Friday, October 8, 2010

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

A dear friend of mine works for a law firm.  She sent this email to me last week and I thought it was worth sharing in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month:

I just returned from a really poignant conference on domestic violence today and since Friday marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month I thought it was important to share a few things.  I routinely represent clients who have experienced domestic violence ("DV") in their relationships with incidents ranging from repeated name calling to GPS stalking to rape.  And unfortunately, sometimes I feel that I have become numb to the horrors people endure in their most intimate relationships.  Today, the family of a victim that died in a murder-suicide in 2007 talked about the warning signs that they missed and the importance of educating women, particularly teenage girls, about how to form healthyrelationships.  It was a welcome reminder about how DV impacts not only the victim but the family and the community as a whole.  DV doesn't mean just physical abuse.  And the family today said that the first time the husband was physically abusive (or at least that they know about) is when he murdered his wife.  When I got home, I ran a Google search for an article about the crime, found one, and remembered being moved by this article a few years ago:

I was talking to one of the attorneys at the conference today who had just switched from working in a poorer county to a wealthier county.  She said that in the poorer county, you can easily tell who is the petitioner, who is the respondent, and who is the attorney in DV cases because of the way people dress and act.  She said that in the wealthier county, its harder to tell the difference and yet the same abusive behaviors happen in those households.  Appearances aren't everything and the most abusive individuals are often also the most outwardly charming.

With technology, DV victims are easily traceable.  Some things I learned/had my memory refreshed about today:

  • there are companies that let you unblock "blocked" telephone numbers as well as record the call and if calling from a landline can reveal the caller's address (TrapCall); 
  • there are companies that let you call someone and you can have the telephone number show up as any other number you want (ex. Billy calls Cindy but punches in a number that when Cindy looks at her phone she thinks its her mom instead of Billy) (Spoof Card; Phone Gangster); 
  • computer software exists that not only spies on your keystrokes but can make your computer say things to you [good for making people think they are losing it]; 
  • OnStar can never be completely disabled from your car once installed and can be used to open it w/o a key; 
  • if you buy a pre-paid phone or calling card with a credit card and/or a store's "bonus card" your name may be linked to your phone or calling card and when you call someone, your name may appear; 
  • some sites allow people to send emails that disappear after a certain period of time (;
  •  you can send anonymous emails that bounce from country to country so the email is harder to track ( and;
  •  there are "family locate" functions on many cellphones that can work like a GPS to track a person's whereabouts.  GPS are also small enough to be unobtrusively placed on the undercarriage of cars or in a purse; and
  • if you think your technology is being monitored, change your passwords along with your password reset questions as well as voicemail passwords.

I have had at least one client get tracked via GPS on her phone and another client receive calls from her "mom" or "boyfriend" when really it was her ex using a SpoofCard-like software.  So it happens.  And some of the most unsettling cases I have had was where there wasn't a whole lot of physical abuse but the threats, controlling and/or stalking (appearing outside of her house, at her job, talking to her friends to find out what she had been up to and on and on) behavior made the opposing party far more unpredictable and made the client feel vulnerable.

I'm sending this email because DV impacts so, so, so many women and all of us have friends, sisters, mothers, aunts, etc. that may be affected by it and its important to look out for the warning signs.  Here are a few good websites:  

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