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Capps Reintroduces Bill to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence and Stalking

As we approach Mother’s Day, Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) announced this week that she has reintroduced legislation to strengthen protections for women everywhere who are victims of domestic violence and stalking by closing loopholes that allow their abusers and stalkers access to guns.

Currently, more than three times as many women are murdered with guns used by their intimate partners than are murdered by strangers using a gun, knife, or any other weapon. Furthermore, dating partners were responsible for 35 percent of intimate partner homicides committed between 1976 and 2005, and the share of intimate partner homicides committed annually by current dating partners has been on the rise.

The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (H.R. 2216) would address these disturbing figures by closing several loopholes that currently exist in federal protections against gun violence for those who are victims of domestic violence or stalking. “We applaud the reintroduction of the Protecting Domestic Violence and Staking Victims Act,” said Ron LeGrand Vice President of Public Policy for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “While federal law prohibits some perpetrators from keeping their firearms, dangerous loopholes remain for dating partners, stalkers, and abusers served with emergency temporary protective orders. Representative Capps’s bill closes these dangerous loopholes and will save countless lives when it is enacted.”

“In 2014, The Hotline conducted a survey where nearly 16 percent of the participants said their partners had access to guns, and a startling 67 percent said they believed their partner was capable of killing them,” said Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “For those individuals, it is critical that we continue to work together to strengthen the law to protect survivors from firearm violence at the point when they first seek help.”

The bill has 18 original co-sponsors in Congress. It is supported by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Center for Victims of Crime, Futures Without Violence, National Latin@ Network and Casa de Esperanza.

document-the-abuse

Building Your Case: How to Document Abuse

document-the-abuseIf you are in an abusive relationship and are in the process of taking (or deciding to take) legal action against your abusive partner, documentation of your partner’s abusive behaviors can be an important component of your case.

It’s worth noting that each state has different laws about what evidence and documentation can be used in court. Speaking with a legal advocate in your state might better prepare you for your unique situation (our advocates at the Hotline can help locate a legal advocate near you). According to WomensLaw, in most states evidence can include (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Verbal testimony from you or your witnesses
  • Medical reports of injuries from the abuse
  • Pictures (dated) of any injuries
  • Police reports of when you or a witness called the police
  • Household objects torn or broken by the abuser
  • Pictures of your household in disarray after a violent episode
  • Pictures of weapons used by the abuser against you
  • A personal diary or calendar in which you documented the abuse as it happened

Below are a few actions you can take to create documentation, if you are able to or feel safe doing so:

Visit the doctor. More and more, doctors and gynecologists are trained to recognize signs of abuse. Your health care provider could also be a safe resource for disclosing the abuse. If you’re visiting a doctor for an injury, ask them about safe ways they can make notes about the abuse — ex. Some can write “cause of an injury” without it having to go to the police.

Consider outside documentation. Do you have a trusted friend, coworker or family member who knows what’s going on and would be willing to help? There are many ways they can help document the abuse — whether that’s a coworker making note of times your partner calls you at the office, or a friend holding your journal at her house.

Create a stalking log. If your partner is stalking you, creating a stalking log can be very helpful to your case. The National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center has examples of stalking logs (in PDF and Word formats) as well as additional information on stalking.

Learn more about police reports. Always ask questions. Call your local police department’s non-emergency number and find out about the protocols and procedures of filing a police report — ex. Like filing about a lost bike. Ask, “Hypothetically, if there was something that was happening that I would want to report…” This can help you prepare for filing a police report if you need to, which creates a paper trail of the abuse.

Take pictures. A digital camera or your phone camera may not always be safe. Consider getting a disposable camera. Another option is for someone else to take the pictures and keep them for you.

Let a call go to voicemail. Is your partner calling over and over? Let it go to voicemail once and save the voicemail.

Save digital evidence. Do you have a smartphone? Most have the “take a screenshot” option. Thirty missed calls from your abusive partner? Take a screenshot of that. Threatening texts? Instead of responding to them, take a screenshot of them. These screen shots get saved in your images folder, so remember to send them on to a friend and delete them. If your partner sends threatening emails, don’t respond to them, but consider saving them in a folder in your inbox.

If you’re not sure if making documentation of your abuse would be safe, always go with your gut. It’s very important to keep in mind that you are the expert on your situation, and what works for one person may not be a safe idea for another person.

We are not legal advocates at the Hotline, but we are able to offer support and refer you to the local or state resources that might be helpful to you. Give us a call anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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

Dating Abuse

The following blog entry was written by Emily Toothman. She graduated from The University of Texas in 2005.  She is now 26 years old, working as a Program Specialist at The National Domestic Violence Hotline.  In February of 2007, she had the honor of answering the first call to the loveisrespect, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline.

I was 19, a student in my second year at college, when I met the man of my dreams in one of my classes.  He was tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and All-American — with a smooth demeanor and a knack for saying all the right things.  He treated me like a princess.  Gifts, surprise visits to my dorm room and classes, frequent phone calls to see where I was and how I was doing.  He told me he loved me within the first month of our relationship, and he wanted to be near me all the time.  On our first anniversary, he surprised me with a candlelit dinner in a house overlooking the lake.  I was living the fairy tale that every little girl is taught to dream.

But then, two weeks after our first anniversary, I found him in bed with an ex-girlfriend.  I immediately broke up with him.  It was only then that I began to truly see his controlling nature.

I started to see him everywhere I went.  He showed up to my classes and sat two rows behind me.  I caught glimpses of him walking a couple paces behind me on campus.  Pretty soon, he started calling my cell phone constantly, leaving up to twenty voice messages a day begging me to reconsider our relationship.  When I started hanging out with other guys, he would follow me and leave threatening notes under the windshield wipers on my car.  My professors started to confide in me that “my boyfriend” had told them about my “drug problem.”

I returned home one evening after going to a meeting on campus, and he was on my doorstep.  He was drunk, and he was angry.  As his anger escalated, he began to shove me around and pin me by my neck against my front door, smashing empty beer bottles against the corner of the building and holding the shattered glass up to my face.  He had simply snapped.  I escaped to a friend’s house an hour later with a broken rib, a sprained wrist, a black eye, and bruises from head to toe.

Following the first attack, I took some self-defense lessons from a friend of mine who was a black-belt in karate.  I stayed with some friends so that I didn’t have to go back to my apartment alone.  I felt like everyone was looking at me, even though I had carefully caked on make-up to cover the bruises.  It took me days to build up the courage to leave the apartment to go to class.  I was terrified, and I felt more alone than ever.  Though I have always been close to my parents, I refused to tell them.  I felt that they would be hurt, worried – or worse – disappointed in how I’d handled the situation.   My friends, though they tried to be supportive, had a hard time even believing what was happening.

A week later, he confronted me again.  This time, he was sober, and it was in broad daylight in the center of campus.  He once again pinned me to the wall, but this time he threatened me with a butterfly knife to my jugular.  Students would walk by and stare, but not one interfered.  I struggled with him for close to a quarter of an hour, and finally, I managed to kick his knee backwards.  It broke.  As he was writhing on the ground, I used my cell phone to call the police.  A week later, he would break bail and leave the country.  I would never see him again.

The experience did change me – sometimes for the worse, but (I hope) mostly for the better.  I had to struggle with fear, anger, depression, insomnia, and even nausea.  I had to mend the breach of trust that my parents felt when they found out about my situation after the fact.  I’ve had to fight to break down my defensive walls, so that I could be less guarded in my romantic relationships and less cautious in my friendships.  It has not been easy.

But — to be completely honest with you – I wouldn’t change a moment of my experience for anything in the world.  It shook me to the core.  It created a passion in me for justice and peace, and it led me down a path that I would have never expected.  It led me here, to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  I will always remember, with the highest gratitude, the role that my experience has allowed me to play in reaching out to survivors.

Dating abuse is a reality for many, many teens across this country — a terrifying, overwhelming reality that is largely hidden and ignored.  I wish that I had known at the time what I know now, thanks to the work of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the loveisrespect, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: I am not alone.  I am not the only one to have experienced what I experienced, and I am not the only one who has decided to turn those experiences into positive changes for others like me.  I am very honored to be a part of such an amazing generation of young people who will start the conversation about dating abuse, and who will change the realities of young people across the nation.

By Emily Toothman

Please visit loveisrespect.org  for resources on teen dating abuse or to chat with a peer advocate. If chat is unavailable, call 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 TTY. loveisrespect has recently been called on for its expert guidance by the popular soap opera General Hospital for a teen dating abuse storyline. The storyline will air today, Friday July 17th and a PSA will air directly following the program.

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