Tuesday, December 1, 2009
ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
RICHARD J. HUGHES JUSTICE COMPLEX
PO BOX 037
TRENTON, NEW JERSEY 0862500037
GLENN A. GRANT, J.A.D.
ACTING ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR
OF THE COURTS
[Questions or comments may
be directed to 609-984-4228.]
Directive # 03-09
TO: Assignment Judges
Family Presiding Judges
Trial Court Administrators
Family Division Managers
FROM: Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D.
SUBJ: Co-Occurring Child Abuse and Domestic Violence -- Operational
DATE: May 29, 2009
The occurrence of family violence directed at children, on the one hand, and adult intimate partners, on the other, is characterized differently by the legal and social service systems. Those systems are designed to respond either to “child abuse” or to “domestic violence,” but not to both. When both domestic violence and child abuse occur together, the differences in approaches to the two kinds of behavior may fail to address the needs of the victims effectively. The characterization of the behavior in a reported incident is too often based not on the facts and psychodynamics but rather on which “system” is called upon to respond to the incident first.
The very significant differences in the assumptions, goals and laws applicable to the child welfare system and to the domestic violence system have profound implications in the potential outcome for children and families affected by both kinds of behavior simultaneously. They may not, therefore, effectively address the relationship between behavior labeled either as one or the other. This memorandum prescribes better ways to aid the victims of domestic violence and the victims of child abuse in these tragic situations.
In April 2007, a joint conference was convened by then-Chief Justice James R. Zazzali, and then-Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families Kevin M. Ryan. The purpose of the conference was to consider the recommendations contained in a policy statement entitled "Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice" adopted by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Family Violence Department. As a result of the April 2007 conference, a Joint Task Force was appointed comprised of representatives of the Judiciary, the Department of Children and Families, and domestic violence victim advocates. The goal of the Joint Task Force was to coordinate the interface of policies developed by the Judiciary and by the Department of Children and Families to ensure effective handling of cases of co-occurrence. The resulting recommendations were considered and endorsed by the Conferences of Family Presiding Judges and Family Division Managers.
The deliberations of the Conferences in the development of these recommendations were guided by the New Jersey statutes, Rules of Court, case law, policy established by the Supreme Court and the Judicial Council, and the recommendations of the National Council that reflected the latest research findings and a deliberative process that included national experts in the fields of domestic violence and child welfare.
The purpose of this memorandum is to provide operational guidance to judgesand staff on the implementation of these principles. This guidance does not, however intend to impinge on judicial discretion or the judge’s ability to make decisions in the best interest of the litigants, consistent with the law. Other recommendations that provide for amendments to the Rules of Court, revision of Judiciary case processing manuals, and the actions of Executive Branch agencies will be addressed in separate documents.
The Legal Framework
The Family Division of the Superior Court brings into one division all case types involving families or those in family-like settings. However, the court's view of violence within the family and how the Judiciary should respond to the co-occurrence of child abuse/neglect and domestic violence has not previously been stated in a single unified policy.
The absence of a unified approach to cases of co-occurrence may result in unintentional harm to victims. In a worst case scenario, for example, a parent who is a victim of domestic violence may be re-victimized by having her child removed from her care by the child protection agency seeking to protect that child from similar violence by the same batterer.
New Jersey has adopted different statutes to protect children from abuse and neglect (N.J.S.A. 9:6-1 et seq.) and to protect victims of domestic violence and their children (The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq.). Judges may be called on to address co-occurrence cases in all case types: child abuse or child protection cases (FN), also called Children in Court or CIC cases, family crisis petitions
(FF), custody and parenting time cases (FM/FD), domestic violence restraining order applications (FV), contempt of domestic violence restraining orders (FO), and even in juvenile cases (FJ).
The New Jersey Judiciary recognizes that co-occurrence affects children in two primary ways:
First, one of the child’s caregivers may perpetrate domestic violence on the other caregiver and physically abuse the child as well, or
Second, one of the child’s caregivers may perpetrate domestic violence on the other caregiver, exposing the child to that domestic violence, and the nonabusive caregiver is unable or unwilling to protect the child from the resulting emotional abuse even with the assistance of available social services.
What is required is that the judges and staff who comprise the Judiciary understand and recognize the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment, and affirm the importance of protecting both the non-offending caregiver and the child in situations of co-occurrence. Indeed, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-18 mandates that: it is the responsibility of the courts to protect victims of violence that occurs in a family or family-like setting by providing access to both emergent and long-term civil and criminal remedies and sanctions, and by
ordering those remedies and sanctions that are available to assure the safety of the victims and the public.
Proper Management and Disposition of Cases of Co-Occurrence
The policy of the Judiciary is that in each situation where the court finds cooccurrence, it should consider:
• protecting victims from physical harm;
• providing adequate social and economic support for families; and
• providing access to services that are respectful, culturally relevant and responsive to the unique strengths and concerns of that family.
Additionally, to the extent authorized by law, the Judiciary recognizes its role to hold the perpetrators accountable for their abusive behavior, to consider appropriate legal interventions and, when required, to order that both the victim and the perpetrator be provided with the kind of social services that can help stop the violence.
A. Court Staff Requirements -- Case Processing
To implement these principles, Family Division staff should observe the following:
1. Court staff should ensure that cases involving co-occurrence receive prompt andfocused attention, ensuring that safe placements and services are identified immediately and that safety-enhancing orders are entered for children and other family members.
2. All cases filed in the Family Division should be screened by staff at the initial filing to determine case history and identify any other pending cases.
3. When a domestic violence (FV) case is filed and the family has another pending CIC action, the judge who already is handling the CIC matter should, where practical, be assigned to hear the new FV matter, in keeping with the one family/one judge principle.
4. Judiciary staff is often confronted with questions concerning the use of information disclosed by victims. Any requests from the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) for access to FV court files should be referred to the Family Presiding Judge for determination.
5. When courts and agencies exchange information concerning family members, from either the abuse/neglect or the FV case, from the DYFS file or the court’s file, the safety and privacy concerns of all parties should be balanced carefully with the need for access to such potentially harmful information.
6. The Family Division should work with DYFS to identify extended family members who may be able to help and other family resources as early as possible in cooccurrence cases.
7. In a CIC case, court staff must ensure that DYFS has assessed any proposed caregivers for the child, including the non-custodial caregiver, any relation or kin or foster parent, for any history of child maltreatment, criminal involvement, domestic violence, and substance abuse. The caregivers also should be
assessed for their willingness to work with the court, social service agencies and the non-offending parents to meet the needs of the child.
8. Family Division staff should encourage the utilization of a domestic violence advocate for the abused parent in all family cases involving domestic violence and encourage the input of domestic violence advocates in the development of service plans.
9. Family Division staff should observe the protocol for monitoring and enforcing domestic violence defendants’ compliance with orders to attend counseling and batters’ intervention programs (March 10, 2009 memo from Acting Administrative Director Glenn A. Grant to Assignment Judges and Trial Court Administrators).
10. There are circumstances when an adult caretaker is charged with a criminal offense and is the defendant in a Title 9 abuse/neglect action filed by DYFS. Pursuant to R. 3:26-1(b), the Criminal Division should provide the Family Division with a copy of any bail order imposing a restriction on contact between a criminal defendant and a defendant's minor children. The rule also provides that such conditions shall not affect contact authorized by an order of the Family Part in a child abuse/neglect case entered after any restriction on contact was imposed as part of a bail order. Pursuant to R. 5:12-6(a)(1), on scheduling any hearing at which visitation conditions are to be imposed or modified, court staff shall provide notice to the county prosecutor and to counsel representing the parent or guardian in the criminal prosecution, as well as to all counsel and parties in the Division of Youth and Family Services matter.
B. Judicial Considerations – Co-occurrence Determinations
In all cases where co-occurrence is present, in exercising its judicial discretion, the court should consider the following:
1. Strive to achieve three outcomes:
a. to create safety;
b. to enhance well being; and
c. to provide stability for children and families, recognizing that pursuant to the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), the court's mandate is to view the "child's safety and well being as paramount."
2. In cases where the only allegation in a child abuse (FN) complaint is that the child has been exposed to domestic violence, consistent with N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.9, the court should consider both whether the child has been placed at substantial risk of harm from that exposure and whether the non-abusing caregiver is unable
or unwilling to protect the child from emotional abuse even with the assistance of available social services and services of Department of Children and Families. This two-fold consideration seeks to avoid re-victimizing the non-offending parent by unnecessarily removing the child(ren).
3. The court, when entering an order, should consider:
a. keeping the child and the non-abusive caregiver victim safe;
b. keeping the child and the non-abusive caregiver together whenever possible (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29b(11) states, "The court shall presume that the best interests of the child are served by an award of custody to the non-abusive parent." Also, N.J.S.A. 9:2-4c requires that any history of domestic violence between the parties shall be considered by the court in making an award of custody.);
c. holding the perpetrator accountable;
d. identifying the service needs of all family members, including all forms of assistance and help for the child; safety, support, and economic stability for the victim; and rehabilitation and accountability for the perpetrator;
e. creating clear, detailed custody/parenting time orders that focus on safe exchanges and safe environments for parenting time; and
f. when appropriate, using an order of protection pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.55 to ensure the safety of the non-abusive caregiver and the child.
4. Judges are often confronted with questions concerning the use of information disclosed by victims. When making decisions about information disclosure, judges should, consistent with laws and policies, balance (a) the need for information required to prove the occurrence of child maltreatment and to keep children safe, with (b) the need of victims of domestic violence to keepinformation confidential in order to maintain and plan effectively for their safety. (See also Rule 1:38(d), Rule 5:17-4(b) (Family Crisis), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-33
(domestic violence), N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10(a) (child abuse/neglect), and N.J.R.E. 517.) These questions may arise when DYFS requests DV records, in DYFS interviews with non-offending parents in cases of co-occurrence, or in evaluations.
5. When the Family judge determines that the non-abusing caregiver has the ability to protect the child with or without services, the judge should first consider removing the abuser before separating the child from the non-abusive caregiver.
6. Before entering an order placing a child out of the home in cases of cooccurrence, the court should ensure that any proposed caregivers for the child, including the non-custodial caregiver, any relation or kin or foster parent, have been assessed for any history of child maltreatment, criminal involvement, domestic violence, and substance abuse as well as their willingness to work with the court, social service agencies and the caregiver who has been the victim of domestic violence to meet the needs of the child.
7. Judges should encourage the utilization of a domestic violence advocate for the abused caregiver in all family cases involving domestic violence and encourage the input of domestic violence advocates in development of service plans.
8. In child abuse cases, services ordered through DYFS should focus on the dynamics of domestic violence, the creation of safety plans, and the effects of domestic violence upon children.
9. In child abuse cases, it is important that separate services for the perpetrator and the victim of domestic violence are in the court's orders to address each party's needs.
10. Judges should generally not order couples counseling when domestic violence has occurred. The only exception is that judges may order couples counseling if there is no Temporary Restraining Order or Final Restraining Order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and the judge finds it to be in the best
interests of the children to do so.
11. Safe parenting time and visitation exchange locations should be utilized so that supervised parenting time and exchanges will be safe for the child and for the battered parent.
12. Victimization of the non-abusive parent should be a factor in determining whether exceptional circumstances exist to allow extension of the reunification time limits. No such extension of time should be permitted, however, if it is contrary to the best interests of the child to do so.
13. DYFS and available service providers should make adequate efforts to ensure the safety of child and adult victims of domestic violence by providing supportive services to the non-abusive parent, or intervention programs to the abusing parent. The judge may use the requirements of state and federal law that DYFS
make “reasonable efforts” to reunify the family.
Establishment of a Joint Committee on Children and Domestic Violence in Each County
In addition to the implementation of these specific steps, I ask that the Family Presiding Judge in each vicinage extend the concept of the Chief Justice/DCF Commissioner Joint Task Force on Children and Domestic Violence to each county. To do so, the vicinage should reach out to the DYFS Local Office Managers to develop a joint group to implement the requirements of this memorandum as well as the protocols and policies of DCF. Such county Joint Committees will ensure more productive relationships and facilitate communications among DCF, the Judiciary, and victim advocacy groups. In the establishment of the group, the county may call upon the membership of the CIC Advisory Committee and the county domestic violence working group.
The Family Practice Division in the Administrative Office of the Courts should coordinate training for judges and court staff in addition to the development of a joint training program with DCF.
I appreciate your dedication and commitment to provide the highest possible attention to these cases and to implement these principles despite our current economic climate. Please submit to me a written plan for your implementation of the requirements of this memorandum by Monday, September 14, 2009. Questions concerning this memorandum may be addressed to Harry T. Cassidy, Assistant Director, at (609) 984-4228.
cc: Chief Justice Stuart Rabner
Commissioner Kimberly S. Ricketts, DCF
Criminal Presiding Judges
Family Division Judges
AOC Directors and Assistant Directors
Criminal Division Managers
CIC Team Leaders
FV Team Leaders
Francis W. Hoeber, Special Assistant
Steven D. Bonville, Special Assistant
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Office of the Press Secretary
FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Today, we commemorate a milestone in our Nation's struggle to end violence against women. Authored by then United States Senator Joe Biden and signed into law in September 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was the first law to create a comprehensive response to this problem at the national level. This landmark achievement has helped our Nation make great strides towards addressing this global epidemic.
VAWA sought to improve our criminal justice system's response to violence against women and to increase services available to victims. It directed all 50 States to recognize and enforce protection orders issued by other jurisdictions, and it created new Federal domestic violence crimes. The law also authorized hundreds of millions of dollars to communities and created a national domestic violence hotline.
This bipartisan accomplishment has ushered in a new era of responsibility in the fight to end violence against women. In the 15 years since VAWA became law, our Nation's response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking has strengthened. Communities recognize the special needs of victims and appreciate the benefits of collaboration among professionals in the civil and criminal justice system, victim advocates, and other service providers. With the support of VAWA funds, dedicated units of law enforcement officers and specialized prosecutors have grown more numerous than ever before. Most importantly, victims are more likely to have a place to turn for help -- for emergency shelter and crisis services, and also for legal assistance, transitional housing, and services for their children.
Despite this great progress, our Nation's work remains unfinished. More families and communities must recognize that the safety of our children relates directly to the safety of our mothers. Access to sexual assault services, especially in rural America, must be increased. American Indian and Alaska Native women experience the highest rates of violence, and we must make it a priority to address this urgent problem. We must also work with diverse communities to make sure the response to violence is relevant and culturally appropriate. We must prevent the homicide of women and girls who have suffered from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Far too many women in our communities and neighborhoods, and across the world, continue to suffer from violence. Inspired by the promise and achievement of the Violence Against Women Act, our Nation stands united in its determination to end these crimes and help those in need.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. I call upon men and women of all ages, communities, organizations, and all levels of government, to work in collaboration to end violence against women.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
By Jeffrey Dion, Esq.
Director, National Crime Victim Bar Association
Civil action for stalking.
A. A victim has a civil cause of action against an individual who engaged in conduct that is prohibited under § [criminal stalking code], whether or not the individual has been charged or convicted for the alleged violation, for the compensatory damages incurred by the victim as a result of that conduct, in addition to the costs for bringing the action. If compensatory damages are awarded, a victim may also be awarded punitive damages.
B. As used in this section:
"Compensatory damages" includes damages for all of the defendant's acts prohibited by § [criminal stalking code]
"Victim" means a person who, because of the conduct of the defendant that is prohibited under § [criminal stalking code], was placed in reasonable fear for his own personal safety or for the safety of a minor child of whom the person is a parent or legal guardian.
C. No action shall be commenced under this section more than [personal injury statute of limitations in that state] years after the most recent conduct prohibited under § [criminal stalking code].
A Statutory Civil Cause of Action for Stalking
Stalking is a crime that is often difficult to prosecute. The nature of stalking allegations are sometimes not easily substantiated to meet the prosecution's burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors often struggle to convince the judge or jury of the potential dangerousness of a stalker's behavior, and prove that it is the context in which individual, often innocuous and non-criminal, acts occur is what makes stalking a crime. Evidentiary issues also make criminal cases more difficult because physical or corroborating evidence of a stalking may not be readily available. As a result, judges and jurors are often unable to determine whether a stalker's conduct was, in fact, an act of stalking or simply an unintentional encounter with the complainant. For that reason, stalking is sometimes more easily pursued as a civil action rather than a criminal prosecution. A civil stalking statute would provide a crucial legal option for stalking victims when the criminal justice system is not responsive or is unsuccessful in obtaining a conviction, and may be more effective than criminal prosecution in lowering the number of stalking incidents.
Even upon a successful prosecution, civil actions provide a means of recourse in addition to the criminal justice system. Other available remedies, such as restraining orders, may not effectively abate stalking conduct, leaving victims with no alternative but to wait for a stalker to act in a more severe and dangerous manner. Civil statutes provide stalking victims with a cause of action for monetary losses incurred as a result of a stalker's conduct. These losses may include the cost of implementing security measures to combat a stalker's threats, losing a job as a result of a stalker's conduct, or attending counseling sessions to handle the emotional strain of a stalker's harassment.
However the cumulative trauma of stalking is far greater than the sum of its common law tort elements. For that reason, a statutory civil cause of action for stalking should be enacted.California , Kentucky  Michigan , Nebraska , Oregon , Rhode Island , South Dakota , Texas , Virginia  and Wyoming  have enacted civil stalking statutes which expressly provide for a civil action based on stalking. Under these statutes, a stalking victim may recover civil damages from a stalker regardless of whether the stalker has been charged or convicted under the criminal law. Recoverable damages include expenses incurred by the victim as a result of a stalker's conduct, as well as punitive damages. Oregon, Wyoming, Michigan, Kentucky, Nebraska Rhode Island and Virginia (and probably California, which does not limit potentially recoverable damages), further provide that stalking victims may recover attorney fees and court costs.
The legislature should follow the lead of these states by enacting a statute that imposes civil liability for a pattern of conduct intended to follow, alarm or harass the victim and causing the victim to fear for her own safety of the safety of an immediate family member, with out regard to any criminal prosecution that may or may not occur as a result of the conduct. The statute should provide for the recovery of compensatory damages, punitive damages, reasonable attorneys fees and costs as do the majority of the statutes passed in these states.
A statute creating civil liability for stalking may provide for far more civil remedies than just monetary damages. In one particular case, the key to the settlement (in addition to $300,000) was the agreement by the parties to a lifetime restraining order. Such a restraining order was a remedy a court does not have the authority to impose, but if the parties agreed to the provision, it would be enforced by the court as part of the settlement.
Friday, July 3, 2009
The White House - Press Office - Vice President Biden Announces Appointment of White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
Sunday, June 14, 2009
GPS devices, IP sniffers and even identity theft are used to harass victims. How do investigators get evidence to build a case?
From the May 2009 Issue
By Christa Miller
When they hear the term "stalking," many people think of an obsessed fan standing for days outside his or her favorite star's house. But stalking affects a variety of people in many life situations — and in recent years, has gone high-tech. Disgruntled employees pose as their bosses to post explicit messages on social network sites; spouses use GPS to track their mates' every move. Even police and prosecutors find themselves at risk, as gang members and other organized criminals find out where they live — often to intimidate them into dropping a case.
Federal stalking statistics
In January, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released the largest-ever study of its kind on stalking, "Stalking Victimization in the United States," an Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)-sponsored report based on supplemental data gathered from the National Crime Victimization Survey.
The report showed that technology, including Internet-based services like e-mail and instant messaging along with other technology such as GPS and computer spyware, have been used to harass one in four stalking victims. That translates into about 1.2 million victims whose stalkers used some form of technology to find them.
However, law enforcement remains under-equipped to deal with stalking. When it comes to technology use in the crime, the problem worsens. There are many reasons for this, but the end result, as revealed in the survey, is that victims have mixed feelings about police response to their problem.
Mixed police response
Stalking has always been difficult for law enforcement to deal with. For one thing, says Michelle Garcia, director of the Stalking Resource Center at the National Crime Victims Center, stalking is a relatively young crime; the first anti-stalking law was enacted in California in 1990. "The behavior may be as old as society, but the crime itself is less than two decades old," she explains.
While all 50 states have passed anti-stalking laws, only 14 of them specifically address high-tech stalking. The laws overall are inconsistent with how they address the crime. Some require the victim to feel in fear of his or her life, while others allow that any "reasonable person" would feel threatened.
In addition, stalking is unique in that it involves a pattern of generally noncriminal behavior rather than a single incident. Officers may believe they are taking a report on a single incident, therefore, may believe it's a waste of time. And training them otherwise is unusual. "Many departments have no specific training, no specialized units that deal with it," says Garcia. "When officers do encounter stalking, they are often uncertain about how to respond because they haven't been trained for it." Academy training, she points out, may provide recruits with a 4-, 6-, or 8-hour education on crimes against women. "Stalking may be just one small piece within the larger topic of domestic violence and sexual assault," Garcia adds.
Information sharing — or lack thereof — among agencies can be another part of the problem. "Many state laws require two or more acts against a victim to qualify as stalking," says Garcia. "But a victim may work in one town and live in another. If she receives dead roses at work and multiple phone calls at home, and reports each event to each police department, neither one will have enough for a crime if they aren't working together."
The high-tech element can present an extra wrinkle. "Some agencies are well trained on stalking and domestic violence, but they have no specialized computer forensic unit or investigator. Others have high-tech crimes units, but little experience with stalking," says Garcia.
Stalking, with or without technology, can be such a complex crime that many police officers, detectives, prosecutors and others in the criminal justice system become frustrated. Sometimes this comes out as negative attitude toward victims. But Alexis Moore, founder and president of the national victim advocacy group Survivors In Action, believes this can be overcome. "Nothing is truly complex, but it can be if it's allowed to be," she says.
Key to understanding and investigating high-tech stalking are training and education; collaboration, including information sharing; and developing standard protocols for how to work with victims.
Investigator Sgt. Mark Wojnarek, who has commanded the Special Victims Unit (SVU) of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) in Tennessee since 2003, says high-tech tools have become so ingrained in society that it's important to assume victims and suspects have one or more. In fact, his detectives conduct a technology risk assessment asking victims: How many computers are in the house, who has access, whether vehicles are equipped with GPS, how many cell phones and so on.
Also important to understand are basic facts about high-tech stalking. For one thing, Wojnarek says there is no "typical" victim or perpetrator. "It's everyone," he says. "Juveniles, men, women."
Resources can be a delicate balance. Budget troubles may mean that even departments with domestic violence specialists will have to assign other duties to those investigators, or assign domestic violence and stalking cases to investigators untrained to deal with them. And even before the recession, computer forensics and high tech crimes labs were severely backlogged. Yet so much of this type of evidence is so volatile, says Moore, that evidence can disappear within a matter of months — even weeks.
Rural MCSO's answer was to train its SVU detectives to deal with high-tech tools themselves: To solve the problem — the kind of crime — using specific tools, in this case the recovery of computer and mobile device evidence.
Wojnarek says the legacy "stalk the stalker" model that had police sitting in unmarked cars watching suspects is "archaic." And unlike detectives who trace child predators online, investigators who deal with high-tech crimes are better served to get out in the field than to sit behind a computer. "Our best tools these days are the search warrant and strong investigative techniques," he explains.
For patrol officers
Generally, says Moore, "traditional" stalking is the first behavior that victims notice and report. "Stalkers turn to technology when they don't get what they want," she explains. So, foremost, officers need to be trained on stalking behavior, including instruction not to treat it like other single-incident crimes.
One problem: Officers don't know the right questions to ask. "It's not about behavior, or the stalker's date of birth or Social Security number," says Moore. "It's about the IP address, the Internet service provider. Stalkers actually make it easy for you to find them because they keep attacking."
Many victims will be too scared or confused to deliver such information right away, so officers need to help them collect it or teach them how to ask tech-savvy family members or friends to help. Throughout the process, they should be working from a strong protocol. As Wojnarek says, officers should not bear the burden of investigation. MCSO deputies, for example, know they have a unit to call on for help. "We tell them we'd rather come out and not find anything, than not go and end up with a dead victim," he says.
Officers are instead trained on how to "notice" things when they respond to domestic calls. For instance, says Wojnarek, "if the victim says her spouse repeats conversations back to her verbatim, that's a sign there's a listening device in the home." Training on this kind of recognition takes place quarterly, along with regular bulletins on domestic violence trends.
The MCSO SVU also presents to schools, elder homes, and the local domestic violence coalition. "Safety planning now needs to include high-tech tools," says Moore, who believes all this will be easier as time goes on. "Most young officers will understand how technology can be used to stalk because they themselves use it," says Moore. "They're aware of the pitfalls [with privacy], so it's possible to tweak that awareness to help them understand the way criminals use it."
Training and education
Moore says many police departments' domestic violence training is woefully out of date. "They're still using material from the 1990s," she explains. "It references cases like Nicole Brown's. Technology has gone far beyond that — it changes by the hour, not by the year."
Wojnarek says law enforcement is always likely to be out of date. "Technology is moving so far and so fast. But that doesn't mean agencies can never be equipped to deal with it." His unit receives ongoing training on domestic violence, sexual assault, and like issues from a variety of sources.
One of them is the Stalking Resource Center. Garcia says, "We are funded to provide training and technical assistance to any agency that receives USDOJ Office on Violence Against Women grant funding. We are able to come to them at very low, or no cost." In fact, says Wojnarek, the Stalking Resource Center has been his unit's greatest help, to the extent that MCSO detectives are now qualified to train on the Center's behalf.
He adds that training and education are important to agencies and victims alike. "Even if you can't afford a unit, officers need to be educated to look for certain things they may not otherwise have looked for," he explains. The first case Wojnarek worked after his training was a stalking case involving Spector spyware — which he says he would've thought was just a video game if he hadn't had the training.
Investigators can also educate themselves via the Internet: Becoming active on detectives' forums and listservs, for instance, or even learning from the same places the stalkers do. Just as pedophiles learn from and empower each other online, so do stalkers. Moore says it's good to learn to think like they do. "Your mind has to be able to warp and tweak information to figure out what perps are doing, and can do, with the technology," she says.
Education often goes hand in hand with information sharing. As investigators from one department involve other agencies, they find they must teach investigators and officers about what they're doing. Wojnarek says this can be hit or miss. "Technology intimidates many people in law enforcement," he explains. "Even something we think of as simple, like tracking cookies, scares a lot of cops. It's like a language barrier: They can understand the words, but not the context."
This is also a problem within the criminal justice system. Prosecutors and judges have a hard time understanding the issues, much less explaining them to juries. The inconsistencies within state laws make it worse. "The language is outdated when it comes to high-tech stalking," Moore explains. "Even when high-tech crimes units are able to do good work, cases are often [pleaded] out because prosecutors don't understand the nature of the offenses they are dealing with."
High-tech stalking is a complex problem, but will continue to evolve along with technology. While law enforcement agencies may need to take baby steps to learn about and deal with it, enabling officers and investigators to do so will lay the foundation for future improvements and understanding — for everyone involved.
Editor's note: The Bureau of Justice Statistics' Special Report, which includes statistics on high-tech monitoring in stalking and harassment cases, is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/svus.pdf.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Ken Kopecky’s fatal obsession with Karen Erjavec, a young marketing assistant and aerobics instructor, reportedly started after they were in a wedding together. He began stalking her and sending threatening messages to her boyfriend, Glenn Beach.Dressed in camouflage, Kopecky finally stepped from behind a house one night in Elmhurst and shot the couple to death as they walked to her car. Two days later, Kopecky took his life in a Michigan motel. He sent a letter to the Beach family saying the shootings were “the will of God.”The double slaying in February 1992 helped galvanize the Illinois General Assembly, which five months later approved the state’s first anti-stalking law, heralded then as one of the toughest in the nation.
But since the highly publicized law took effect, annual stalking prosecutions in the state have plunged from hundreds of cases a year to a mere trickle, a Tribune review shows.“Obviously the law is not really working the way it’s supposed to,” said Linda Sandford, who assists stalking victims as director of court advocacy at Family Rescue in Chicago. “Just look at the number of charges.”In 2008, stalking prosecutions statewide dropped to 54 from a peak of 302 in 1994, according to data compiled by the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority. Only 16 charges were filed in Cook County last year and 13 in the collar counties, the data show.
Among the reasons for the low number, experts say, is that the law too narrowly defines stalking, making it difficult to arrest or charge someone unless the victim was followed or placed under surveillance on at least two occasions and has proof of a threat. Others say the problem isn’t the law, but rather police and prosecutors who don’t take stalking seriously.At the same time, many victims are unable to get a protective order unless they had a domestic relationship with the stalker or were sexually assaulted. The exclusions are glaring, according to critics who point out that under current law someone stalked by a neighbor or co-worker, for example, wouldn’t be eligible for a protective order unless there was an attack.
In a move to address some shortcomings, the Illinois attorney general and Cook County state’s attorney’s offices have crafted legislation broadening the definition of stalking. The measure passed the House this week and now goes to the Senate.A second bill would make it easier for stalking victims to get protective orders, supporters say.“We want to more effectively charge these cases,” said Sally Daly, spokeswoman for state’s attorney’s office, which she said successfully prosecuted nine stalking cases last year.
Calls for reform come at a time when stalking has proven to be a widespread crime. An estimated 3.4 million Americans—most of them women—have been victims of stalking, according to a federal survey released this year.The survey defined stalking as occurring if someone had experienced one or more of seven harassing behaviors in the past year and had fear for her or his safety or that of a family member. Harassing behaviors include unwanted calls, letters or e-mails and being spied upon or followed.
A growing body of research shows that stalking can lead to sexual assault and homicide. Stalking victims often suffer major anxiety. Some lose jobs, while others, including a 38-year-old software developer from Harwood Heights, are forced to move.
The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she received no legal protection when she was stalked several years ago.At first pornography started to appear on her car windshield, she said. Next a vibrator was mailed to her apartment. Then someone would ring her doorbell at all hours of the night—a terrifying routine that prevented her from sleeping. One time, she said, she caught a glimpse of the man, a stranger, masturbating outside the front door.Police told her they would not investigate, she said, because his behavior didn’t meet the legal definition of stalking. They also told her, she said, that she wasn’t eligible for a protective order because she never had a romantic relationship with the man and he hadn’t attacked her.“I wanted to file a report with police, but they said they didn’t have anything to file it under, and would never send out a police car,” said the woman, who moved to escape the stalker.
The woman’s plight is all too common under the state’s stalking law, which requires proof of two separate incidents of following or surveillance as well as proof of a threat involving bodily harm, experts say. Harassing phone calls and unwanted gifts, such as dead roses, do not meet the definition.“Two separate incidents and an explicit threat takes a lot of cases out of the equation.” said Sgt. Brett Wisnauski of the Algonquin Police Department.Under Chicago police guidelines, officers are supposed to document threatening incidents. The department said it got 187 criminal stalking complaints in 2008.Still, some victims get turned away, said Family Rescue’s Sandford.“They’ll say, ‘Please, please, please, just document it,’ but with no success,” said Sandford, who recommends that victims keep a journal of all the incidents. “It feels like they’ll have to turn up dead to get a reaction.”Sgt. Antoinette Ursitti, a Chicago police spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that new officers are trained on stalking offenses during 14 hours of domestic violence instruction. Officers promoted to detective receive three more hours of training on stalking.Under the legislation, the requirement for proof of two separate incidents and the threat of bodily harm would be eliminated. Instead, the crime would occur when a person knowingly engages in conduct that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or suffer emotional distress.
The proposed law that addresses orders of protection would drop the requirements that the victim be in a domestic relationship with the stalker or have been attacked.Instead, it would permit victims to obtain a civil order of protection against someone who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly engages in repeated and unwanted contact with them or with a member of her immediate family or household. The victims would have to feel alarmed or coerced, or experience reasonable apprehension regarding their safety or the safety of family members.
The twin initiatives follow earlier legislative action in Illinois aimed at stalking. A new law went into effect this year allowing Illinois judges to require satellite tracking of stalkers who repeatedly violate orders of protection. The “Cindy Bischof law” is named after an Arlington Heights woman who was slain last March by a former boyfriend, though he was under an order of protection.“The only silver lining to some of these tragedies we’ve had in Illinois in the past year is if we fill the gaps that have been known to exist,” said Cara Smith, deputy chief of staff to Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan.
Related articles from the Chicago Tribune
BATTERED: Examining domestic violence. Why it happens, how to stop it.
More related articlesRelated sections
One woman's struggle to escape abuse Nov 11, 2008
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 27, 2009
NATIONAL CRIME VICTIMS' RIGHTS WEEK, 2009
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION
From violence in our neighborhoods to credit card fraud on the Internet, Americans fall victim to countless crimes every day. Our Nation has no higher responsibility than protecting the safety of our families. During National Crime Victims' Rights Week, we honor crime victims by pledging to fight crime wherever it exists.
This commitment begins by supporting the men and women working every day to reduce crime and assist crime victims. Often placing themselves in harm's way and sacrificing personal interests, these individuals are the backbone of the extensive efforts to protect Americans from crime. They have demonstrated a commitment to serve others, and their dedication is vital to implementing a successful strategy for crime reduction and victim assistance.
Crime victims have benefited from the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (Public Law 98-473), one of the most significant achievements in crime victim assistance. This law created an innovative method for using fines and penalties from Federal criminals to fund services for victims. This Crime Victims Fund has already helped millions of victims across the country access basic assistance and financial compensation. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the bill's bipartisan passage.
An effective approach to fighting crime must include programs that make sense and work. To that end, my Administration is building on past achievements to address the range of crimes that Americans may encounter. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which I signed in February, helps State and local law enforcement personnel perform critical work by providing $2 billion through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program.
A smart crime reduction strategy must also incorporate outreach to those who have paid their debt to society and have become responsible and contributing members of their communities. Prisoner reentry programs have been tested and proven effective. Through a number of supportive services, including substance abuse and mental health counseling, prison-to-work incentives, job training, and transitional assistance, reentry programs help reduce crime recidivism and keep families safer. By utilizing common-sense and proven methods, we can both reduce crime and serve crime victims.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 26 through May 2, 2009, as National Crime Victims' Rights Week. I call upon all Americans to observe this week by participating in events that raise awareness of victims' rights and services and by volunteering to serve victims in their time of need.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Alexis A Moore
Date / Time: 4/13/2009 11:00 PM
Category: Self Help
Call-in Number: (347) 838-8939
Taking Action provides valuable insight regarding public safety by providing educational and resource information to help promote awareness
4/20/2009 11:00 PM - Taking Action
5/4/2009 11:00 PM - Taking Action Radio
5/11/2009 11:00 PM - Taking Action Radio
Date / Time: 4/6/2009 9:48 PM
Tanya McLeod- Guest on air tonight
Guest(s) on air tonight Paul Griffin An attorney from Georgetown University Law Center who practices in Washington, DC and Maryland. He represents “protective parents” in highly-contentious custody cases involving child abuse and is the 2008 recipient of the Justice of Children “Friend of Children” award for his work on such cases.Tanya McLeod-
Voices of Women Organizing Project (VOW)
PO Box 20181
Greeley Square Station
New York, NY 10001
p. 212-696-1481 x102
Also Live on the show tonight Kathleen Russell of The Center for Judicial Excellence (CA)firstname.lastname@example.org Cherry Simpson
Advocate and mom, who's daughter is a victim of sexual assault and domestic violence.Corrine Reavley
Date / Time: 3/31/2009 5:36 PM
Taking Action, April 6, 2009 8:00 PM PST/11 Eastern "How Family Law Courts Endanger Women & Children
Join Alexis A. Moore and the panel of guests on Taking Action Radio. April 6, 2009 at 8:00 PM PST/11:00 Eastern we will be discussing how the nation's family law courts endanger women and children. To read more about this topic please visit:http://alexisamoore.blogspot.com/2008/05/how-family-courts-in-nyc-endanger.htmlhttp://alexisamoore.blogspot.com/2009/02/how-family-law-courts-endanger-use-of.htmlhttp://ks-fcrc.com/default.aspxhttp://ks-fcrc.blogspot.com/
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse High Conflict Divorce or Stalking by Way of Family Court? The Empowerment of a Wealthy Abuser in Family Court Litigation: Linda v. Lyle - A Case Study
T. J. Sutherland, R.N., B.S.N., P.H.N., J.D
Abusive Stalking Using the Courts
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
By Sanctuary for the Abused
We learned in depth how many Stalkers think and act on the previous page. This page will go into how some abusers use a different approach to harass their victims. A way that allows them to legally have contact and harass their ex-partner, even with a Restraining Order in force.
Mis-using the judicial system seems to be one of some abusers favorite ways to stalk their ex-partners. If they can’t get you back, they will try to ruin your happiness, by dragging you to Court on countless frivolous filings. Putting the victim in a situation where they are being victimized – again, by their abuser and sometimes by the system also.
This can be on going for years, if gone about it in the “right” way. There are actually web sites devoted to teaching them exactly how and what to do. These sites teach them how to legally stalk, harass, and intimidate victims of Domestic Violence after a Restraining Order has been issued. These sites actually have step by step guides for them to use to learn how to keep the on going harassment, manipulation, intimidation and show how to legally stalk the partner, who has left them. Which in turn keeps the ex-partner their victim causing them immense grief, a financial burden and it wears them out emotionally to the point of total frustration.
It also gives these stalkers/abusers a feeling they still have some control and in a sense, they do. Some of the more advanced, of these abusers, will even represent themselves in Court, rather than hire a Lawyer. This Pro Se Defense gives them the opportunity to question their former partner on the stand and legally badger and intimidate them, all the while the judge and others are right there watching and letting it happen. This in itself must boost the abusers self-esteem, thinking they are even controlling the judge and playing the legal system.
Most all of these “Pro Se” abusers have studied the laws, inside and out. They will put a lot of time and effort into these actions. Many will file in different jurisdictions, to avoid becoming too well known to the judges and to keep their victim running around. They will mask their reasoning and make it look as if they are the victims and their rights have been violated.
There are many large and well-known groups, who use and teach these tactics. Most of which will have a cover that seems real and legitimate. Many of them use children’s rights as their cover. They put a lot of money and energy into minimizing domestic violence and it’s effects on the children who lived in a home where abuse occurred. They will give very little support to issues that will actually help children.These groups true agenda is abolishing abuse prevention legislation and child support laws. They try regaining some control and punishing their partner for leaving them, and they try to do this by controlling the children, by gaining full custody, with visitation or by not paying child support.
Most States have trained their police to recognize abuse and enforce Restraining Orders, funded child protective services, made abuse prevention statues, opened women’s shelters and educated personnel of the dangers of domestic violence. What has not been corrected by legislature is letting abusers use the judicial system as a weapon against their former victims, especially after a Restraining Order has been issued.
These groups have caused the numbers of Pro Se litigation’s to multiply rapidly. Many of their web sites offer how to books, legal forms and packets of motions to file in court. Many of these motions can be refiled over and over just by changing a word or two, the date or going to another jurisdiction. They encourage them to lengthen proceedings with extensive, irrelevant discovery aimed at stalling out the processes.
With a no contact RO, these abusers can not see their victim, send them a letter, call them or come within 100 feet of them, in most States. But, for about a $19.00 fee, this same person can file numerous claims and have hearings in small claims court. If they go into State and Federal Administrative Agencies and accuse their victim of obscure violations, their victim will be subpoenaed. This gives the abuser several legal contacts with their victim, where they can legally harass and badger them with no fear of violating the Restraining Order. If this same abuser/stalker does Pro Se defense, they may even get away with other stalking of their victim, like watching or following them, photographing them, going through their trash, ect. All with the cover of “investigating” their case.These victims have left their abusers for a reason. They are in fear of them, yet the abuser has found a way to put them in a position, they can not walk away from. They must sit through court proceedings and on going harassment, where they are made to endure their abusers subtle looks and movements, which they know so well and fear.
They will try to make them lose their composure and they will attack their credibility, making this person victimized for the second time but even worst, the abuser puts them on trial in the eyes of the community and the courtroom. They have used a lot of will, to get away from their abusers and usually don’t have the emotional strength to go for hours or even days being questioned on the stand, by their abusers.
The use of courts is most widely know in custody cases, all to many times not with the child’s best interest at heart, but to try to exploit weakness in their ex-partner, to regain control or at the least to manipulate and hurt them as a punishment for leaving. They may try to prove them an unfit parent, digging up or fabricating any type of evidence they can.A spouse who abuses their partner and parent of their children are twice as likely to try to gain full custody of the children, whether they truly want custody or not. They will often try to mis-use the legal system, through retaliatory legal actions to continue their abuse and harassment. These actions make the victims have to prove themselves to the court, keeping them in the victim role.
While their rights are violated, for the second time around, the abusers/stalkers rights are protected. Is that justice? At the least, victims of domestic violence should have the same Constitutional protections as their abusers, even while they are being stalked and harassed by them with the judicial system.
If our founding fathers that wrote our Constitution and the Bill of Rights (for all people) were inside these courtrooms, I believe they would be horrified at the way our basic human rights are being violated. The laws of our Country are being twisted and used in ways many can not even comprehend.Victims of terrible crimes are being belittled and torn apart by defense attorneys and Pro Se cross-examinations, on the witness stands on a daily basis. Litigation of a abuser/stalker is different because they know the victim, knows their family, their past, what sets them off, what will hurt them most and especially what frightens them, this brings the adversarial system to new low. These litigations twist our Constitution till it is almost unrecognizable and at the expense of our entire society, protects the rights of the abuser/stalker.At this time the sad truth is there is nothing that these victims can do, but fight it out in court. It is slowly being recognized as a major problem and there are programs working on ways to end this, in the future.From the Biden-Hatch Violence Against Women Act of 2000, Title I Section 106, National Stalker and Domestic Violence Reduction Grants Reauthorization, Authorized at $3 million/year through 2005 (fiscal year 1998 appropriation was $2.75 million). This section extends grant programs that help state and local governments improve databases dealing with stalking and domestic violence.Title I Section 107, Clarify Enforcement to End Interstate Battery/Stalking. This section clarifies federal jurisdiction to reach persons crossing state lines(including foreign travel), and expands federal jurisdiction to include battery used to facilitate the interstate movement of victims. This section also makes the nature of harm uniform for domestic violence, stalking, and interstate travel offenses, and clarifies the "Interstate Violation of Protection Order" section.Hopefully soon, with the government putting this kind of money into programs involving domestic violence and stalking, we will see an end to this madness in the near future.
Right now, in the these cases where victims have the finances and the emotional strength, they can fight back by filing a civil suit for malicious abuse of the legal system/process, defamation of character and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Other than that, keeping the faith and hope for future changes, is all that we have. It is said that Lady Justice is blind, but she should not be mocked.ORIGINAL RESOURCEAbusive Stalking Using the Courts syndicated by BlogBurst
Saturday, March 28, 2009
1/8/2008 Introduced And Referred To Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee
2/25/2008 Reported 2nd Reading
3/13/2008 Passed Assembly (78-0-0)
3/17/2008 Received In Senate Referred To Senate Judiciary Committee
6/5/2008 Reported 2nd Reading
11/24/2008 Senate Floor Amendments Passed (34-1) (Buono)
12/15/2008 Substituted For S1106 (1R)
12/15/2008 Passed Senate (37-0)
1/13/2009 Received In Assembly 2nd Reading On Concurrence
2/5/2009 Passed Both Houses (78-0-0)
3/21/2009 Approved P.L.2009, c.28.
“This is a good day for women throughout the state who have been victims of stalking,” said Senator Jennifer Beck, a member of the State Senate Judiciary Committee. “As technology advances, so do the tools stalkers use to keep track of their victims. The new law is keeping in step with technology such as GPS and hidden cameras. I am proud to have sponsored it, alongside my colleague Senator Buono.”
The signing of this bill is the culmination of three years of work by the 12th District Legislators. The legislation was prompted by a situation in Marlboro when a woman who was a victim of stalking addressed her concerns to her State representatives.
“The victims of stalking often suffer long after their stalker has been apprehended, living in a state of fear, anxiety and emotional distress as a result of their being targeted,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “This new law provides for enhanced protections for those victims, while updating the provisions of the law that apply to stalking in the digital age to better reflect the realities of the crime. While we can’t give the victims back the lost sense of security stolen from them, we can make sure that they are protected from further victimization, and that stalkers face penalties that match the severity of the crime.”
The new law, S-1106, amends the State’s statutes governing stalking to read that a person is guilty of stalking if he or she purposefully or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person. Previously, the law provided a person was guilty of stalking only if his or her course of conduct caused a reasonable person to fear bodily injury to, or the death of, themselves or one of their immediate family members.
The bill also provides that a person is guilty of stalking if he or she engages in a course of conduct which would cause a reasonable victim to experience emotional distress or significant mental suffering. And finally, the bill amends the definition of “course of conduct” to include any action, method or device used to monitor, harass or threaten an individual. Senator Buono noted that this amendment is needed to address technological advances in stalking, including the increased use of the Internet in victimizing and harassing the targets of stalkers.
“Under the previous stalking laws, police could not step in to protect a stalking victim or their family members until they were in eminent danger of physical harm,” said Senator Buono. “With this new law, police will now have the authority to get involved before harassment and pervasive surveillance turn to physical violence, assault or worse. Also, as the technology advances, we must evolve with the times, and this law brings our State’s stalking statutes into the 21st Century.”
Sunday, March 22, 2009
US Department of Justice; Office on Violence Against Women; Stalking Victimization in the United States Special Report
Stalking Victimization in the United States Special Report
Bureau of Justice Statistics Releases Findings in Largest Study of Stalking Conducted to Date
The Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released a supplemental report to the National Crime Victimization Survey focused on Stalking Victimization in the United States. This Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is the most comprehensive study of stalking to date and confirms that stalking is pervasive, women are at higher risk of being stalked, and there is a dangerous intersection between stalking and more violent crimes.
The SVS was specifically developed, with funding from OVW, to provide national-level data on the crime of stalking. As a result of this study, OVW is even more committed to addressing the crime of stalking by providing safety to victims and holding perpetrators accountable.
The SVS identified seven types of harassing or unwanted behaviors consistent with stalking, and individuals were classified as stalking victims if they responded that they experienced two or more of these behaviors on two or more separate occasions. In addition, the individuals must have reported fear for their safety or that of a family member as a result of the course of conduct, or they must have experienced additional threatening behaviors that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
February 16, 2009
Karen’s Law Blog
DOJ Report on Stalking
IMAGE SOURCE: Archive, People Magazine cover of Rebecca Schaeffer, May 1989
Many victims of stalking suffer in silence. According to the first nationwide look at stalking by the Justice Department study, about one in three stalking cases are even reported to authorities. Even with underreporting there were 3.4 million people subjected to stalking, according to researchers.
Whether a celebrity, a spurned lover, or a stranger, stalking happens frequently enough that it is a crime in every state.
Researchers in the DOJ study measured stalking as, making unwanted phone calls, sending unsolicited or unwanted letters of e-mails, following or spying on a victim, showing up at a place where they had no reason to be, leaving unwanted present, waiting at places for a victim and spreading information or rumors on the internet, or in public places.
Researchers find that women are more frequently the focus of stalkers and sometimes it can last for five years of more as it did in 374,000 cases. With all of the frequency, the New York Times reports that a small number of cases ever makes it to court because the cases are difficult to put together.
First there has to be physical evidence. And frequently the victim of the stalker does not even report the incident to authorities believing it is a personal matter or will not be taken seriously. But Mary Lou Leary, of the National Center for Victims of Crime, tells the New York Times that stalking is like domestic violence was perceived more than two decades ago. “Law enforcement is often suspicious or cynical, but is now beginning to deal with stalking as a crime.”
After actress Rebecca Schaeffer was killed by a stalker in 1989, law enforcement began taking the offense seriously. While the first offense is often a misdemeanor, punishments can include a year in jail and ordered counseling.
In 34 states, stalking is a felony especially when accompanied by a threat of violence or possessing a weapon. The Times reports of a case where a man broke into the house of his victim and took a photo of her sleeping. Convicted of stalking he is now spending 13 years in prison.
Karen’s Law, proposed by the victim of credit card fraud, electronic tampering of her computer and bank accounts along with phone threats, is awaiting signature by the Governor of New Jersey.
Steve Lombardi, IB partner from Iowa, reports on cell phone stalking as the newest turn in incidents. #
Originally posted at InjuryBoard by Chrissie Cole
Full post as published by InjuryBoard on February 16, 2009 (boomark / email )
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Sunday, February 15, 2009
Published: February 14, 2009
Three-quarters of victims know their stalker, whether it is a current or former friend, roommate or neighbor, this study and others have found. “Often stalkers want to make their victims fearful,” said Eugene A. Rugala, a former F.B.I. profiler who advises on workplace threats. “They are thinking, ‘How dare you do this to me? I’m going to make you pay.’ But others feel it could be a way of getting back into the relationship.”
Experts say only a small number of stalking incidents reach the courts because cases are often difficult to compile. There is often no clear physical evidence linking a stalker to the victim.
In the Justice Department study, the most common reasons for respondents’ not telling the police they were being stalked was that they felt it was a personal matter or they did not think the police would think it was important.
“Stalking is treated like domestic violence was 20 or 25 years ago,” said Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime and a former federal prosecutor. “Law enforcement is often suspicious or cynical, but is now beginning to deal with stalking as a crime.”
Many victims initially refuse to believe, or accept, that a former partner is singling them out for retaliation. It is a shock for others when a stranger begins to constantly annoy or follow them.
“Many people told us they were uneasy, felt creeped out or scared,” said Katrina Baum, a Bureau of Justice Statistics researcher and an author of the study. “There’s a reluctance to label the behavior because it’s too frightening. At some point the behavior can escalate to where it can’t be ignored.”
One reason victims have difficulty pulling together a case is that stalking is often confused with harassment, a less serious behavior. Dr. Park Dietz, a Southern California forensic psychiatrist, said the behavior crosses the line when it includes lying in wait, following or breaking in.
Dr. Dietz, who helps corporations address stalking and other threats, said that treating stalking as a misdemeanor “is useless because it angers offenders and makes them more dangerous,” adding, “It’s like poking a wild animal with a stick.”
Strengthened victim protection in states like Kansas now allows the police to investigate reports of reasonable fear for one’s safety rather than the stricter requirement of “a credible threat.”
The state has Jodi’s law, named after Jodi Sanderholm, a 19-year-old college student who was kidnapped, raped and strangled in January 2007. The suspect, Justin E. Thurber, was found guilty on Thursday on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping.
The Somerset County district attorney, Jerry L. Spangler, said incarceration in cases like Mr. Miller’s was not enough; stalkers also “require individualized treatment,” he said. Mr. Miller’s lawyer did not return calls for comment.
“They almost never admit something is wrong with them,” said Barry Rosenfeld, a psychology professor and director of clinical training at Fordham University who has evaluated dozens of stalkers.
“Stalkers often feel bad, lonely and vulnerable,” Dr. Rosenfeld said. “Then they’ll call, even though there is a protection order saying they can’t do it. They won’t get an answer, and they’ll call again.”
Dr. Rosenfeld is testing a more intensive program to help offenders learn to better control their need “to do something to feel better in the moment.”
After a decade of suffering electronic tampering of her credit card bills, computer and bank accounts — as well as phone threats and vandalism — Karen Welch of New Jersey, a chief financial officer for a nonprofit group, pushed to overhaul the state stalking law.
“I don’t want a Karen’s law that gives more protection after it’s too late,” Ms. Welch said. “I want the law broadened so it protects victims against emotional distress or significant mental suffering, not just when a person fears for her safety.”
The bill passed and is awaiting the governor’s signature, according to its sponsor, State Senator Barbara Buono, a Democrat.
Friday, February 6, 2009
1/8/2008 Introduced And Referred To Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee
2/25/2008 Reported 2nd Reading
3/13/2008 Passed Assembly (78-0-0)
3/17/2008 Received In Senate Referred To Senate Judiciary Committee
6/5/2008 Reported 2nd Reading
11/24/2008 Senate Floor Amendments Passed (34-1) (Buono)
12/15/2008 Substituted For S1106 (1R)
12/15/2008 Passed Senate (37-0)
1/13/2009 Received In Assembly 2nd Reading On Concurrence
2/5/2009 Passed Both Houses (78-0-0)
Monday, February 2, 2009
*ASSEMBLY SESSION Assembly Chambers
A1563 [Greenstein, Linda R./Munoz, Eric+35], Stalking
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
NEW YORK By the tens of thousands, victims of stalking lose their jobs, flee their homes and fear for their safety, according to a new federal survey.
The report by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics provides the most comprehensive data ever on a crime that affects an estimated 3.4 million Americans a year.
About 11 percent of the victims said they had been stalked for five or more years, and one in seven said the stalking compelled them to move out of their home, according to the report. It covered a 12-month period in 2005-06.
The study was described as a groundbreaking effort to analyze the scope and varying forms of stalking, which had not been featured in previous versions of the National Crime Victimization Survey.
The number of victims was up sharply from a more limited 1995-96 study commissioned by the Justice Department that estimated 1.4 million Americans a year were targeted by stalkers. Both surveys concluded that women more than twice as likely to be victimized as men.
In the span between the two surveys, e-mail and text-messaging emerged as common tactics for stalkers.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics defined stalking as a course of conduct, directed at a specific person on at least two separate occasions, that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. The most commonly reported types of stalking were unwanted phone calls (66 percent), unsolicited letters or e-mail (31 percent), or having rumors spread about the victim (36 percent).
More than one-third of the victims reported being followed or spied upon; some said they were tracked by electronic monitoring, listening devices or video cameras. About 21 percent said they had been attacked by their stalker.
Nearly 75 percent of victims knew their stalker in some capacity — most commonly a former spouse or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, sometimes a relative or co-worker.
“The public tends to perceive of stalking as something that happens to celebrities who have a stranger follow them around,” said report co-author Katrina Baum. “This study tells us that stalking is not a stranger phenomenon.”
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Bill needs one more vote in state Assembly before Gov. can sign legislation
BY REBECCA MORTON Staff Writer
With a unanimous vote the state Senate passed a bill that would make it easier for police to assist the victim of a stalker.
The action came during the Senate's final voting session of 2008 on Dec. 15.
"I am pleased to join with my colleague, Sen. Buono, in sponsoring this landmark legislation that will broaden protections for stalking victims. This measure will simply let women live free from fear," Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth and Mercer) said of the bill she sponsored.
The legislation was sponsored by Beck and Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex).
Initially introduced in June 2007 by former Assemblyman Mike Panter (D-Monmouth and Mercer), the bill has undergone some changes from the version that the Assembly unanimously passed March 13.
Changes included the removal of a section that related to mental suffering or distress. Originally, the bill stated that emotional stress was defined as significant mental suffering or distress, that may, but does not necessarily require medical or other professional treatment or counseling. The bill now reads that emotional stress is defined as significant mental suffering or distress, leaving no mention of medically proving that state.
Also changed was the degree of the penalty if an individual is convicted of stalking. Initially the bill sought to make stalking a third-degree crime, but changes have been made to maintain the crime at a fourth-degree level for a first offense.
Tom Fitzsimmons of Beck's office explained that the amended version will return to the state Assembly for a revote in 2009. The Assembly also met on Dec. 15 for its last session of the year.
According to the New Jersey Legislature's Web site, the Assembly will meet again for voting Feb. 5. If the bill is placed on that day's agenda and is once again passed in the Assembly, the governor can then sign it into law.
The bill will expand the current stalking law to include conduct that causes a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person or to suffer emotional distress. The bill also amends the definition of course of conduct to include directly or indirectly or through a third person or by device to follow, monitor, surveilling, threaten or communicating to or about a person. It also covers interfering with a person's property and repeatedly committing harassment against a person.
"Technological advances require that the Legislature update and amend current statutes to ensure that the victims of stalking receive the best available protection," Beck said, citing global positioning systems and easily concealed cameras that furnish stalkers with the means to harass another individual.
Law enforcement officials have previously stated in Greater Media Newspapers that the current law limits their actions unless a direct threat is made against the victim.
The bill was initially drafted with the assistance of a Monmouth County woman who is a victim of stalking, along with input from Manalapan Police Chief Stuart Brown, Marlboro police Detective Sgt. Paul Reed and Marlboro police Detective Ross Yenisey. The bill received additional information from the National Center for Victims of Crime, Washington, D.C., and the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women.
Violators of the law would be punishable by a term of imprisonment not to exceed 18 months, a maximum fine of $10,000 or both. Violators who commit a second or subsequent offense are guilty of a crime of the third degree punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, a fine of $15,000 or both.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. The center reports that 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually.