U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Invisible Intruder: Women's Experiences of Obscene Phone Calls (From Violence Against Women: The Bloody Footprints, P 73-78, 1993, Pauline B. Bart, Eileen Geil Moran, eds. - See NCJ-143961)

NCJ Number
C J Sheffield
Date Published
6 pages
Obscene telephone calls are examined as a particular manifestation of sexual terrorism committed by males against females, using self-reported information from 58 self-selected participants who anonymously completed a call for information.
Forty-two participants were students at William Paterson College in Wayne, N.J.; 16 were contacted through a women's network in Boston. The questionnaire did not try to define obscene telephone calls; participants recorded their experiences and perceptions as they defined obscene phone calls. Five participants reported never having received an obscene telephone call, 23 reported receiving between 1 and 5 such calls, 21 reported receiving 6-25 such calls, 6 reported receiving 26-50 calls, and 3 reported experiencing more than 50 calls. All but four callers were male. Reactions to receiving an obscene telephone call varied, but not considerably. Five reported that the call had no effect and dismissed them as humorous, annoying, pathetic, or something women have to accept. In contrast, 48 responses clustered around feelings of anger, fear, disgust, degradation, and abuse. Ten participants reported that they hung up, two blew a whistle into the phone, one ultimately replied in a sexual manner and caused the caller to hang up, and two reported trying to talk to the caller and having the caller hang up. Forty participants did not report the call either to the police or the telephone company. The 13 who did report were more likely to call the telephone company than the police. The police were cooperative only in the rare cases in which the caller was known. Findings suggested that obscene telephone calls are a form of sexual intimidation and harassment; this phenomenon appears to reflect a fusion of dominance and sexuality. 5 references