Friday, July 8, 2011

Domestic Abuse Around The Globe

Domestic violence is a global phenomenon, and while in America we have institutions whose goals are set on preventing domestic violence, some other countries aren’t as fortunate.  One such country where domestic violence isn’t depicted as a severe problem is Lebanon.  Lebanon is part of the Arab world where domestic violence is considered a family law.  This family law means that all domestic violence cases are governed by the religious courts, and not state courts.  Recently, Lebanese supporters took to the streets regarding a bill that would make domestic violence a crime punishable by the government.  This Lebanese law, while not in effect yet, could create quite a shockwave, in a region known for neglecting women and their rights. 

In the Asian-Pacific region of the globe, they experience many of the same struggles.  A report by UN Women claimed that half the populations of women in the Asian-Pacific region have experienced physical and sexual violence.  The report also stated that a third of respondents thought it was sometimes acceptable for a man to beat his wife.  Women in this region of the globe are under-represented in government and only 8 out of the nineteen countries explicitly criminalize marital rape.  

Many women in the eastern hemisphere are products of their culture. In both regions discussed above, it is extremely difficult for women to escape acts of violence in their homes because of the rigid patriarchal society in which they live.  Different cultures approach the issue of domestic violence through different lenses.

Islam is the predominant religion in Lebanon and even the government is influenced by its teachings.  In Islam’s holy book it describes particular ways where violence against a spouse is acceptable without moral or lawful consequences.  This has been a large influence in why women in Lebanon are revolting; to change the way the government depicts the issue of domestic violence.  An Islamic scholar, Ahmad Shafaat said, “If the husband beats a wife without respecting the limits set down by the Qur'an and Hadith, then she can take him to court and if ruled in her favor she has the right to apply the law of retaliation and beat the husband as he beat her”.  If you can change the culture, you can change the person. 

The Asian-Pacific regions dilemma is more concerning, since the women have little say in any government or familial issues.  The way the culture runs is similar to the Lebanese culture except small villages or towns may not have a formal government to enforce any domestic violence laws.  Both of these regions, while different in customs, have similar values and cultures. To us it may seem unsettling, but to many these actions are ingrained and accepted as a normal part of culture.  

Scott Anderson / Communications Intern

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rape in Day Time Soaps

General Hospital is an American soap opera that owned my after school hours with my mother. It was all so intriguing witnessing the blossoming and drama that surrounded the relationships of many of the characters. The other day after doing some research on the day time phenomenon  (my mom totally DVRs it now); I came across the story of Luke Spencer and Laura Webber, the superstar couple that captured the hearts of so many women watching. Through the progression of the soap the writers have Laura fall in love with Luke despite the rape— their relationship meant to signify an act of love and redemption. However, as a young audience viewing what could be perceived as a sometimes noxious relationship, it is difficult not to question whether their relationship was healthy or even right for Laura Webber.

What puzzled me most was the dramatic climax of the rape depicted through a series of visual snippets (Luke’s aggression and Laura attempts to stop him) and Laura’s declarations and insistent 'no' to Luke. Further I was puzzled by the method used to frame the scene because it could have been construed as moment of seduction rather than rape.It is because of Laura’s blatant verbal refusals that the audience can really understand what happened

In reality the popularity of Anthony Geary, the actor playing Luke, increased exponentially even winning him an award from a devoted fan that read “America’s Most Beloved Rapist” (Levine 2007, 209). It is interesting to see how audiences accepted the rape and how some women worshiped Geary’s character. In Wallowing in Sex, Elena Levine notes the in the 1970s many daytime soaps used rape to add to the drama of their story lines. Days of Our Lives, Guiding Light even The Young and the Restless depicted acts of domestic violence to create appealing stories for their audiences. Thus leading to Levine’s question “… why was this subject so compelling for so many soap producers, as well as so many soap viewers, at this particular historical moment?” (Levine 2007, 224).

Through the years many soap operas still use the dramatic flair of domestic abuse and violence in constructing their story lines. As a viewer I wonder, as does Levine, why is this depiction so compelling? Further, why did audiences accept the character of Luke after he committed an act of rape?

Devonne Cusi | Communications Intern

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Public Display of Anger


People watching must be one of my favorite past times. I usually can’t help but make up colorful stories about   the fabulous and mysterious lives of strangers. So the other day, while enjoying some gossip and post work relaxation with one of my closest friends, we spotted the cutest couple at the bar.

I began my story…
He seemed a perfect mix of handsome, intellect and charm. She seemed happy and they spoke closely as if they were sharing an important secret…

Back to reality…
As I began to concoct a funny secret for them to share, both my friend and I were shocked by his abrupt and explosive outburst. “Why would you ask her if everything is okay? She’s my woman… You should ask me!” the man screamed at the startled bartender. A verbal battle began to ensue and all while the man’s  girlfriend began to shrink into her chair obviously embarrassed. “ I just wanted to make sure her food was alright,” said the bartender. “Well you should have asked me!” he shouted back. Grabbing his girlfriends arm roughly he forced her to defend his outburst as well. “Am I right?” he said.

 Long story short the metro police came and forced her boyfriend to leave. But I will never forget that forlorn look on her face that screamed ‘not again.’

Actions like these are not uncommon in unhealthy relationships. Public Display of Anger is the new PDA to look out for. Set off by the tiniest thing, public anger and abuse can escalate unless something is done to combat it. In this instance the police got involved and escorted the man out of the restaurant, but there are many instances where people stand idle. What would you do if you found yourself a witness or even participant in a situation like this?

Devonne Cusi | Communications Intern

Monday, March 21, 2011

Life imitating cartoons?

When I was younger, watching Saturday morning cartoons was the most important ritual of the weekend. Action, adventure, comedy, suspense even the dramatic flair of the characters attracted my youthful eyes. I drank in every scenario with blissful naivety— not realizing every time a Powerpuff girl struck a villain like Mojo Jojo or Tom and Jerry chased each other with hammers and hunger that there was a surprising lack of consequences. Unlike real life, animated cartoons ignore realistic outcomes of violence.

Violent cartoons presented with a comedic plot distort views of violence because they downplay the seriousness of aggression. Steven J. Kirsh notes in Children, Adolescents & Media Violence: a Critical Look at the Research that “the more violence deviates from reality, the less likely it is that the act of violence will be taken seriously by the viewer” (Kirsh, 162). Further in more realistic cartoons I think that that violence can influence aggressive behavior in children. Despite the inability for children to reenact the violence of episodes like Looney Tunes’ Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote, some children can still experience the act disinhibition [situation where a young person willingly acts out a previously learned aggressive behavior] (Kirsh, 168).

There are also some cartoons that for the most part are purely violent. An article from USA Today notes that unlike earlier cartoons, now characters are “caught in dark, powerful, oftentimes scary scenarios where there is hard violence.” I think the dilemma of exposure to these scenarios is that these shows can manipulate concepts of right and wrong to vulnerable young viewers. Personal experience has demonstrated to me that cartoons can have an effect on how young children sometimes deal with conflict. After a Batman- Pok√©mon- Clone Wars filled morning my younger cousin used to provoke his brother to mock fight in order to reenact those cartoons. Whether one boy was in the mood to be mischievous or was holding a grudge from the previous day, the result was the same and one of them always ended up hurt. You can chalk it up to boys being boys, but the cycle continued every Saturday morning.

I’m not saying that violent cartoons are the main triggers for violence and aggression in children, but not making young viewers aware of the real implications of violence is problematic especially to more susceptible viewers.

It seems that a big issue in today’s society is people are becoming increasingly desensitized to viewing, enacting and experiencing violence. Violence is a big issue and cartoons are just one aspect of the big picture. It you wonder if you really aware of how much influence the media has on you and your children?  

Devonne Cusi
Communications Intern | DCCADV

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Social Responsibility

February 2011 has been a great month for teen dating violence awareness. I am so glad to see more television programs, whether  talk shows or regular entertainment, have addressed the issue of abuse in some way. I’ll admit, a little shamefully, that I watch Desperate Housewives. I guess you can say I watch it out of habit more than anything being that the show usually has unimportant storylines, meant for pure entertainment value. However, this week’s episode sent chills down my spine.

Gabrielle Solis, a housewife who had left a modeling career behind seeks therapy for the abuse she had suffered as a child. Her therapist advises her to confront her abuser who is now dead by going to his grave. When Gabrielle goes to her hometown she finds that her anger is directed towards another person who wasn’t her abuser. She confronts a teacher, who is also a nun, about her past. As a child, Gabrielle had confided in this teacher and told her about the abuse she suffered. The teacher had told her that she had a wild imagination and hadn’t done anything about it. Gabrielle ends the conversation by saying, ‘Shame on you, because you were the adult.’ Gabrielle believed that as an adult it was the teacher’s responsibility to stop the abuse, but she didn’t live up to her responsibility. 

This episode made me think about our responsibilities as adults and community members. What do we do to help children who are in abusive relationships? Are we propagating a culture of abuse for the next generation? In the talk show, ‘The Talk,’ Dr. Phil said that one of the reasons we are facing high numbers of teen dating violence is that children today are exposed to more violence and sex on TV. Yes, some of the responsibility of this lies in the parents, but how much of it is our fault on the whole? Do we take responsibility for what we are doing? 

An article I was reading a few months ago made me think the same way. The article informed readers that Disney’s ‘Tangled’ was the last princess movie for the company. The reason was that girls over the age of 8 are no longer interested in princesses, rather more interested in acting like teenagers. The article didn’t explicitly say it, but I’m assuming the next Disney movies will be geared towards the changing attitude of children. Girls are acting and dressing more grown up. When they act and dress older, all future experiences in their lives are sped up.  They enter the dating scene sooner and by default, their exposure to abusive relationships starts sooner.  

Not having any control over media content, our responsibility comes down to two things; vigilance, and education. We have to observe the young people we are around,  be mindful of any warning signs of violence, and educate them. We have to talk about violence and make sure they know we are responsible for their safety and will not dismiss their concerns. How adults react to children and their abuse can affect their entire lives so we have to act now, when data is just starting to rise on tween and teen dating violence, to end the culture of abuse from gaining momentum.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Straight Talk with Teens

During my recent research on teen dating violence, I have come to realize something startling. It seems that many young men who are abusive don’t realize the extent of trauma their actions inflict on their victims. My last blog post on sexting covered the story of Philip Alpert who accepted his guilt but didn’t understand why his punishment was so severe. He insisted that what he did to his ex-girlfriend wasn’t traumatic, but rather simply embarrassing. While watching Dr. Phil’s episode, ‘Teens Obsessed with Love,’ which is part of his campaign to ‘End the Silence on Domestic Violence,’ I realized that this was a pattern among many abusive young men.  The relationship featured on the show was of a young couple, Samantha and Aron. While Aron was being interviewed by Dr. Phil, he denied being abusive. Aron repeatedly said that he loved Samantha and wanted her back. He denied his stalking of Samantha, which was witnessed by Samantha’s mother and friends. Aron said that the two of them “would play around” but it wouldn’t hurt anyone. 

These two situations raise a red flag on what’s in store for our future generation of adults if we don’t take actions to educate youth about healthy relationships. This was my first experience seeing an abuser being interviewed. I never thought that I would feel sorry for anyone that could be violent to another person, but I felt sorry for Aron. As I watched him, I didn’t see a violent person, I saw a young man in need of a lot of help. Dr. Phil offered Aron the opportunity to receive therapy after the show with the hope that he will recover and someday have a normal, healthy relationship with someone. 

Aron agreed to leave Samantha alone, but Dr. Phil stressed that Samantha and her family need to be very careful and vigilant. He emphasized the Separation Assault phenomenon. Separation Assault is when the abuser realizes he has lost control and tries to get it back with violence. Research has shown that incidences of assault increase after the victim leaves the relationship.

Dr. Phil talked briefly about a few signs parents need to look out for in their teen’s relationships. The first sign is isolation; is your teen becoming reclusive? Is he/she not talking to anyone but their partner. The second thing is emotional extortion. The abuser threatens their victim emotionally, which usually plays out as: ‘if you don’t do this I’ll harm myself.’ Dr. Phil said that teens usually hide the abuse from parents because they are embarrassed and ashamed that this is happening to them. Because teens don’t seek out help, the problem can quickly escalate. 

On his show Dr. Phil spoke about a few great campaigns. The first is a program called ‘Respect Works’ which is a part of his campaign to ‘End the Silence on Domestic Violence.’ He is partnering with Hazelton Pubilshers and Break the Cycle to incorporate a healthy relationship curriculum in 1000 schools across the U.S this fall. Another program, also by Break the Cycle, is called, ‘Let Your Heart Rule.’ In this program people will wear heart stickers on their arm to encourage talks on teen dating violence. The last program mentioned on the show was of a National PSA contest. Verizon and Break the Cycle are hosting a contest to encourage teens to produce an awareness PSA in their own ‘language,’ in order to create the greatest possible impact by their peers. 

Dr. Phil’s partnership with the National Network Against Domestic Violence and commitment to domestic violence education has brought a great deal of attention to a topic that is often taboo.   Talking about domestic violence on national television is an important step towards creating better outcomes for healthy relationships. Please watch Dr. Phil throughout this year while he brings more domestic violence issues to light.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


At age 19 Philip Alpert registered as a sex offender. A year earlier he was arrested and charged with transmitting child pornography. When he broke up with his 16 year old girlfriend, he mass texted a nude picture of her to a network of 70 people including the girl’s parents. After being charged with the crime of transmitting child pornography, Alpert is sorry for what he did, however, he stated: “I didn’t cause trauma to her. I didn’t ruin her life. I embarrassed her.”

Though many people consider the charge of transmitting child pornography a harsh punishment for teenage sexting, arguing that the child had willingly taken the picture, Alpert’s comment suggests that he is still unaware of the depths of the consequences of his actions. A similar situation took place in Cincinnati, OH around the same time as Alpert’s offense. Jesse Logan’s boyfriend sent a nude picture of her to her high school peers upon their break up. Jesse was viciously teased. She tried to overcome this incident but eventually committed suicide.

Jesse’s suicide is haunting. It tells us that sexting, whether intentional or unintentional can have traumatic effects. What can start off as a seemingly harmless exchange between two people can turn into something with life-altering consequences.. The fact that an offender of this crime admits guilt but makes light of the situation is a sign that awareness and education is much needed on this subject.

A survey done by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and reported that ‘1 in 5 teens — and one-third of 20-somethings — have electronically sent or posted online nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves.’ The report also concludes that “40% of teens and 60 percent of young adults — are “sexting,” sending raunchy messages via text, e-mail or instant message to each other.” These numbers are disturbing especially since data on such crimes is usually underreported due to fears of embarrassment by victims. In most cases, adults of authority like parents and teachers are not aware of the situation. Jesse Logan’s mother says that she only knew “bits and pieces, until the very last semester” when the school notified her of her daughter’s poor attendance. Would the consequences be different if Jesse’s mother had been aware of the situation from the beginning? No one can answer that question definitively. However, chances are that the consequences may have been different if all three parties involved; the bullies, the texter, and the victim, were counseled by specialists on the matter and Jesse had been taken out of the torturous environment.

With 40% of teens and 60% of young adults abusing each other via texts, technology is becoming the catalyst for a growing epidemic. The only way to deal with this is with prevention. Jesse’s story and those like hers need to be told again and again so teens and young adults are aware of their action’s possible consequences. A law also needs to be made solely addressing this issue so the problem is seen as a serious crime and not a teenage act of testing boundaries. Another effective way of reaching the target group would be to include sexting, teen dating abuse, and domestic violence in school curriculum along with sex education. Since this crime is new, adults along with teens need to be educated of the severity of such crimes.

Unfortunately, sexting cannot be prevented just by taking away a teen’s cell phone. Pictures can be sent via the web and can land on social networking sites like Facebook, forever scarring the victim. The first step towards prevention is making teens aware that such pictures should never be taken or exchanged, even in trusted relationships.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Get the Facts on Teen Dating Violence

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Do you know the facts?
  • Teen victims of physical dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors (taking diet pills or laxatives and vomiting to lose weight), engage in risky sexual behaviors, and attempt or consider suicide.  
  • Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.  
  • One in five tweens – age 11 to 14 – say their friends are victims of dating violence and nearly half who are in relationships know friends who are verbally abused. 
  • Two in five of the youngest tweens, ages 11 and 12, report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse in relationships.
  • Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about it.
  • Nationwide, nearly one in ten high-school students (8.9 percent) has been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • One in four teen girls in a relationship (26 percent) says she has been threatened with violence or experienced verbal abuse, and 13 percent say they were physically hurt or hit.
  • One in four teens in a relationship say they have been called names, harassed or put down by their partner through cellphones and texting.
  • One in five teen girls and one in ten younger teen girls (13 to 16) have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves. Even more teen girls, 37 percent, have sent or posted sexually suggestive text, email or IM (instant messages).
  • In a 2009 survey of parents, three in four parents say they have had a conversation with their teen about what it means to be in a healthy relationship – but 74 percent of sons and 66 percent of daughters said they have not had a conversation about dating abuse with a parent in the past year.   

Teen dating violence is a growing issue with long term consequences. It is important for parents and teachers to address this issue before it becomes a problem in their teen’s life. Take the time to talk to the teens in your life about this issue!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


With the advancement of technology, it is becoming increasingly easier for stalkers to use social networking sites and other means of technology to stalk their victims. Cyberstalking, like physical stalking, is the persistent harassment of victims. However, cyberstalking uses technology to keep track of victims.

Cyberstalkers engage in a wide range of manipulative activities to threaten and scare their victims. In many situations, cyberstalking is used in conjunction with physical stalking. Here are some examples of tactics used by cyberstalkers as stated by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:

• Sending manipulative, threatening, lewd or harassing emails from an assortment of email accounts.

• Hacking into a victim’s online accounts (such as banking or email) and changing the victim’s settings and passwords.

• Creating false online accounts on social networking and dating sites, impersonating the victim or attempting to establish contact with the victim by using a false persona.

• Posting messages to online bulletin boards and discussion groups with the victim’s personal information, such as home address, phone number or social security number. Posts may also be lewd or controversial and result in the victim receiving numerous emails, calls or visits from people who read the posts online.

• Signing up for online mailing lists and services using a victim’s name and email address.

Cyberstalking affects a wide range of demographics. It is reported by the organization, Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA), that 34% of victims are 18-34 year old, 30% are 31-40 year old, and, 32% are 41 or older. Much like physical stalking, cyberstalkers are more likely to have had a relationship with their victim. WHOA states that in 2009 61% of stalkers had a relationship with their victim, 43% of which had been their victim’s intimate partner.

Cyberstalking does not always remain an online problem. It can very quicly escalate and have violent consequences. It is recommended by the National Center for Victims of Crime and WHOA that cyberstalking be reported to authorities. One way of reporting the crime would be to contact your Internet Servie Provider (ISP). For email and social networking sites, the crime should be reported to the service providers so they can block the stalker from contacting the victim on their website.

Cyberstalking should not be ignored as it can endanger victims’ lives. It is important to know that cyberstalking is a crime punishable by law. For more information and further assistance in dealing with
cyberstalking please contact 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Year’s Resolution: Love ‘em BEFORE YOU Leave ‘em

"Did I make a mistake marrying my partner?"

The cycle of violence can be so confusing. Things can be great one minute and so horrible the next that you can find yourself – well I found myself – trapped for a long time in a cycle of “should I stay or should I go”? For me, this struggle was excruciating. In some ways, this in between time was worse than leaving itself.

Two things made leaving possible for me. The first was that I knew I had done everything I could to make things better. The second, is when I left, I didn’t hate my husband. Years of courtroom drama later, I still don’t. And that’s what I want to talk to you about today: Don't leave him until you love him!

Confusing? Well here's how the logic goes. You don't love someone for them. It's not a favor you do for someone. You love someone for you. Love is a generator. If they love you back or treat you well, that’s just the gravy - that's not WHY you do it.

Love is an action you take. A decision you make. You decide to love someone and then you do it. FOR YOURSELF. FULL STOP.

Now, let me be clear, if you are in emotional or physical danger and you have found a safe way to leave, go ahead and leave, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do this work. Loving someone doesn't mean you stay married to them. It just means you love him - for YOU. And then, from that place, of total love and total compassion, you make the decision about whether to stay or go.

Trying to love someone for his sake or because of what he does or doesn’t do says more about you than him. You miss the facts because you get so tied up in the story. These are your issues he is bring up. And this is your big opportunity to learn these lessons. If you leave without learning these lessons, you are just going to face them again with someone else. The goal is to love your husband and not have him change one thing.

I know I know – you can’t. I don’t understand. If I knew how horrible he was or what he did I would never ask you to do this, right? I was SOOO there! So let me make it simple for you. Answer this questions: Would you RATHER love him or not love him? Ignoring his behavior (which I’m willing to assume is unacceptable!) - would it feel better to love your husband?

To help you see what I mean, try writing a wildly romantic love letter to your husband. Only write about him, take yourself out. One thing that helps me do exercises like this is to imagine I am his mom, or to think of him how you saw him when you first met.

Here's a letter I wrote (but never gave) to my husband about 6 months before I left him.

Dear R*,

You are a breath of fresh air. And I mean that not in the cliche way, but truly everything about you is fresh, clean, untouched. I love your innocence, your openness, and your curiosity. Mostly I love and admire your wild sense of adventure and your passion to create adventure in your own life. And, I love that you brought that in my own life.

You are a child of the wind. You go where the spirit blows you, and DAMN it blows you on some crazy journeys. I love how you dive into new subjects you care about and make them your own. I love your passion for new technology and your commitment to shaping a career for yourself that you are wildly in love with.

I'm sorry, that on a day-to-day basis I find it hard to appreciate all the wonderful things about you. I'm sorry, that in the midst of my story and my pain, I can't celebrate your carefree spirit easily and that I worry about money or other logistics.

I think we have so much to learn from each other in this unpredictable journey called life. I want us to be on the road together. To share our adventure story, like Ram and Sita. I want to come out of the forest stronger, wiser, and more committed to a miraculous shared truth.

I love you - just the way you are,

While everything in that letter was true, it left out much (but not all) of my own story. I was able to see him as he truly was – doing his best, not always succeeding, but wanting all the same things we all want – excitement, passion, and happiness.

And so with this letter, I began a journey I hope you will begin. I began to separate loving him from loving myself. And I started to take control of my thoughts and my life so that I could love my husband but realize I loved myself enough to let him go. Once I did that, the letting go came from a place of love which has made me stronger, happier, and more confident my next relationship will be with someone who respects me and treats me well.

***** Angela Lauria is a domestic violence survivor, a blogger, and a life coach. She helps women create more empowered lives and she runs Journey Grrrl Publishing which is a small press dedicated to producing books & media that help people build bridges between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. She has a B.A.& M.A. in Media from The George Washington University and a PhD in Communication from The European Graduate School. She can be reached at angela [at] journeygrrrl [dot] com or on twitter at @alauria.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Physical Stalking

Physical stalking describes unwanted, obsessive attention directed at an individual without the use of technology. Due to the availability and ease of use of technology, it is rare that a victim exclusively experiences physical stalking, however, it is a major component of the crime and needs to be addressed individually. There are various means of keeping ‘tabs’ on a person without the use of technology. The most common form of stalking is following the victim or showing up places unwanted.

Stalkers usually know their victim’s daily routines. They know where they live, work, shop, and also who they meet. Being a victim of this behavior not only presents risks to their own safety, but also endangers others around them. What makes it more unsafe for victims is if the stalker is a former intimate partner. If this is the case, not only is he/she aware of the victim’s routine, it’s likely they also know many of the same people the victim does. In such situations, there is no place for the victim to hide. The lives of stalking victims are seriously at risk since weapons are used to harm or threaten the victim in 1 of 5 cases. The National Center for Victims of Crime states that ‘73% of intimate partner stalkers verbally threatened victims with physical violence, and almost 64% of victims experienced one or more violent incidents by the stalker.’ It doesn’t take long for a stalking crime to escalate and become violent. Stalking victim’s basic human rights are always at risk.

Seemingly harmless gifts like candy and flowers can also be a form of stalking. In cases of intimate partner stalking it is difficult to conceal mailing addresses, however, in other cases this can be dealt with by getting a private mail box at the post office and not filing a change of address. More information can be found at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse website. Another method stalkers use to intimidate victims is through unwanted, harassing phone calls, which often times are made through blocked numbers. . This can traumatize both the victim and their family. Screening calls even when you have Caller ID is a way around this. Getting an unlisted number is also a good way to be protected from these stalking practices.

Harassment at a victim’s workplace is a very severe form of stalking, as this can jeopardize the safety of co-workers and cost the victim their job. The National Center for Victims of Crime states that ‘1 in 8 employed stalking victims lose time from work as a result of their victimization and more than half lose 5 days of work or more.’ For many hourly waged victims, lost work days means not getting paid. This can have dire consequences for the victim’s well being.

It is reported that 2/3 of stalkers pursue their victims at least once per week, many daily, using more than one method. This leaves the victim uncertain of their safety and in constant fear of their next contact from their stalker. Unfortunately, stalkers can find a wide range of ways to know the whereabouts of the victim and they also have various means of harassing the victim. Many victims feel that stalking will simply go away and don’t report the crime. If you or anyone you know is being stalked please report the crime to save a life. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stalking Awareness Series: Intro to Stalking

January is the National Stalking Awareness Month. In honor of this month and to honor the brave victims of this crime we will write a series of blog posts to bring light to the prevalence of this crime. Stalking is a crime that takes on a wide variety of forms, which makes it very difficult to describe it in a few words, as many stalkers get creative and do unimaginable things to keep track of their victims. This post should be treated as an intro to stalking and a snapshot of different forms it takes on.

Stalking is repetitive harassment. There are two types of stalking; physical stalking and cyberstalking. A few characteristics of physical stalking are making harassing phone calls, following the victim, threatening physical harm, and engaging in the vandalizing of property. The US Department of Justice reports that 3.4 million people over the age of 18 are stalked every year. The Bureau of Justice also finds that ‘46% of stalking victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week, and 11% of victims said they had been stalked for 5 years or more.’ If actions are not taken to end stalking, it can have severe consequences for victims and their families. 

Cyberstalking is using social networking and other technology to harass the victim. This includes consistently texting, closely following the victim on social networking websites, and sending unwanted instant messages and emails. These are general characteristics of stalking, however most victims experience other severe forms of harassment like being tracked by global positioning systems (GPS). The National Center for Victims of Crime states that in 2009, 1 in 4 victims reported being stalked through the use of some form of technology. It was also found that 10% of the victims reported being monitored with global positioning systems (GPS), and 8% reported being monitored through video or digital cameras, or listening devices. With the advancement of technology we have seen an increase in the usage of such equipment for the purpose of harassment of victims.

Our stalking series for the month of January will explore different topics. Your questions and comments are welcomed and encouraged. Please let us know of any additional information you would like included in the series throughout the month.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Big Block of Cheese Day for Domestic Violence Advocates

My hand was on the door of the East Wing of the White House. I took a breath in and my heart soared. Faintly, I heard the major cords of W.G. Snuffy Walden’s theme song for the TV series The West Wing playing in my head. After 19 years and 9 months living in Washington DC, I was stepping inside the White House for the first time.

I came to live in DC because I wanted to work in politics. To be specific, I wanted to be the first woman to lead a presidential campaign. No, I didn’t want to be President; I wanted to be a presidential campaign manager. Yet, somehow between setting that goal and now, my experience with the White House has been limited to a boyfriend in the 90s who worked in the Old Executive Office Building, a couple of  graduations on the White House lawn (the Ellipse), and 2 fun-filled afternoons at the White House Easter Egg roll.

While my trip inside the White House wasn’t to make policy, I was there as policy was being made. You see, this trip wasn’t your average holiday outing. I was at the White House at the invitation of the Obama/Biden Administration on the occasion of the signing of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA).

The tickets for the Holiday tour of the White House were shared by the Administration with the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and several other domestic violence and child abuse related organizations in recognition of the work of those organizations and the struggles of the people they have helped. A representative from Vice President Biden’s office explained “The goal is for Community Members to have a personal connection to the Administration and the White House and view it as “our House.”” This is what reminded me of the West Wing. In one episode (the Big Block of Cheese Day episode), President Bartlett’s Chief of Staff explains, “Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of his White House had a big block of cheese. It is in the spirit of Andrew Jackson that I, from time to time, ask senior staff to have face-to-face meetings with those people representing organizations who have a difficult time getting our attention.”

And here I was, next to a portrait of JFK and a Gingerbread White House replica, meeting with Danielle Borrin. Bright eyed and smiling despite what had to be a grueling schedule, Ms Borrin, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Special Assistant, Office of the Vice President spoke of the Vice President’s commitment to women. She reminded me that he has been an advocate “ever since he was a Senator, when he sponsored the Violence Against Women Act.”

It’s such a small thing – tickets to an already free event – but it’s a token that means so much more not just because of the thoughtfulness and care required to execute it, but because it comes from an administration which has invested more than any other in violence against women. They even named the first ever White House Advisor on Violence against Women, Lynn Rosenthal.

By providing tools and prevention efforts to identify and treat abuse and neglect, CAPTA-funded services to protect children across the country. FVPSA is the only federal funding source dedicated to domestic violence services and shelters funding nearly 1,700 shelters and service programs for victims of domestic violence and their children.  It also supports the National Domestic Violence Hotline, whose staff and volunteers answer more than 22,000 calls for help each month. I made one of those 22,000 calls in January 2009 and am grateful for the help and support they provided.

Ms Rosenthal was at the signing just after our tour wrapped up. After words she wrote on the White House blog: “This afternoon, I stood in the Oval Office and watched as President Obama signed the reauthorization … I was thinking of the many abuse survivors I have met over the years. Thanks to CAPTA and FVPSA, their future looks brighter.”[i]

For me, I guess I feel a little more of a personal connection to the White House and the administration. It wasn’t the beautiful decorations, or the artwork, or the antique furniture, or even the history of the place. It was that someone reached out – the DCCADV, The Administration, the Vice President’s office – they made it clear the voices of domestic violence survivors are welcome and encouraged.

Maybe I give myself too much credit, but I hope that meeting us helps people like Danielle Borrin show up early and leave late from what I am sure is quite a punishing job. I think that’s the point of Big Block of Cheese days. Here’s how the fictional President Bartlett explains it to his staffers: “You all start out so cynical, but it never fails. By the end of the day, there’s always one or two converts, right? And today was no exception. "What'll be the next thing that challenges us... that makes us work harder and go farther?” 

~Angela Lauria