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