SURVIVORSHIP

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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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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Sexual Assault of an Unconscious, Intoxicated Woman

Back in 2015, a man sexually assaulted a woman on a college campus and it became “huge” news!  Why?  Initially, because the victim was unconscious at the time, due to being intoxicated, and because the perpetrator of the assault was at the time a budding athlete and a member of Stanford University’s swim team.  And later, uproar from some, when the perpetrator’s father, Dan A. Turner, let it be known that he believed that prison was too harsh of a punishment for his son and referred to the sexual assault as “20 minutes of action”!  Giving his opinion on the proposed six years prison sentence, Dan Turner wrote in a letter submitted to the court: “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action”.  Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/06/06/a-steep-price-to-pay-for-20-minutes-of-action-dad-defends-stanford-sex-offender/  Retrieved 9/18/19.

Back in 2016, the victim of the sexual assault, then not named, criticized how much attention the media was giving to the impressive swimming ability that the defendant had and the negative effect that this incident would have on his future in relation to opportunities as a professional athlete.  “The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency.”  Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/02/stanford-swimmer-sexual-assault-brock-allen-turner-palo-alto  Retrieved 9/18/19.

Earlier this month, more than three years following the sexual assault, the victim has revealed her identity to the public.  She is now no longer just seen as the intoxicated, unconscious woman.  She is Chanel Miller.  She has a book coming out on September 24th.

It is my hope that the book has a decent-sized portion dedicated to acknowledging the two “angels” who by chance witnessed Brock Turner sexually assaulting Chanel Miller in 2015 as they were cycling through the campus, and stepped in, one of them going to the aid of the victim and the other chasing the perpetrator as he attempted to flee the scene and managing to stop him and hold him there until police arrived.

We, the public, need to be made aware of and potentially educated about acts of abuse, such as sexual assault.  For example: Possible circumstances, dynamics, consequences.  I also believe that we could benefit from more emphasis being given by the media on the details related to any heroes/heroines involved in violent crime stories.  Had Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson not intervened the night of Chanel Miller’s attack, the outcome of the story would have been different.  Let’s increase positive reinforcement of good/right behavior, as well as paying attention to bad/wrong behavior!

Note: Although “Bystander Intervention” is potentially very valuable.  It can also unintentionally escalate a situation, making it worse!

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Australia. A country that takes Domestic Violence seriously!

“In the past, Australia has denied travel visas to R&B singer Chris Brown and boxing star Floyd Mayweather due to domestic violence convictions.” Source: https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/australia-bans-travelers-with-domestic-violence-charges  Retrieved 8/1019

“On Thursday 28 February 2019 Australian Immigration Minister David Coleman issued a new directive barring anyone with a domestic violence conviction from entering Australia.” Source: http://www.ozkiwi2001.org/2019/03/no-visas-for-domestic-violence-offenders/  Retrieved 8/10/19

“The new Directive applies to decision-makers within the Department of Home Affairs who are considering the cancellation or refusal of a visa under s501 of the Migration Act 1958, or who are considering the revocation of a mandatory cancellation of a visa under s501CA.” Source: http://www.ozkiwi2001.org/2019/03/no-visas-for-domestic-violence-offenders/  Retrieved 8/10/19.  Previously, this Migration Act had stated that “a person’s visa must be cancelled if they have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison.” Source: https://minister.homeaffairs.gov.au/davidcoleman/Pages/govt-introduces-measures-against-domestic-violence-perpetrators-20190303.aspx  Retrieved 8/10/19.  The new directive is not so forgiving in relation to dealing with convicted perpetrators of Domestic Violence; the type of sentence decided by a foreign court is irrelevant when it comes to Australia’s Department of Home Affairs following the directive.

Basically, David Coleman has decided that “Australia has no tolerance for perpetrators of violence against women and children”.  Source: https://minister.homeaffairs.gov.au/davidcoleman/Pages/govt-introduces-measures-against-domestic-violence-perpetrators-20190303.aspx  Retrieved 8/10/19.  Mr. Coleman said in a public statement, “If you’ve been convicted of a violent crime against women or children, you are not welcome in this country.”  Source: https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/australia-bans-travelers-with-domestic-violence-charges  Retrieved 8/1019.  I did note that the emphasis was very much on violence against women and children, and I am grateful to hear this, although we must not ignore the fact that there are males who are victims of Domestic Violence too.

To clarify, any person now wanting to visit Australia on a visa and who has been charged with Domestic Violence, will not be permitted to enter the country, and any person already in the country as a visitor or living there with visa status and who has a record, from anywhere abroad, of Domestic Violence, will be banished from the country.

Some people are arguing that this new directive is too harsh and even unfair.  For example, in the case of a perpetrator of Domestic Violence who served their sentence in the country where they committed the crime and then emigrated to Australia and has been living there for years on a visa, it could be argued that it is unfair to uproot this person from the country that they have chosen as their current home; they have been convicted, punished to some degree according to the laws in their home country and the case has been closed.  Others, however, welcome such a strict directive, aware of the likelihood of recidivism for perpetrators of Domestic Violence.

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Isolating Himself and Withholding Affection, as Ways to Abuse.

Have you ever experienced the sort of emotional abuse that involves him locking you OUT OF a room, or withholding affection from you?  I have.

It is, I think, more often that we hear survivors of Domestic Violence recount stories of how their abusive partners isolated or attempted to isolate them from their friends and family, or how they were forced to have sex with their abusive partners, despite protesting.  And these are certainly very common occurrences within an abusive relationship.  My abusive ex-boyfriend engaged in the isolation tactic that I have just described, but he also had a couple of other habits, other abusive tactics, that I don’t hear much talk of.

My abusive ex-boyfriend would lock himself inside one of the rooms in the house, so that I was unable to enter and so that, (I came to know), he’d be free to sit at his computer or with his phone and communicate with other women.  He once said to me, when I confronted him about his infidelity, “But it’s you who I come home to at the end of each day!”  An example of verbal abuse.  Keeping me from entering the room where he was sitting, an example of non-verbal emotional and psychological abuse.  I believe that it’s acceptable for partners to keep some secrets from each other.  But this was a case of deceit on his part; of him knowing that the only way to try to hide it from me, was to keep me physically away from the proof; and furthermore, of him knowing that locking me out of the room would likely cause me anxiety and depression.

There were other times when he would be sitting at his computer with the door to the room open, and I would approach him to ask, for example, how his applications for Medical Residency were going.  We worked on them together sometimes.  Quickly, but not quite quickly enough for me to not have seen, the computer screen with a Live Chat in progress would be minimized, and a different screen would have replaced it.  The replacement being, for example, something related to applying for a spot on a Residency Program at a hospital somewhere in the country.  He was desperate to not let me get too close to his Computer of Secrets!  Woe betide me if I were to question him on the minimized screen that I had caught a glimpse of!

Another of his abusive behaviors was to withhold physical affection and sexual intimacy from me.  “Don’t most relationships in trouble look like that?”, you may ask.  Remember that this is just part of a bigger picture.  And this was a way of behaving with the intention to hurt me.  “According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, the definition of abuse is the following: “Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person.””  Source: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/abuse-information/what-is-abuse-abuse-definition.  Retrieved 7/7/19

I recall the emotionally painful nights that I experienced, when he didn’t go out, but would climb into bed next to me at 4am, knowing that I’d probably wake up and knowing that I had to get up early for work the next day, (he didn’t have to rise early).  He’d then make sure that he remained far enough away from my body to not be touching me at all.  He knew that this would hurt me.  It absolutely did!  And he knew that I would have been suffering emotionally up until then, lying there thinking about him in another room, indulging in his secret world.  He knew I longed for the consistency of a warm-bodied, warm-hearted boyfriend; I had practically begun to beg him to go to bed at the same time as me.  Deliberate neglect.

 

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New DOJ Definition of “Domestic Violence”

The Department of Justice, (DOJ), has changed the definition of “Domestic Violence”!  I only recently discovered this and was curious.  When I read the new definition, I became concerned.

The Department of Justice’s previous definition of “Domestic Violence” was:

“A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”  Source:

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/doj-change-domestic-violence-definition/

Retrieved 06/22/19

The current version on the DOJ website, as of April 2018, reads:

“The term “domestic violence” includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.”  Source:

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/doj-change-domestic-violence-definition/

Retrieved 06/22/19

My observations:

  1. What is glaringly obvious is how drastically different the two definitions are from one another! I.e. Not just a few minor changes.
  2. We see that whereas the previous definition recognized that Domestic Violence is not merely physical violence, (it listed all forms of abuse), the new definition includes only “felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence”, which means that it is discounting many forms of abuse that perpetrators use on his/her/their victim.
  3. The previous definition explained the goal behind the Domestic Violence, i.e. to gain power and control, and it even offered further explanation for how the abusive behaviors seek to gain power and control. g. Aiming to intimidate or manipulate a victim.  The new definition acknowledged none of the above.

Why am I concerned about the new definition?  I feel that the new definition is sending a message that only Domestic Violence punishable by law is considered as “Domestic Violence”, and by offering such a narrow description, it is potentially misleading, as well as appearing to invalidate all other types of Domestic Violence.  Also, I am wondering why the Trump administration felt compelled to change the definition.  What could be the thinking and the goal behind such an extreme change of wording?

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Be active, resist and vote!

Hold Abusers Accountable By Electing More Women.

This is a painful and heartbreaking day. The Supreme Court has taken a hard-right turn and is in an all-out war on women’s rights. Here is what we are up against: a patriarchal system that seeks to silence women, take away women’s rights and reward entitled men who believe that they can abuse and sexually assault women while eating-up power.

We must fight back.

• A wave is coming on November 6, 2018. Be a part of it by learning about the women candidates running on 11/6/18 in your area: http://cawp.rutgers.edu/2018-primary-women-candidates-us-congress-and-statewide-elected-executive

• If you are as furious as we are right now, Donate $10 a month to the Voices of Women as we gear-up to provide critical training to survivors of domestic violence and help them share their stories. This November survivors’ voices will be heard loud and clear. VOW will make sure of it.

• Register to vote. For many today is the day to register to vote for the elections on 11/6/18, find out how at vote.gov. 

Be active, resist and vote!

In solidarity,

Voices of Women (VOW)

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Women’s March

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” reflects Simone de Beauvoir in her book The Second Sex (1949), and I have been wondering of the wisdom of this sentence for quite some time. What does it take for a female child to mature into a woman, not only physically but also in a mindset?

I have been a daughter, mother, wife and partner, yet, I can safely say, the first time I really understood the price and pride of being a woman was when I realized I was in an abusive relationship and that I had to co-parent a child with the abuser. Not only was the abuse inseparable from the low regard the abuser had for me as a woman and mother of his child, but also from the lack of institutional understanding and support I suffered as a dv survivor at the hands of the Family Courts.

Fast forward, ten years later, I found myself marching in Washington D.C. on the day of Trump’s inauguration and a year later in New York City. It is incredibly uplifting to be able to march for women’s rights and see how our movement has united the progressive forces in this country. At the march in NYC, I saw people campaigning for the Dreamers, LGBTQ rights, the environment, free Palestine and more, all under the aegis of the Women’s March.

I felt a glimpse of hope, a shift in public discourse and accountability in the air. When I reached 45th Street and heard a policewoman in her loudspeaker tell us “this is where the March ends but your fight will continue,” I could barely hold back my tears. Through hard-earned lessons, I can say, I have become a woman, not only in body, but also in the mind.

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Thoughts On “A Better Man”.

A Canadian film and a US Premiere, “A Better Man” was shown at Cinepolis Chelsea on November 15th, as part of the DOC NYC Film Festival. “A Better Man”, the brainchild of survivor of horrific Domestic Violence, Attiya Khan, documented the arranged meetings and conversations between Attiya and her abusive ex-boyfriend Steve, after 20 years with no contact.

Why did Attiya choose to do this? Why did Steve agree to it? What exactly was achieved? These were some of the questions I asked myself. I don’t know the precise answers to these questions, but I’m going to share some of my thoughts with you, addressing these questions.

I believe that Attiya had in mind that if the film were to include an abuser, as long as the abuser was genuinely sorry for the violence he had inflicted upon his girlfriend and the consequential psychological damage that he had caused, then the film could have a more extensive impact on viewers in terms of providing an opportunity for a greater understanding of what happens within an abusive intimate relationship. Could it be that Steve chose to participate, with a similar goal in mind?

Was Steve genuinely remorseful? Yes! To my surprise, I believe that he was. Do I believe that all abusers feel remorse? No, I don’t. And this led me to ask myself: “Are there perhaps different types of abusers? Can I categorize them? Distinguish them?” Maybe those who were abused themselves. And those who are simply sociopaths.

It seemed to me that Attiya attained a good amount of healing via this process and I am delighted about this. When girlfriend and boyfriend, Attiya was just a teenager, and she was hit in the face by Steve many, many times, dragged across the floor over broken glass, (that he had broken), and choked until she passed out. “The sleeper”, she called that.

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Surviving Abuse In My Twenties

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I am 30 now and am already physically tired. I’ve been stomped on, strangled, broken, and bruised; it’s been very real – my body has had its share of turmoil. In addition, my mind has imagined sweet fairy tales of blackbirds flying out of a baked pie, and wolves blowing my house down over and over again. My spirit throughout has been in a state of confusion, being raised Catholic, turned Christian by grace, then to trying to find my voice and beliefs in a stable place. My name is Desiree’ and my desires in my 20’s has circled around being noticed. Problematically, when a particular guy liked me, and my cell phone rang with his caller ID, I was excited :-). Positive or negative, I knew he paid some attention to me. My possibilities were and still are endless: “1st comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage”… the lies of the modern day fairy tale. It is reported that women ages 18 to 34 are at the greatest risk of becoming victims of Domestic Violence (DV). Moreover, it is noted that “DV cost more than $37 Billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical, mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies.”

 

Just like I craved a stable man to notice me, I deeply yearned for my family’s security, passion in the workplace, career accomplishments and education. In my domestic violence relationship, all these things came to a screeching halt. I am very grateful that my life did not end.

 

In the city that never sleeps, or in the suburb that twinkles stars at night, I believe there is a sounding message of real love, pure and understanding; after the purple rain. That message has led me to rebuild my inner faith and survive my 20’s with most of those years in an abusive relationship. Looking back on the forbidden places I’ve conquered, this is not a taboo.

 

My 20’s have been the time of my life. Now as a member of Voices of Women Organizing Project, I’ve reclaimed my power to speak in and through a dominant sisterhood and pave a positive path for that weird and exhilarating space beyond survivorship. The question today is…will you have to be a survivor or witness abuse to really understand? Create a better decade. Support Now. Join Us.

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