will ask users whether they are the victim or a professional filling it out on behalf of the victim. It also asks for the gender of offender and victim and for names or initials which then are integrated into the actual questions. So for example, TK explains, “If I am the victim the question will ask 'How fearful are you that Mark will harm you?' If I am a professional it will ask 'How fearful is TK that Mark will harm her?'"

SHARP then produces, within a few minutes, two narrative reports in a Word document. The first report is a narrative summary tailored to responses to the questions, narrated in a third person perspective, and about two pages in length. This narrative provides the big picture of stalking and the cumulative fear and harm victims experience due to the stalker. In essence, this tool helps people “get the picture.” The second report is a safety management tool which is about five pages, follows the STEPS framework recommended by TK, and is tailored based on responses.

TK Logan
TK Logan

Developing SHARP was an incredible amount of work accomplished with no funding. TK Logan says the effort was “totally fueled with passion, sacrifice and the goodwill of many people. Developed in collaboration with the community, it is free and being used locally, nationally, and internationally. SHARP is about helping stalking victims, unearthing this silenced suffering they are experiencing, and providing a needed tool to facilitate communication and to help bring communities together to fight this epidemic.” 

Earlier in its development the SHARP was presented as a webinar by BWJP and the Stalking Resource Center. The webinar recording is available here, and includes a live demonstration using a stalking scenario.

You can find SHARP at CoerciveControl.org. There are also three one page sheets to help advocates, law enforcement, and judges with learning about stalking. Further, TK and Teri Faragher have created a website OutrageUs.org that includes short mini-documentaries that feature victims telling their stories of being stalked along with victim advocates, prosecutors, judges, and police talking about how they view stalking cases.

For more information, please contact TK Logan at: tklogan@uky.edu.