OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Addressing Technology and Stalking
Michelle Garcia, Cindy Southworth  -  2009/1/21
How can I best help my clients stay safe on the internet and report any stalking behavior?
1.  CindySouthworth
 In helping people respond to stalking and abuse perpetrated over the Internet, we focus primarily on holding offenders accountable when they misuse technology to harm. When we talk to victims of stalking and abuse our main focus is on how they can safely stay online, use great technology resources, and yet know where an abuser or stalker might be able to misuse tech to find them. Many basic privacy tips work for everyone: be thoughtful about what you post on a public website, and change privacy settings for sites like Face Book to keep strangers and others from seeing your date of birth (especially including year), address, etc. On our website we have a Technology Safety Plan in 8 languages go to: http://www.nnedv.org/docs/SafetyNet/NNEDV_TechSafetyPlan-English.pdf
It seems like now days the youth are more knowledgable with computers than I was when I was their age. But they can also be more vunerable. I am a crime victim advocate for Victims fo Crime on the Lummi Indian Reservation. How would you provide the awareness to the youth who seem to have more experience with the technology?
1.  Michelle Garcia
 We work with a large number of victim service providers who express their concerns about youth and technology as well as their own lack of familiarity with some of the technologies. One thing that is helpful is enhancing your own familiarity with technologies youth are using. There are lots of great resources specifically designed to raise awareness of the risks associated with technology use for both youth and adults. These include: Web Wise Kids, www.webwisekids.org; Internet Keep Safe Coalition, www.ikeepsafe.org; The Safe Space, www.thesafespace.org; Incredible Internet - Smarter Surfing Starts Here, www.incredibleinternet.com; and Connect Safely Smart Socializing Starts Here, www.connectsafely.org. You can explore these sites with the youth you are working with and we can also provide training materials to use to provide awareness education to youth.
Please provide examples of environmental strategies that have been instrumental in addressing best practices in stalking; strategies that have been executed nationally in curtailing crime against women. Please provide a brief synopsis on how each strategy influences current legislation and new technology. Please expand upon the data that measures the outcomes of stalking. Based upon that data, provide projections that indicate the best practices for recognizing the new technologies that will aid us in addressing the affects of stalking.
1.  Michelle Garcia
 Yvonne, your question is much more complex than an 800 character response (web site limits) will allow us to address. Cindy and I would be happy to talk with you offline, or if you would like to ask a more narrow questions, please resubmit.
What is being done with the new technology such as gps and spycam and the out of date stalking laws?
1.  Michelle Garcia
 It sounds like this may be due to the physical proximity requirement I mentioned, or there is at least one state that require following to be an element of the crime to charge stalking. If you want to discuss the specifics of the case further, please contact me at src@ncvc.org.
2.  Ella Jones
 In the case with my client, the abuser had to physically follow the victim. I know that a lot of laws have been made regarding children and technology but adults seem to be left out.
3.  Michelle Garcia
 The majority of the stalking laws in place across the county address the use of technologies like GPS and spycams either through their stalking statute or a separate cyberstalking statute. Most stalking laws can address the technology, even if the statute doesnt specifically delineate the technologies, by considering the use of technology as part of the course of conduct of stalking behavior. The challenge arises in states that have elements such as requiring the offender to have physical proximity to the victim, that may make addressing the use of GPS or spycams more challenging. In states that face these constraints, we have seen efforts to amend the laws to close these loopholes.
I am delighted OVW is joining OVC to present this web forum and want to thank Michelle Garcia and Cindy Southworth for leading the discussion. I would like to note that BJS has recently released a Special Report on Stalking Victimization in the United States; you can find a link to the full report at www.ovw.usdoj.gov. This January, designated as Stalking Awareness Month, OVW is asking for everyone's help to increase awareness about stalking. I encourage you to visit www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org for more information and resources. Working together we can identify and prevent this crime. I look forward to this discussion on technology and stalking so that we can better serve the needs of victims and hold perpetrators accountable for this serious crime.
What are some new technologies that stalkers are using and how are they using them?
1.  CindySouthworth
 Katie, while we cover newer technologies in our trainings, we're still primarily seeing stalkers misuse website, email, text messages, GPS (Global Position Systems), and SpyWare to monitor victims computer use and cause harm. We are also working with technology companies to ensure that emerging technology is helpful to victims of abuse and stalking, and to minimize opportunities for stalkers to misuse these new tools such as RFID, location programs, etc. For more information on technologies stalkers have used for quite a while, see our paper A High-Tech Twist on Abuse: Technology, Intimate Partner Stalking and Advocacy http://nnedv.org/docs/SafetyNet/NNEDV_HighTechTwist_PaperAndApxA_English08.pdf
What can we offer to the victims that we serve, in terms of strategies, to combat new technologies that stalkers may use?
1.  CindySouthworth
 Stalkers use any tech to threaten, monitor or record conversations or actions. In addition to connecting victims with law enforcement, advocates should safety plan with victim's about each tech type. Discuss safer ways to use each tech - sometimes its using a computer the stalker can't access, or leaving behind a cell phone with gps tracking, or hiding and securing your Bluetooth. For survivors who use relay services (http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/trs.html) you can strategize about impersonation, being aware that a TTY, IP relay, or video relay conversation can be recorded by an abuser, and more. Email safetynet@nnedv.org for a practical tips on logging stalking via tech. See NNEDVs tech safety tips, spyware, tech savvy teens handouts: http://www.nnedv.org/resources/safetynetdocs.html
For training purposes, is there any literature available on this topic that I can refer to while preparing presentations?
1.  Michelle Garcia
 Both Safety Net and the SRC has materials which you can refer to while preparing presentations. To see tips on internet, computer and phone safety visit http://www.nnedv.org/internetsafety.html. See the NNEDV handouts on technology safety at http://www.nnedv.org/resources/safetynetdocs.html. Finally, visit the SRCs web page on the use of technology to stalk at www.ncvc.org/src and click on Help for victims to link to The Use of Technology to Stalk. Additionally, Safety Net can send you a bibliography on stalking and tech if you contact them offline.
Some of our advocates aren't particularly tech-savy. Are there any training programs you're aware of to bring our staff up to date?
1.  CindySouthworth
 The Safety Net Project at NNEDV has been training state DV and SA coalition staff on our technology curriculum so that they can provide trainings in their states. If you email us later at SafetyNet@nnedv.org and tell us what state youre in, we can connect you with your state-level expert trainers.
2.  Michelle Garcia
 The Stalking Resource Center and Safety Net co-host national conferences on the use of technology to stalk. The 2 - day conferences provide training on common technologies used to stalk including GPS, spyware, cameras, cellphones, computers, and many more. Additionally, information is provided on investigating and prosecuting these crimes. Our next conference will be held in May. Visit the SRC web site www.ncvc.org/src in February for more information on the conference and to register.
Are there any states that specifically have a stalking injunction?
1.  Michelle Garcia
 There are several states that offer protective orders specifically for stalking victims. To see a list of these states and the specific requirements for the order visit the Stalking Resource Center web site at www.ncvc.org/src and click on Stalking Laws and you'll see a link for Stalking Protection Orders.
Are there warning signs we can look for/teach the public to help people identify stalking through technology?
1.  CindySouthworth
 Often, a survivor will tell us that somehow the stalker knows too much - we ask questions about what types of things the stalker knows? Info about your location? (if so might be GPS) Info about things you only say on the phone? If so, perhaps the phone is being monitored or there is a hidden microphone in the room) Info about activities done on one computer? (if so, SpyWare is likely). Our key tips: 1. Trust your instincts and look for patterns, 2. Talk about safety with Advocates, 3. Save and document all emails, texts, and website postings
It seems on-line stalking and harassment has made it even easier for perpetrators to abuse victims. How can you help someone who is feeling neglected by laws? Stating that there is no "proof" that Joe Smith was the one sending the messages or comments. Is there a way to get restraining orders when the abuse is online?
1.  Michelle Garcia
 Without having more information I'd have to say that it depends on the act committed. If you'd like to discuss this further, please contact me at src@ncvc.org.
2.  Danielle
 To piggy-back on the previous question... is there anyway to hold the owner of a screen name accountable if they admit to an act while communicating through instant message on this name?
3.  Michelle Garcia
 While technology can pose definite challenges in tracing the behavior back to the offender, it is not impossible. However, in many cases it does require the involvement of law enforcement and prosecutors who have the subpoena power to compel technology providers to release their records. It is helpful for victims to document all the stalking behaviors, even if they cannot prove that the offender is responsible in order for law enforcement to be better able to respond. Whether or not a victim will be eligible for a protective order when the abuse is online is largely dependent of the jurisdiction where the victim lives and the nature of the online contact. I'd be happy to discuss a specific case with you if you contact me at src@ncvc.org.
What is being done in North Carolina to update the Stalking law?
1.  John Lacher
 I am interested in feedback from everyone as to their feelings about how the private investigator can help in these cases versus law enforcement.Thank youJohn E LacherLicensed Private InvestigatorState of CaliforniaLicense #: PI 25963San Diego
2.  Michelle Garcia
 Sarah, the North Carolina law was just amended in 2008. You can view the statute on our web site at www.ncvc.org/src - click on Stalking Laws. I'd be happy to discuss the specifics of the statute with you offline if you contact me at src@ncvc.org.
In our area, we've seen an increase in the number of indirect threats on accounts like myspace, facebook, etc. What ways, as an adovcate, can we assist victims and possibly law enforcement with establishing and maintaining records?
1.  CindySouthworth
 Abby - Regarding law enforcement and preserving evidence: we encourage survivors to work closely with victim advocates and police, to log all activity, and (if comfortable) to report to the police quickly so the police can reach out to the phone carrier or Internet company quickly (before the evidence is purged from their logs). (most phone carriers only keep records of text messages for a day or two)
2.  CindySouthworth
 Abby as so often in this work it depends :-) When a victim is applying for protection or restraining order against an abuser who is likely (or has threatened) to post threats, some judges have included additional relief that includes prohibiting the abuser from contacting in person, through the Internet, by email, or by posting threats about the victim on the Internet. If there is an existing protection order in place, some judges have viewed these threats and indirect contact, contact through third parties, or direct threats.
cindy, you alluded to this in a previous response but are companies that market "detective" equipment [like microphones, videocameras, transmitters, etc] held accountable for the use of their product for purposes stalking? if not, what steps can we take to get these products off the market?
1.  CindySouthworth
 Shawn, we're working with the reputable companies who want to make sure their products are used for good and not harm (Loopt actually contacted us to make sure their privacy options were top of the line). In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has brought cases against a handful of companies that advertised selling illegitimate access to someone elses cell phone records. In addition they have a current case against a company which sells SpyWare software which allows remote monitoring of victims and others. See: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/11/cyberspy.shtm
We've had situations where the victim is continuously being contacted/stalked by the offender, but law enforcement seems to minimize the offender's behavior due to the "non threatening" nature of the contact. Regardless of the nature of the contact, it still provides mental and emotional anguish to the victim. Is there any training that can be offered to Law enforcement regarding this?
1.  Dr J
 I completely agree that this is a very serious situation and one that will need to be taken seriously and improved upon quickly so that law enforcement and the justice system can catch up to the cybercriminals. I have learned through my own case that persistance and documentation are key elements to get law enforcement and the legal system involved and working for the victims. Yet there is much need for training and continued discussion and education about these predators in the law enforcement and legal systems.
2.  one2one4victims
 I have heard from so many victims of pathologicals who go to the police, as told and literally get laughed at. These people develop PTSD and all sorts of issues from the fear. How can we get police to at least make a report?
3.  Michelle Garcia
 The scenario you relayed is all too common and highlights the need for ongoing training for any professionals working with stalking victims, including law enforcement. Both the SRC and Safety Net provide training for law enforcement. You can contact the SRC at src@ncvc.org and Safety Net at SafetyNet@nnedv.org to request training.
How does a victim know whether the stalker is using GPS or other technology? What does the victim look for? Where?
1.  CindySouthworth
 In addition to below answer (warning signs), its about instincts & patterns. If a stalker shows up every time the victim makes arrangements to meet someone by talking about plans in one room of the house, it might not be GPS. If a stalker shows up everywhere the victim goes, regardless of whether she/he told anyone about the trip (by phone or email), then GPS is more likely. Many phone carriers offer optional location services for families - we encourage victims to contact their phone carrier to ask about any option services that may have been added without their knowledge to the account. Freestanding GPS devices can be attached to a car often under the bumper, in the glove box, behind the dash, or in the trunk. Police can check the car, or a new mechanic.
You mentioned earlier that phone service providers only keep texting data for a couple of days. Our local prosecutors office is attempting to work with service providers to streamline evidence collection in these cases. Do you have any suggestions?
1.  CindySouthworth
 Thats great. Be proactive & document every way possible. Recommend that survivors save texts. In addition to getting records from the phone carriers, many police officers take photos of the victims phone showing the stalkers text messages. Have victims document the impact (phone calls, text messages, how they felt) Law enforcement can have template preservation letters ready to send immediately to the phone carrier to make sure the company preserves all evidence until further documents (subpoena or warrant) can be sent. To find the right law enf contacts at phone carriers and Internet companies: http://www.search.org/programs/hightech/isp/default.asp *Note, people can spoof text messages by sending a text from the phone carriers website and free-lance text spoofing companies.
you have addressed the need to document any and all incidents, but sometimes victims are scared that law enforcement will think they are paranoid or imagining the stalking, particularly if the stalking is done primarly through technology. do you have any suggestions for how to more effectively collaborate with police to take these incidents seriously?
1.  Dr J
 This is a very serious situation. One area in which criminals are thriving and victimizing is through computer technology. Documenting any and all harassment and stalking behavior through the internet and technology will aid the police and legal system in seeing the pattern of criminology and continued course of criminal behavior.
2.  Michael Proctor
 It was true that many law enforcement communities were not involved in assisting the victims of both cyberstalking as well as cyber fraud. Lack of education and resources were the biggest drawbacks. Now, more and more agencies have developed persons with the skills necessary to combat these issues. For example a forensic cyber task force manned by both members of the F.B.I. and Orange County, California is are the process of being formed. We believe that law enforcement has seen the need to get into the game, but it will take time.
3.  Ms. Dean
 This is a big problem with cyberstalking. Many local law enforcement agencies do not take online harrassment and stalking seriously which I am sure is due to inexperience with technology. Victims are frightened enough, and some law enforcement fluffs it off as just online, turn your computer off. What suggestions would you have for a victim that is not getting the necessary support from their local police department?
4.  Michelle Garcia
 Concern that law enforcement won't take them seriously is common among stalking victims. In fact, for a third of stalking victims, the concern that police wouldn't take it seriously was the reason they chose not to report the stalking. Technology has created additional challenges in that if an officer isn't familiar with all the forms of technology available and used by stalkers, victims stories may sound incredulous and they may dismiss the victims concerns. The first step is increasing awareness among law enforcement. This can be done several ways including providing training for law enforcement, developing task forces or coordinated response teams, or even just making the law enforcement in your community aware of the resources and information available on technology such as those provided by Safety Net and the SRC. Its also helpful to work with the advocates and victim service providers in your community (if thats not you) who may have established relationships with law enforcement. Additionally, both Safety Net and the SRC can provide assistance in cases where victims are facing challenges with law enforcement response.
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