National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Domestic Violence Training in Hospitals

The following entry is written by Maria Phelps.  Maria is a survivor and blogger. She uses her website http://4survivors.blogspot.com/  to share her personal experience with DV, address current DV issues and advocate for victims’ rights. Maria was kind enough to give us permission to reprint her latest entry and share it with you all.

Two years ago I was brought into St. Lukes Hospital in Orange County NY for a severely injured left leg. I was carried in on a stretcher by EMTs, followed by my abuser. I was given a room and got immediate attention by the staff, and the team of medical personnel did a wonderful job in stabilizing me and taking care of my injured body. With my abuser at my side, I was asked questions by the staff members, questions like “how did this happen?”. My husband answered for me, naturally, he wanted to hide the abuse and conceal the truth. I was afraid, in shock, and immobile, and I lied that night in the ER. For a few moments, I was taken out of my small hospital room and was wheeled off to get X-rays. I was alone, finally. Nurses tried to make conversation with me and asked what had happened, and I told them “my husband did this to me”. The conversation was over at that point, and everyone became uncomfortable. I got my X-rays not too long after the conversation and found that I had three breaks in my left leg, and I needed surgery. I went home with my abuser that night.

Today was court. Today I was prepared for a trial for my order of protection in Rockland County NY, under Judge Christopher. While preparing for my trial, I realized that the way a scene of a domestic violence crime is handled by law enforcement and medical personnel is critical for the victim. In my case, I was never once separated from my abuser the day of the injury, not when the police arrived, and not when I got into the ER. This changed everything. I was too afraid to tell the truth about what had happened to me to the officers when the injury took place, and I was too afraid to tell my Dr. what happened to me at the hospital because my abuser was hovering over me the whole time. My abuser was at my side the entire night, helping the police file a false police report, his version, and telling the Dr. that my injury was a result of “playing around/wrestling”. Looking back on this situation, both at my home with the police and at the hospital, I’ve realized that had the hospital staff been trained in recognizing the signs of DV, my case against my abuser would have been stronger today. It is critical to have accurate accounts of what happened at the scene of any violent crime, especially DV crimes, because too often, battered women are too afraid to report abuse to the police. In my case, even though I sustained severe injuries, there are no reports stating that the injuries stemmed from abuse. Thankfully, I did file an amended police report about the abuse at a later date, but I was lucky.

Although the scene of my domestic violence incident was not handled properly, I was still prepared for court today. I was prepared to tell my story of brutal violence, and I was prepared to tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth. I was prepared to explain why I couldn’t tell the police the real story that day, and I was prepared to explain why I couldn’t tell my Dr. the real story either. The truth is, I was never left alone with any member of law enforcement and I was never left alone with my Dr. long enough to tell the truth that night. When I arrived at court, I was ready to give my testimony and I was ready and eager to hear my husband’s testimony. But, I never got to testify because my abuser consented to the permanent restraining order and I was able to walk out of court today with my order of protection (1 year OP).

Although I was able to get my order of protection, I am still disturbed about something. Today I phoned St. Lukes Hospital in Newburgh NY and asked to speak with someone in the hospital that would know about staff member domestic violence training. I am certain that there are hospitals in Ulster County, Rockland County, and Westchester County that have local shelters train hospital staff members about recognizing the signs of violence. But after I asked the question, no one knew of any “DV training” in the hospital, and I wasn’t surprised considering I was a victim of violence and no one saw the signs two years ago when I was brought in on a stretcher. So, I left a message with the Education Department and I emailed my question directly to the hospital. I am waiting for a reply, but this is an issue I want to address. It is critical for victims of domestic violence to have at least one accurate record about the abuse on the day of the injury. These documents are critical for the courts and hospitals should be trained to recognize the signs of abuse and they should be following a protocol, possibly making a confidential DV file for the patient, and giving victims safety plans.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Hope, Help, Heartfelt Thanks

The following entry is written by Regan Martin, survivor and subject of a blog post we featured a few weeks ago dealing with GPS tracking written by her mother Cherry Simpson. This is a follow up to that story and reveals new developments in her case.

Hope, Help, Heartfelt Thanks

I am a survivor of spousal rape and abuse. Lost, alone and repeatedly victimized and dehumanized by the system is how my I felt for the three years I have struggled through the system. I have received help from shelters, advocates, and even gotten media attention but it has been extremely hard on me, I lost my home, I have spent over $22,000 on attorney fees, relocation fees, and countless hours in court. It seemed hopeless and without end. I hated the thought of how my children and I could live like this any longer.

Then in November 2008 Rachel Sandal Morse became my friend, advocate and pro bono [Latin, For the public good] attorney she helped the prosecution in the goal of holding the offender accountable and me and my children, from any future harm. My mother had written a letter asking for help from the Cindy Bischof Foundation. Harvard Law Professor Diane Rosenfeld contacted an ex-student with the firm of Jenner and Block in Chicago, IL.

Rachel first acted on my behalf as my attorney during the criminal prosecution of the 3rd (13 counts) and 4th (3 counts) violation’s of OP. Rachel made the court more bearable; she made me comfortable and spoke for me better than anyone ever had. Words can’t describe how she changed everything. She was my communicator, my navigator, my rescuer, and gave me hope when I thought I had none. She was so gracious and knowledgeable. She made everyone want to do a better job. She helped mend the huge gaping hole of misunderstanding and uncaring felt between the system and the victim. She turned it all around so smoothly, so kindly. She helped my children and me more than anyone else ever has.

Don’t give up hope, my abuser is in prison now and I have some sense of peace until his release on 1/2/2011. I am continuing to fight and I have an active order of protection even though he is in prison. He has stalked me since 2006. I have asked a federal prosecutor to do a Federal Stalking Threshold Analysis.

Don’t be afraid to ask for legal help with your domestic violence case. There are people out there willing to serve and help others. I thank God for them.

Recently my mother wrote about the use of the GPS on my abuser and how it helped to save our lives. Because she shared my story a representative from Justice for Children came forward and offered to help me with the visitation family court problems still looming over us.

I will do all I can to keep my children and myself safe. Don’t be afraid to share your story. Asking for help is good. Helping others helps you.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Technology Safety for Survivors

Technology safety is a very important issue in the domestic violence community. Technological advances have great benefits but there are also drawbacks and caution must be used, especially when communicating online.  People often don’t realize that the information they post online may reveal more about themselves than they intend. We sat down with an expert in the field to get insight and tips on safety. The following is our short question and answer session:

Where did you learn about online safety?

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) provides a great training program called Safety Net: the National Safe and Strategic Technology Project. Safety Net educates victims, their advocates and the general public on ways to use technology strategically to help find safety and escape domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking.

What advice do you have about internet browsing safety?

The most important thing to remember is to use a safe computer, one that the abuser has absolutely no access to. You can use a computer at the public library, at a friend’s place, a local internet cafe, etc. The reason for this is that everything you do on a computer can be tracked. Clearing the browsing history is not enough of a precaution because abusers can install spyware on your computer to track your usage even if they no longer have physical access to the computer.

What are some best practices for communicating safely online in regards to disclosure of personal information?

It is always best to disclose as little as possible online. You never know who may be reading what you write. Do not write anything you would not want an abuser to know. Think before sharing  any information about yourself or others that can identify you, including  names, specific locations, or any other unique personal information. It is also important to understand that email is not a secure form of communication; it can be tracked. Sending emails should be treated in the same manner you would treat sending postcards, they can end up anywhere and anyone can read them.

What are some other general tips you would like to share?

The following are some general tips provided by NNEDV:

Trust your instincts: If you suspect an abusive person knows too much, it  is possible that your phone, computer, email or other activities are being monitored.

Create a new email account: If you suspect that anyone abusive can access your email, consider creating an additional email account on a safer computer. Do not create or check this new email from a computer your abuser could access, in case it is monitored.

Change passwords and pin numbers: Some abusers use victim’s email and other accounts to impersonate and cause harm. If anyone abusive knows or may guess your passwords, change them quickly and frequently.

Use a donated or new cell phone:  When making or receiving private calls or arranging escape plans, try not to use a shared or family cell phone because cell phone bill records and phone logs might reveal your plans to an abuser.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

GPS Tracking

The following blog entry was written by Cherry Simpson, mother of domestic violence survivor Regan Martin. For more information about her story click here.

Other links of interest:
Cindy Bischof Foundation 
GPS News and Media Harvard Law Professor Diane Rosenfeld

In May 2006 my daughter was handcuffed, raped and beaten by her husband – he confessed and was still allowed to plea out of the sex crime status. He got 3 yrs 9 months and served 19 months. We knew he would do it again upon his release. He stalked my daughter from prison. We were told from day one you’ll never get a GPS put on him. Well we did.

I personally credit the GPS monitor for keeping my daughter and grandchildren alive. I found out about it by looking on www.prisontalk.com. The convicts hate it because they have no legal recourse to have them removed once they’re placed on them by DOC and in fact many speak about it providing evidence used against them. I had read about the death of Cindy Bischof and the law which was passed in IL but it wasn’t going into effect until Jan 2009 and the court didn’t have the funds or the man power to order them or to monitor them at the time. So I did what was logical and contacted IDOC, the PRB and parole. I sent them copies of Regan’s abuser’s arrests and criminal record as well as proof of his continued stalking.

I knew DOC had GPS for sex offenders, so I appealed to them on the basis that he was a sex offender. He had also continued to stalk my daughter from prison and we reported that to the prison and PRB and filed charges with the DA.

I had heard that Harvard Law Professor Diane Rosenfeld worked with the Cindy Bischof Foundation and I wrote them asking for their support. Professor Rosenfeld wrote the lethality assessment for my daughter and got her a pro-bono attorney. to represent her victim rights in court. I thank God for women like Professor Rosenfeld and Attorney Rachel Morse who work in the law, their presence in the justice system is helping to change the Law to reflect reality.

My daughter’s case was written about in the Chicago Tribune. In the story my daughters abuser talks about cutting it off and being able to get to her in 5 minutes. But he didn’t.

The GPS has a 100% success rate in keeping women alive. We wanted an effective legal guarantee of personal-security for my daughter and her children. I think it’s a wonderful tool and will not only help save lives but prevents crime and helps to prosecute crime. We all have GPS on our phones and now we’ve got a microchip being put on our USPS postage stamps because of anthrax and congress. They already use them on sex offenders DOC has them and have monitored them and used the data to prosecute perpetrators. I believe it is inevitable we will all see them utilized soon. Congress wants to live too.

I also think the GPS is important for womens human rights. Too many women are dying from domestic violence. I personally find it very disingenuous that any domestic violence coalition wouldn’t want it. It saves lives. It shouldn’t be about money, it should be about saving womens lives. The rate prisoners are being released early we all need this crime deterrent tool.

Women are being blamed for getting themselves beat and raped by men they know and then chastised for not liking them afterwards. We need the state to recognize that women are violated because we are women (a form of unequal treatment which needs legal teeth) the GPS helps do exactly that and more.

The problems I hear about have been about state lines but according to the VAWA and the Full Faith and Credit Laws it should not be a problem. We have asked PRB upon my daughter’s abuser’s new release that he be given a GPS monitor just like the last time (he was just put back into prison for the 3rd and 4th violation of OP). The Attorney General of Illinois has assured me he will have it put on him. We received a letter from IDOC told my daughter she would qualify for the GPS under the new Cindy Bischof Law.

I already have the proof it works to save lives…my daughter and grandchildren LIVE with us now.

Sincerely,

Cherry Simpson