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digital safety

Getting Digital to End Abuse

In light of the recent tragedies that occurred in Steubenville, Ohio, and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, it’s easy to feel like tech and social media is causing more problems than inspiring good.

While there have been examples of the two being used to harm, we’re also seeing social media and technology being used to prevent and spread awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. Today, we’re taking a look at empowering apps, websites and projects that are changing the way we see abuse.


Apps Against Abuse

In 2011, Vice President Joe Biden launched the Apps Against Abuse challenge, calling on innovators to make mobile apps to prevent dating violence and abuse. Among the winning apps was Circle of 6, which uses texting to contact friends and employs GPS to tell them where you are. A new version has even been developed specifically for India, taking into account cultural differences, language and in-country resources.

Hollaback!

Catcallers are called out publically with Hollaback!, which lets anyone who has experienced street harassment share their stories, images and videos on an interactive map that documents where the incident took place. With both web and mobile apps, this nonprofit is taking the streets by storm in 64 cities and 22 countries. They hope to soon have the capability to allow users to report directly to the NYC government.

Project Unbreakable

Featured on an episode of “Law & Order SVU” in which a campus quad of hundreds of students held up posters with quotes from their attackers, Project Unbreakable is an image-based project that has spread all over the country thanks to the power of the web. It began on Tumblr and has been named one of the Top 30 Tumblr blogs by TIME Magazine. The woman behind the project, Grace Brown, photographs survivors of sexual assault holding a poster with a quote from their attacker. She has taken images of over 400 people for this “art of healing” viral project.

#ididnotreport

While a hashtag can be co-opted to victim blame and spread hateful messages (such as Torrington, CT’s #FreeEdgar), it can also be a powerful social media tool to begin dialogues on a global scale. In 2012 a blogger from London Feminist sparked a Twitter movement with the hashtag #Ididnotreport. She expected it to be limited to users tweeting about what she described as “low level harassment” but people everywhere began using it, especially in relation to serious sexual assaults. The hashtag opened up discussion and built an instant community of people with similar experiences, while highlighting the vast problem of underreporting and the many reasons people don’t report.

loveisrespect online chat and texting service

The loveisrespect online chat and texting service allows teens to talk about their relationship directly to a peer advocate whenever and wherever they want. This lets young people communicate in what can sometimes be a more comfortable and safer manner than in person or on the phone. The loveisrespect text service was the first in the country of its kind, and the service was actually launched by a text message from Vice President Joe Biden himself. Visit loveisrespect.org to use the online chat, or text “loveis” to 22522 to message an advocate today.


Have you heard of any other organizations that are using social media and technology in the fight against domestic violence and sexual abuse? Sound off in the comments — we’d love to learn about them.

leaving safely

Leaving Safely – Part 2

In addition to packing and planning, there are a few other measures you can take to safeguard against potential problems that may arise when you’re leaving. As we see on today’s Dr. Phil episode, “Saving Julie: The Final Decision,” getting out of an abusive relationship is a dangerous, difficult time, and it is important to plan and have a support system in place.


Digital Safety

Don’t disclose any personal information online about your plans. If you’re making plans for leaving and communicating about it via a computer or cell phone, access a computer from the library or a friend’s house, or remember to clear your browser history. Make sure to tell friends to not post anything about your whereabouts online.

Don’t answer threatening or excessive texts or calls while you leave and after you’ve left. Let them go to voicemail. This also could be used to document the abuse — for example, 50 missed calls? Take a screen shot of that.

Cell phones can be tracked via GPS. Try a “throw away phone” or perhaps plan to get a new one and leave your old phone behind.

What about protective orders? 

A protective order is legal documentation to keep your abuser away from you, and can often contain provisions related to custody, finance, and more. However, these will require you to see your abuser in court, and are not always highly enforced. In this episode we see Danny describing how he broke a protective order and attacked his ex-girlfriend and a man she was with.

While protective orders may be able to put a stop to physical abuse, psychological abuse is still possible — so a protective order should never replace a safety plan.

Our advocates can speak to you about how a protective order works, as well as direct you to legal advocates that can provide you with specific information about this based on where you’re living. Different states have different processes for a protective order. Check out Women’s Law for more info.

If you already have a protective order, it should be kept on you at all times — as well as given to your children and anyone they might be with — especially when you’re leaving your abuser.

After You Leave

Consider making a “false trail.” For example, call motels far away from where you plan on being. Do this after you leave, otherwise it could tip off the abuser that you’re planning on leaving, which could be dangerous.

Remember that leaving will likely be difficult, and it’s important to have support and a plan in place. If you feel like leaving might be an option, give us a call at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) to discuss options.

Our advocates at The Hotline are here for you to help create a safety plan for leaving as well as after you’ve left, and to make sure you have ongoing emotional support afterwards.

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On the Lines- The Hotline, September 2010

“I can’t even stop by to see my parents without his permission,” my caller told me.

My caller described her relationship with her husband as something that started out very loving and comforting, but soon deteriorated into something that she described as “monstrous” and “unbearable.” About two years into my caller’s marriage, her husband started getting paranoid that she was going to leave him. He would check in on her constantly, often asking detailed, minute-by-minute accounts of her day. Sometimes, he would check her routes on Google maps and make sure that the mileage on her car matched her story.

One day, she had taken one hour to do the grocery shopping. When she got home from that shopping trip, her husband was furious. He insisted that she should only need 30 minutes to do the shopping. When my caller told him that she sometimes needed more than that, he slammed her head against the piano bench and told her never to talk back to him again. It was the first time he physically hurt her, but it would not be the last. She lived in constant fear.

On the day she called The Hotline, she had gone to see her parents. They noticed a new bruise on her upper arm, one in the shape of her husband’s hand. She told them that she couldn’t stay to discuss it with them; she had to get home before her husband got suspicious. She said that the looks on her parents’ faces broke her heart. In that moment, she knew that she needed help. I let my caller know that I was glad she called. She did not deserve to be treated the way she had been treated, and she was not alone. We explored the ways that she could keep herself physically and emotionally safe, and we discussed her options and resources in going forward.

She ended the call with a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” she said. “Without you, he literally might have killed me or driven me crazy. You have saved my life!”

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month and this dangerous and unpredictable crime is often seen in domestic violence situations. Three in four victims are stalked by someone they know and more than 3.4 million adults are stalked each year in the United States.

The theme for the 8th annual observation of this awareness month is “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” which encourages people to learn what constitutes as stalking, recognize it when it happens, and put an end to it. Stalking is defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

Those who are victims of stalking sometimes suffer in silence. They have anxiety, social dysfunction and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population. Stalking also affects their ability to go to school or work. Stalkers often use technology to track their victims. They install spyware on computers and use global positioning systems on cell phones.

This January, learn more about stalking and how you can help spread awareness of this crime in your community. For more information, please visit the Stalking Resource Center.

Parents, if you need help talking to your teen about stalking or you worry that they are currently being stalked, please direct them to a post by loveisrespect on the issue.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Promoting Active GPS Technology to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence

The following blog entry was written by Amanda Dyson.

Laws for sex offenders to wear global positioning system (GPS) devices vary by state. Some states, such as Missouri, Florida, Oklahoma, and Ohio, require certain sex offenders to wear GPS bands for life. Currently, it is not mandatory for abusers in domestic violence cases to wear a GPS tracking device; people are speaking up about this issue.

In March, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz spoke out for legislation he calls the Erika Bill, which would require any individual with an order of protection issued due to domestic violence to wear an ankle GPS monitoring device. The bill is named after Erika Delia, who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend while a restraining order was in effect.  Ortiz made the point that “every 15 seconds an instance of domestic violence occurs.”

Active GPS technology is the safest option for all victims of abuse. Passive GPS tracking devices seem insufficient when compared to newly available active GPS devices that alert domestic abuse victims by call or text if an abuser is in close range.

This May, a sex offender in Northern California, Leonard Scroggins, removed his passive GPS tracking device. Though this technology is used with other crime prevention strategies, Scroggins was still able to make it to San Diego, where he attacked four women within two days. If he were wearing an active GPS that immediately alerted authorities when cut off, time could have been saved and lives protected.

Passive GPS tracking bands require an individual to physically observe a wearer’s activity at intervals while active GPS bands are able to send instant alerts via cell phones if a wearer violates area guidelines. Active GPS technology costs around $10-$15 a day. The small devices combine GPS and cellular technologies and do not require proximity to a separate stationary transmission box as other available monitoring systems do. These new devices may also help domestic violence victims to feel more secure that their abuser will not be able to get close without warning. Though some GPS companies advertise active GPS technology and may provide 24 hour monitoring, not all devices are said to provide cell phone alerts.

Active GPS technology has become available for local authorities to implement in cases. Recently, GPS Monitoring Solutions demonstrated its active GPS product in California for court employees, lawyers and victims of domestic violence. Their technology concentrates on victim notification and provides real-time location tracking with the TrackerPal.

A Texas based company, Satellite Tracking of People LLC, provides a BlueTag Active band that transmits data at least once every ten minutes. Attorney General and Minister of Justice Kim Wilson wore an ankle bracelet for one week to test the device and feels that it could serve as an incentive for rehabilitation for offenders and cut down on prison populations in Bermuda.

As GPS devices continue to improve and individuals help to speak out on behalf of domestic violence, technology can be used as a safer and more reliable option to protect victims of abuse.

Last year, Cherry Simpson wrote for the Survivor’s Blog on how GPS tracking kept her daughter safe in an abusive relationship. Read her story here. This is only one example of how GPS technology has helped in a domestic violence situation, surely there are many more. Victims of domestic violence can seek an order of protection, but a piece of paper is not always enough. Active GPS devices should still be used in combination with other safety measures and victims should remain alert to the reality that the technology is not foolproof.

Sources:

http://www.review-news.com/main.asp?SectionID=60&SubSectionID=126&ArticleID=6149

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/may/30/a-broken-system/

http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_15200626#ixzz0pdIEoCqY

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/30611/

http://www.gpsmonitoring.com/family-courts.html

http://www.royalgazette.com/rg/Article/article.jsp?articleId=7da313b30030000&sectionId=60

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,164288,00.html

http://www.ndvh.org/2009/05/gps-tracking/

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

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