CW: This blog post discusses stalking, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM), and though millions of men and women are stalked every year
in the United States, the crime of stalking is often misunderstood, minimized and/or ignored.
What is “stalking?”
Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. Many stalking victims experience being followed, approached and/or threatened — including through technology. Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right as well as a predictor of serious violence.
Facts about stalking*
In 85% of cases where an intimate partner attempted to murder their partner, there was stalking in the year prior to the attack.
Of the millions of men and women stalked every year in the United States, over half report being stalked before the age of 25 and over 15% report it first happened before the age of 18.
Stalking often predicts and/or co-occurs with sexual and intimate partner violence. Stalkers may threaten sexual assault, convince someone else to commit assault and/or actually assault their victims.
Nearly 1 in 3 women who were stalked by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted by that partner.
Stalking tactics might include: approaching a person or showing up in places when the person didn’t want them to be there; making unwanted telephone calls; leaving unwanted messages (text or voice); watching or following someone from a distance, or spying on someone with a listening device, camera, or GPS.
What is the impact on stalking victims?*
46% of stalking victims fear not knowing what will happen next.
29% of stalking victims fear the stalking will never stop.
1 in 8 employed stalking victims lose time from work as a result
of their victimization and more than half lose 5 days of work or more.
1 in 7 stalking victims move as a result of their victimization.
Stalking victims suffer much higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and social dysfunction than people in the general population.
How you can help
Helpline staff and volunteers can do a number of things to help people who reach you and talk about being stalked:
Provide validation and empathy.
Don’t minimize behaviors that are causing the person concern (e.g. “I wouldn’t worry.” “That doesn’t sound harmful.” “They’re only text messages.”)
If your organization does not provide direct services to assist with the issue, provide helpful resources such as a local domestic/intimate partner violence helpline, sexual assault helpline, legal resources, law enforcement, etc.
We all have a role to play in identifying stalking and supporting victims and survivors. We encourage you to learn more from the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center at www.stalkingawareness.org.
*Source: Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)
Although at least one study found it occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases, financial abuse is one of the least discussed aspects of unhealthy and abusive relationships between intimate partners. Financial abuse happens when the perpetrator of abuse controls the abused partner’s access to financial resources. This could include stealing money or creating an environment where the abused partner is unable or not allowed to work, leaving them financially dependent upon their abuser. Often, people in such situations won’t have complete access to their funds, and if they do have any access their use of financial resources is closely watched and they are expected to provide a detailed account of expenditures. This is another way for an abusive partner to maintain control and power over the person they are abusing. This also happens to be a common method of keeping the victim/survivor trapped in the relationship, as research shows that financial insecurity is a top reason survivors stay with or return to abusive partners. The effects and consequences of financial abuse can follow a survivor long after they have broken free of the relationship and affect their ability to regain financial stability.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) in partnership with the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), provides a free webinar series to assist survivors with financial education. The six webinars in the series focus on financial education and are aimed at both the survivors of domestic violence and those who serve them.
What is “Forensic Nursing” and what sets this field apart from nurses working in other areas? According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses:
“A forensic nurse is a Registered or Advanced Practice nurse who has received specific education and training. Forensic nurses provide specialized care for patients who are experiencing acute and long-term health consequences associated with victimization or violence, and/or have unmet evidentiary needs relative to having been victimized or accused of victimization. In addition, forensic nurses provide consultation and testimony for civil and criminal proceedings relative to nursing practice, care given, and opinions rendered regarding findings. Forensic nursing care is not separate and distinct from other forms of medical care, but rather integrated into the overall care needs of individual patients.”
Forensic nurses practice in many industries that iCarol serves and they regularly engage with patients who have suffered sexual violence, intimate partner or domestic violence, abuse (from children to the aging/elderly), and those who have been victims of a crime. This field of nursing demands a great deal of skill on many fronts. Forensic nurses must not only assess and meet the medical needs of their patient, but they are also tasked with restoring the individual’s feeling of safety and are often one of the first professionals to help that individual through a traumatic event. Their delicate handling of sensitive situations plays a large role in patient recovery.
The conference sessions will fall into a variety of tracks including Intimate Partner Violence, SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner), Pediatrics, and Psychiatry and Corrections. We’re excited to be attending this conference for the first time and eager to have Eliisa share learned knowledge with our team so we can directly apply it to our work with the organizations that employ or frequently interact with forensic nurses.
“I am excited to learn more about this side of the support model that many of our clients work directly in, or coordinate with nurses to do. It will be interesting to hear more from the forensic nurse perspective, as well as overall leading thoughts on how to best support survivors, and how to overcome challenges when doing so.” — Eliisa Laitila, iCarol Solutions Expert Team Lead
To learn more about Forensic Nursing, specifically those who conduct SANE exams, check out the video below created by the International Association of Forensic Nurses.
Your helpline is a trusted source of listening support, and even if you don’t advertise your service as specializing in topics of intimate partner violence or sexual violence, there’s a good chance many of the people that reach you are at risk.
Join us for a free webinar to learn more about using the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA) tool to help assess one’s risk, explore ways to reduce that risk, and provide assistance to your clients.
When: Wednesday January 18, 2017
Time: 1pm EDT
You Will Learn:
About different types of risk assessments
The goals of using the SARA risk assessment
The differences between Dynamic and Static Risk Factors
What information should be available to complete an assessment
Ideas for implementing use of this tool at your helpline
Presenter: Dustin MacDonald is a Registered Social Service Worker (RSSW) who has been involved with helplines including Distress Centre Durham for the previous 5 years, as well as performing quality assurance, producing analytics and forecasting for the Ontario Online & Text Crisis Services program of Distress and Crisis Ontario. He brings to these roles an understanding of statistics and experience performing a variety of program evaluations and assessments. We’re very pleased to welcome him as our presenter.
A youth’s teen years can be such an exciting time in her or his life. Enjoying some independence for the first time, beginning to plan for and think about the future ahead, and of course often this is a time when youth first experience romantic relationships and even love.
Unfortunately this is not a positive experience for all teens. According to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, one in three adolescents is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. According to the organization Break the Cycle, teens that experience abuse in a relationship are more likely to abuse drugs, drop out of school, engage in high-risk sexual behavior, act violently and even attempt suicide. The repercussions of such dating experiences as a teen can unfortunately follow them into adulthood as well, as without the proper support and intervention they typically find it difficult to change those abusive patterns as they become adults, and thus are more likely to continue to experience abuse in their adult relationships.
It’s important that we spread awareness of the issue, as lack of awareness is contributing to the prevalence of the problem. According to one study, 81% of parents say that they don’t think teen dating violence is an issue or they admit they don’t know if it’s an issue. And only one third of teens who experience this type of relationship ever tell a trusted adult about it. It’s up to us to recognize the signs and engage youth on the topic.
Check out the infographic below for even more about teen dating violence, as well as these great sources of information so that members of your community can learn more about Teen Dating Violence and how to prevent it:
The famous pro-football championship game that aired last night (honestly, it’s unclear whether we’re allowed to use the trademarked name in our blog, so let’s err on the side of caution, shall we? 🙂 ) is arguably watched for its commercials just as much as it is for the game itself. As usual, this year’s game produced a number of ads that are generating lots of conversation, both good and bad. It was a great year for ads that focused on social awareness. For instance the “Make it Happy” ads by Coca Cola advocate for positivity in response to bullying on the internet and social media. The “Like a Girl” ad reminds society to stop using that phrase as an insult. And after a year of controversy surrounding the NFL’s handling of domestic violence, there were ads tackling that topic as well.
Last week the organization NOMORE.org released a very powerful ad, which was also shown during the game. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out below.
This is easily one of the most compelling, important tv spots I’ve seen in a long time. When I first watched it I felt sad, scared, and anxious as I listened to the exchange between the woman and the 9-1-1 operator. It’s one thing to understand what domestic violence is, but it’s quite another thing to hear the call for help.*
There are several messages I took away from the commercial. How isolating domestic violence is, for instance. Or how resourceful and resilient survivors of domestic violence are. But for me the most resounding message came at the end of the ad with the text on the screen: “When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen.”
Finding the strength to speak up can be difficult. Finding someone who can listen, who can read between the lines if necessary in order to help — that’s even harder. And we know that helpline workers use their expert skills to do this with clients every day, not just when it comes to domestic violence, but in identifying child abuse, or thoughts of suicide. You’re able to weed through their words, to pick up on the slightest hint of what’s below the surface, and uncover the deeper issue.
But there are lots of times when a verbal conversation just isn’t possible at all. The woman portrayed in the ad was able to make an excuse to use the phone, and cleverly found a way to call for help without her abuser realizing it. There’s a reason why efforts are underway to enable texting to 9-1-1. Local law enforcement and emergency services are recognizing that in some situations, a phone call is dangerous or impossible.
More and more, help seekers reach out via chat or text instead of a phone call, too. Sometimes because of personal preference, and sometimes because silence is necessary. The instance shown in the ad is just one example; certainly chat or text has been used by those affected by domestic violence to reach out for online emotional support, or even receive emergency rescue during a violent incident. But there are other scenarios where this might be needed, and they may not all be as dire as the call in the commercial.
Think of the teen who wants to discreetly discuss his sexuality without risking a parent or sibling listening in on the conversation. Or the young woman at a party who is feeling anxious and upset, but can’t verbalize that to the friends she’s with and doesn’t want others to overhear. A child may have just been bullied in the hallway at school, and they find it much easier to hop on a library computer for a chat session than it is to make a phone call.
There are plenty of instances where someone needs to talk, but they can’t say the words outloud. It’s important that we be there to listen through the channels the help seekers want to use.
* While the call in the commercial feels very real, it is actually a re-enactment of a real call to 9-1-1
Domestic Violence has been a much-discussed topic in the media these past few months, due in large part to NFL star Ray Rice and other notable professional athletes being involved in incidents of domestic violence. The fact that some famous athletes are perpetrators of domestic violence shouldn’t surprise us; the numbers tell us that domestic violence, particularly violence against women, is unfortunately common all over the world and effects people of all professions, socioeconomic statuses, races, sexual orientations, and genders.
The attention these stories receive brings the issue out into the light and educates the masses on the facts and figures, but it also brings out the victim blaming and shaming. People who aren’t familiar with the insidious nature of domestic violence are quick to simplify a situation by saying, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Hashtag campaigns such as #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft have been helpful in explaining that the answer to that question is far from simple.
We know that domestic violence touches millions of people every day who aren’t famous. Their stories are sometimes kept secret from friends and loved ones, and they certainly don’t make headlines, except perhaps when they result in a homicide. The World Health Organization states that up to 38% of murders worldwide are committed by the intimate partner of the victim.
According to the US Justice Department, in the mid 1990’s the domestic violence rate started to drop, but it’s hard to tell whether this was due to the overall drop in violent crime, a result of the Violence Against Women Act, or other factors. But the numbers are still far too high, estimated at around 1,000 incidents each day in the United States. And even though the need for shelter, legal support, counseling, and other services is great, funding for programs is insufficient and these services are struggling to meet the demand.
Eventually this topic will fade from the public’s consciousness so it’s important that we all keep talking about it and raise awareness and understanding of the issue. Advocate for prevention programs that help teach young people about healthy relationships, which experts say is key in reducing domestic violence since many men and women who are in such relationships as adults were first assaulted as adolescents. Support your local domestic violence helpline or shelter so that they can continue doing great work and meeting the needs of your community.
There are a lot of conversations that parents dread having with their kids, but conversations about sex are notoriously difficult. And while conversations about healthy relationships should go hand in hand with “the talk,” that’s a step that many parents miss. In fact, three out of four parents haven’t talked to their kids about domestic violence, and 81% of parents believe that teen dating violence isn’t an issue, or they admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
But it is a very important issue. One in three teens will experience some form of abuse from someone they date, including physical, sexual or verbal abuse. About one in five women and almost one in seven men who experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner first experience some sort of partner violence as a teen or adolescent. As future generations grow up and start dating, it’s important that they have the proper education and understanding as they enter into relationships – and know how to identify and avoid ones that are unhealthy or dangerous.
February is Teen Dating Violence month, and February 4th is ‘It’s Time to Talk’ Day, a day when we encourage parents, advocates, mentors, and other adults to talk to their teens about dating violence. Helplines are trusted sources of information for kids and teens, and so we encourage you to check out these resources and share them as needed.