The Dangers of People Search Sites

Recently, I decided to search for my name and address on the internet. It was purely out of curiosity to see what I would find. What I saw terrified me. I saw my name (maiden and formerly married name), current address, previous addresses, past phone numbers, and connections to people related to me. My life was like an online map for all to see without my permission. My information was posted on sites known as “people search sites.” These sites also offer more information about me for a fee.

People search sites gather your information through online websites, social media, public, and sometimes private records. They have an automatic opt-in policy. They don’t ask if they can consolidate your data and post it. They just do it.

Many users of people search sites use them to reconnect with old friends and other reasons that do not cause harm. However, the data can be weaponized. For many domestic violence survivors, seeing their personal information online is like setting their safety plan(s) on fire. If perpetrators of abuse want to continue to victimize survivors, they can use people search sites as their agents in helping them to terrorize survivors.

 Survivors of domestic violence should not have to worry that their personal information is online, without their permission, for the world to see. People search sites claim that their main goal is to connect people who have lost touch with one another. That may have been the case in the beginning. Now they are data mining, and people looking to invade your privacy can do so with a click of their mouse.  

 The privacy issues surrounding people search sites are enormous, and the rules governing what they can or cannot disclose are confusing or don’t exist. It is our goal to provide you with some practical ways to guard your identity against these sites:

 Some Tips:

  • People search sites do have an opt-out policy. It’s not easily seen on their websites. Below are websites that can help you opt-out of some of these sites. Please note, it is not a complete list of people search sites.

https://lifehacker.com/how-to-opt-out-of-the-most-popular-people-search-sites-1791536533

https://www.techlicious.com/tip/remove-yourself-spokeo-intelius-peoplesmart-mylife/

  •  Be conscious of what you post on social media including pictures with identifiable backgrounds.
  •  There are online reputation service companies that can assist you in removing your data online for a fee. 
  •  Check for your personal information on the web from time to time and when it is safe to do so. 

 Learn More. Articles about people search sites are below:

USA Today- 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/2018/05/04/delete-yourself-internet-people-finder-sites-worth/553371002/

 The Verge-

https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/21/14945884/people-search-sites-history-privacy-regulation

 National Network To End Domestic Violence- 

https://www.techsafety.org/peoplesearchesanddatabrokers  (The article gives a process to opt-out of Intelius and Zabasearch, which requires you to mail/fax your request to them. They now have an online opt-out process on their website. It is one opt-out process for both. Intelius owns Zabasearch: http://intelius.com/optout.

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Inmate Custody/Release Information

Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE)

New York City VINE Program

New York City’s VINE program is a free 24-hour hotline service. The phone number to call is 888-846-3469. VINE provides information about inmate custody/release information.  You can register for VINE alerts of inmates’ custody and release. For more information go to the NYC Department of Correction site by clicking this link. 

Here is a snapshot of what it provides:

  • Lets you know if an inmate is in custody or released.
  • You can register to receive an alert by phone if the inmate is released or transferred from the Department of Corrections custody.
  • Calls you to let you know that the inmate has been released or transferred from the Department of Corrections custody. It is an automated call.

To register with VINE:

  1. Make up a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) that is personally significant to you and keep track of it.
  2. Identify the phone number you want to use to receive inmate/custody release. information.  Remember, VINE can only call you. It cannot email or text.
  3.  Know the inmates’ identification information.

Here is the identification information you will need:

  • The inmates New York State Identification Number (NYSID). This number is all you need to register for VINE.  You can get this from the prosecutor(s) on the case. 

If you don’t have the NYSID, three or more of the following will do. If you don’t have this information, you can normally get it from the police on the case. 

  • First name.
  • Last name.
  • Date of birth.
  • Date of the arrest.

For inmate custody and release information outside of New York City, please click on the link below.  

https://vinelink.com/#/home

 

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Safe from COVID-19. But even more Unsafe than usual at home!

COVID-19 has forced our lives to be different to usual.  And it’s difficult and challenging for “everyone”.  But for victims of Domestic Violence who now find themselves at home with their abusive partners for longer periods of time, due to the Social Isolation strategy being adopted, it is highly likely that the amount of abuse perpetrated will increase.  Not in every case.  But even in one case, of course, it is one case too many!

One of the principal tactics that an abuser makes use of, is Isolation.  Isolating his partner from anyone who could potentially be of any type of support to his partner in relation to managing or coping with or even escaping from the abuse that he inflicts upon her.  A call from heads of the City or State of New York City, such as Mayor de Blasio or Governor Cuomo, to practice Social Isolation, is a godsent gift for the abuser.  Or should we say, … a devilsent gift?!

Now the abuser’s work in this “department”, in the “Isolation Tactic department”, is done for him!  She is at home for the vast majority of the time.  And even when she is talking with or face-timing family members or friends, he is right there, to monitor her every word.  He can basically now say to her and do to her whatever he chooses with far less risk of her being able to get help.  It’s a dream come true for him.

It’s a nightmare for her!  A real-life nightmare with potentially dire, real-life consequences.  What if he physically attacks her?  Will her neighbor in the apartment to their right, who would previously have intervened by knocking on their door, still knock on their door?  If her husband answered the door, there would be far less than six feet between him and the neighbor!  Perhaps the neighbor will call the police.  But what if they arrive too late?  Or what if they do arrive in time, but because of Social Distancing, they don’t stay long?!  Or what if, even if the neighbor intervenes and the police turn up?  Imagine how furious her husband will be following that!!

VOW has created a Safety Planning document for those Living With An Abusive Partner.  You can find it on VOW’s website by clicking here, on Facebook and twitter @VoicesofWomen.

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Living With An Abusive Partner – Safety Planning

While living with an abusive partner, safety planning for survivors, their children, and their pets of the utmost importance. Please use all or some of this safety plan to meet your needs. Created by survivors of domestic violence.

  • Determine your partner’s use of physical force so you can assess the risk to you and your family.
  • Pick safe areas to go to  in your home, free of your children. There should be no weapons and it is an area that you can go to, if you feel an argument is about to happen.
  • Teach your children how to get help. Make sure that they understand to not get involved in an argument.
  • Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children. Create a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave.  Plan and instruct them on a place for them to go.
  • Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation, and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.
  • Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away.
  • Keep important documents in a safe place, or with a trusted family member.
  • If possible, have a phone available at all times. If your life is in danger, call 911.

Trust your instincts. Abusers, stalkers, and perpetrators are often very determined to maintain control over their victims, and Technology is one of many tools used to do this. Information can come from a variety of sources, like monitoring your devices, accessing your online accounts, tracking your location, or gathering information about you online. Use safe devices and protect your usernames and passwords.

Be Safe & Healthy.

#VowNow

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Relief and Grief After Leaving An Abuser

Most people, even those with little knowledge of the dynamics of domestic violence, would imagine that a survivor of domestic violence would feel a certain amount of relief once she has left the abusive relationship.  And even understand that the relief could quite possibly be tainted by the fear that the harm that he is capable of inflicting upon her may not have come to an end, despite the fact that she has physically removed herself from the relationship.  Less people would, I think, be imagining that the loss of an abusive relationship could stir up feelings of grief for a survivor.  Surely, she will not miss a man who abused her?!

In her 2010 paper, ‘Loss, Grief, and Domestic Violence’, Concetta Hollinger lists the losses that a victim of domestic violence could experience when she finds herself in an abusive relationship.  For example: Independence, (the victim is now controlled); Support from family and friends, (the abuser isolates his partner); Trust, (the abuser has betrayed that); The happy life and happy ending that she always dreamed she’d have.  Source: https://www.fcasv.org/sites/default/files/Loss,%20Grief,%20and%20Domestic%20Violence,%20Concetta%20Hollinger.pdf  Pages 30 – 32.  Retrieved 02/16/20.

Taking Concetta Hollinger’s ideas to a time further down the line – hopefully! – I would like to suggest a couple of losses that a survivor of domestic violence may experience and grieve for when she is first out of the abusive relationship.  It could well be that whilst in the abusive relationship, despite the horrors, she kept hoping that things would improve, that the abuse would stop, that he would “come to his senses” and start treating her as she deserved, start loving her.  So, now out of that relationship, she has lost that hope.  That hope will never now become a reality.

The other loss that may surprise a lot of people, and understandably so, is that she will mourn the loss of the abuser.  Not the abuse and not the abusive part of him, but the parts of him that she enjoyed and loved.  Such as: His sense of humor; the in-jokes that they shared; the adventures they went on together; the pleasurable, everyday routines they experienced; “their” songs, that they would sing along to together; their sexual relationship.  The “Dr. Jekyll side” of him.  Losing that side of him brought her grief.  That side of him was very real, and it existed alongside the “Mr. Hyde side” of him.  The two sides never showing themselves at the same time!

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When Orders of Protection Don’t Protect!

Is there actually any point in a victim of Domestic Violence obtaining an Order of Protection against the person who has physically assaulted her?  We know that, despite an Order of Protection being a court order for a person to stay away from another person, sometimes a violent person will ignore this order.  Could it be, in some cases, that an Order of Protection is an additional motivating factor for a perpetrator of Domestic Violence to cause harm to his ex-partner?  For example, is his anger fueled by the fact that the object of his former control has made a clear gesture that she no longer wants him in her life?

There are times when an Order of Protection is in place and not only does the perpetrator of Domestic Violence not remain the required minimum, physical distance from his victim, but he gets close enough to her to assault and murder her.  One such case occurred in Durham, North Carolina, in November of last year, 2019.  Victoria St. Hillaire, who was just 28 years of age, and a mother, was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, Lequintin Ford, “as she arrived for work at UNC Family Medicine in Durham.”  Source: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/crime/article237578909.html  Retrieved 01/20/20.  The shooter then turned the gun on himself and killed himself with it.  It should be noted that this is not the first time that Lequintin Ford had violated an Order of Protection provided in an attempt to keep him away from Victoria and her family.

What are the circumstances under which an Order of Protection will achieve what it has set out to achieve?  I.e. Protection.  And when will it not?  This is surely a key factor in determining how victims of Domestic Violence in the future could possibly have a better chance of surviving once they have left an abusive partner.  As Kathy Hodges, deputy director of the Durham Crisis Response Center points out: “If this is an offender who doesn’t want to go to jail, who cares about their reputation and wants to look good in the community, it’s going to be a whole lot more meaningful for them than for someone who really doesn’t care if they get arrested.”  Source: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/crime/article237578909.html  Retrieved 01/20/20.

I had Orders of Protection against my abusive ex-boyfriend.  Each of the three points given by Kathy Hodges in the statement we have just read above were true for my abusive ex-boyfriend.  I.e. He did not want to go to jail or prison; he desperately wanted to keep up the fake, attractive appearance that he had successfully created both in the religious community to which he was affiliated and in the workplace; and he certainly had a lot to lose in relation to his career path, since he had graduated from medical school and was in the process of applying for a spot on a residency program.  Victoria St. Hillaire’s ex-boyfriend did not want to go to jail either.  However, for reasons unknown to me, he additionally had a desire to inflict the ultimate harm upon Victoria that was so consuming that he was willing to also end his own life.  Rest in peace, Victoria.

Security breach, system hacked alert with red broken padlock icon showing unsecure data under cyberattack, vulnerable access, compromised password, virus infection, internet network with binary code

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The Overlooked Heroes

On November 13th of last year, a woman in Oregon, Ohio, called 911 to order a pizza.  She was not, in fact, in the mood for pizza. “This is 911; you have the wrong number.”  Fortunately, the 911 operator did not then automatically hang up. Emergency operators have a talent for picking up on and understanding tone of voice.  Nothing much surprises them. And they are skilled at thinking “outside the box”, as well as thinking logically and practically.

The woman continued with her plan.  “Pepperoni. One large.” The 911 operator proceeded to ask crucial questions.  The conversation would have gone something like this: “Are you in danger?” “Yes.”  “Is someone dangerous in the house with you?” “Yes.” “Is anyone else with you in the house besides the person of danger?” …  “Police are on their way to you. Stay on the line with me if it is safe for you to do so.”

In this November 13th 2019 case in Oregon, because of the awareness and carefulness of the 911 operator who took the pizza ordering call, a potentially very much worse situation was averted.  He, Tim Teneyck, is a hero. But “According to the National Emergency Number Association, … there are no national minimum training guidelines for 911 operators”.  Therefore, “responsibility for adequate training falls to states and local jurisdictions”.  Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/23/us/ohio-911-pizza-domestic-abuse.html  Retrieved 01/04/20.

The caller’s mother was being physically assaulted.  The 911 dispatcher ordered the police cars responding to the incident, to switch off their sirens as they became close to the destination.  The result of Mr. Teneyck’s judgement: A Mr. Lopez was arrested and charged with Domestic Violence.

For victims of Domestic Violence, speaking in a code language in an attempt to safely alert police to the imminent danger that they’re in, without raising suspicion on the part of the perpetrator, or would-be perpetrator, is potentially life-saving.  However, “Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week”, although in favor of clever, coded safety techniques “warned that strategies such as ordering a pizza, which was … depicted in a 2015 Super Bowl commercial about domestic violence, may eventually become too familiar for survivors to use, and could tip off abusers.”  Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/23/us/ohio-911-pizza-domestic-abuse.html  Retrieved 01/04/20.

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Was it Overkill?

“The Washington Post found that nearly half of the women who were murdered during the past decade were … killed by a current or former intimate partner. In a close analysis of five cities, about a third of the male killers were known to be a potential threat ahead of the attack.”  Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/investigations/domestic-violence-murders/  Retrieved 12/19/19.

It is understandable that women in physically abusive relationships are petrified of being murdered by their partners.  It can so easily happen, and it does! Some women fight back when being physically assaulted. Or at least attempt to. Sometimes a physical fight in which a woman fears for her life, will end with her killing her physically abusive partner.  “In U.S. law, killing in self-defense is not a crime; however for most women, neither the laws of self-defense nor evidence of battering work for women in actual trials. 75-80% of women who killed in self-defense are convicted or convinced to plead guilty, and are sentenced to long terms.”  Source: https://solidarity-us.org/atc/130/p729/  Retrieved 12/19/19.

When it comes to cases where a woman killed her current or former intimate partner in self-defense, for self-defense to be accepted by law, there are, what seem to be, massive hurdles that the defendant must surpass in order to escape being convicted of murder.  For example: There must be enough significant proof that there had been a history of physically violent behavior towards the defendant, committed by the deceased partner. “The majority of U.S. jurisdictions require that defendants use force only when there is a threat of “imminent” harm.”  Source: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935352.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199935352-e-5  Retrieved 12/19/19.  But would a victim of domestic violence take the risk of not taking preemptive action?  When her life was at stake! Also, part of this assessment can include the exploration of whether there was a way to retreat safely from the situation, instead of attacking/defending, that was not taken.  I would argue, perhaps controversially, that if a woman found herself about to be murdered by her partner or former partner, if she were to retreat, that threat of being murdered by him would follow her. She would remain in the category of “High Risk” for being murdered by him on another occasion.  

Additionally, “Virtually all formulations of self-defense require that the force used against an attacker be “necessary” for protection, or that the defendant reasonably believe it is.”  Source: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935352.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199935352-e-5  Retrieved: 12/19/19.  Is it fair to convict a woman who killed her intimate partner or former intimate partner, of murder on the grounds of excessive force?  For example: Sixteen stabs to his body, resulting in his death, in comparison to one fatal stab. The point I’m making: She had not trained in the “art” of stabbing techniques, to include knowledge of how many stabs are needed in order to render an attacker unable to strike back.  And in the moments of utter panic and fear for her life, she would likely not be thinking about the amount of stabs, but purely that she was protecting herself from being murdered.

Furthermore, “When victims of battering use self-defense, there are often stereotypes and misconceptions at play … a jury might disbelieve a defendant’s claim that she was in fear of her abuser because she chose to be in a relationship with him”  Source: https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/crime/domestic-abuse-self-defense-philly-freebresha-letoya-ramseure-larry-krasner-20180829.html  Retrieved 12/19/19.  And such a lack of accurate understanding about Domestic Violence and the dynamics involved, on the part of both jurors and judges, can result in a woman having successfully fought for her life, only to lose her freedom to a term behind bars.

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