In late September 2016, I, along with several others, lobbied on the steps of Capitol Hill on issues around domestic violence. One particular issue was the definition of “intimate partner” or “domestic violence” (DV) in the Lautenberg Amendment.
You see, in 1996, The Lautenberg Amendment was passed by Congress prohibiting convicted persons of misdemeanor crimes of DV or those who have protective orders against them from owning firearms. In the current law, domestic violence includes only current or former spouses, current or former cohabitants, and biological co-parents. So our lobbying on that day was for Congress to consider expanding the definition to include dating violence and stalking.
We know over the years, the dynamics of relationships in the home changed and continues to evolve. For example, same sex marriage is now a legal acknowledgment in some states. Live-in partners are acknowledged as couples that can receive health and dental benefits together as married couples, can file joint tax returns, etc. in some states. The transgender community is growing rapidly and want to be included in the same respect as heterosexual or homosexual identities. The dynamics of relationships have changed over the years.
But our laws are still archaic. Our laws cannot change as quickly as the dynamics of the relationships. For example, which is what the lobbying was about, stalkers are not included in the Lautenberg Amendment, which leaves a gap in the existing law of protecting victims of domestic violence against stalkers. Here’s an interesting fact:
By its nature, stalking is often difficult to investigate, charge and prosecute. It occurs over extended periods of time and relies on victims to document and preserve evidence. While stalking can create great fear and harm, disrupting and sabotaging victims’ lives, the criminal justice system is more oriented to addressing physical harm than psychological harm. (citation)
You see, domestic violence (including stalking which is a type of DV) is hard to prosecute if there is no PHYSICAL HARM. Even physical harm has its limitations!!! But when psychological , emotional, or spiritual abuse is implicated in a victim’s case, you can’t prosecute that. Meaning, the abuser or the persecutor is not held to any consequence by LAW!! Which leaves the victim in the position to take the law in their own hands (leading to more violence) or remaining hopeless and silent. Neither of these options are good or acceptable, in my humble opinion.
So let me tell you my story: When I was in my early 20’s, I had an affair with a married man. Don’t judge me, but if you do, that’s okay too. I am no longer moved my opinions of others. I digress… so when I tried to end the relationship with the married man, he didn’t take that too well. The problem was that we were in the same group. We hung around the same people (unbeknownst to them that we were sleeping together). He was in my life. He knew where I lived, worked, worshipped, grocery shopped, hung out, etc.
When I told him that it was over, he began to follow me around. At the time he started following me, I didn’t know but found out later because he told me. He would follow me to work every morning, watch me walk to my office, walk to pick up lunch, drop off and pick up my daughter from daycare… every move I made, he was somewhere in the bushes watching. Not physically threatening me, just making sure I didn’t see him. He was obsessed with me.
Then one night, I was awakened…actually it was like some absurd time in the morning like 1 or 2 a.m. There was a sound on my bedroom window. At the time, I lived in a small one bedroom apartment with my daughter (who was two years old). The sound awakened me and scared the hell out of me! When I looked out the window, I saw him jumping over the gate that was my back patio. The next morning I took off work to go to the court house to get a restraining order against him.
I’ll never forget the words the clerk told me, “We will file the restraining order, but honestly, he didn’t do anything so don’t expect too much. Nothing we can do except keep it on file here at the court house.”
I was floored and scared for my life and the life of my child!!! I was fully unprotected!! I felt naked and vulnerable. And you know what I did? I BLAMED MYSELF!! That’s what the hell I get for sleeping with a married man! That’s karma coming back to smack me in the back of my head. So, with my head down, I walked out of that court house lost and afraid. Nothing they would do and nothing I could do. I couldn’t tell anyone because I was embarrassed and they would only judge me for sleeping with a married man in the first place. They would blame me too.
Stalking is a form of domestic violence! Let’s recap what domestic violence is: a method used to exert power and control over someone else. Last month on the Fire and Ice radio show, we talked about different types of domestic violence other than physical violence. If you missed any of those episodes, you can go here to listen!
Here are some signs that you are being stalked (citation):
- Show up at your home or place of work unannounced or uninvited
- Send you unwanted text messages, letters, emails and voicemails
- Constantly call and hang up
- Use social networking sites and technology to track you
- Wait at places you hang out
- Use other people as resources to investigate your life (such as befriending your friends on social media to get info on you)
- Damage your home, car or other property
The bottom line is, stalking is a form of domestic violence and we shouldn’t have to wait until physical harm is done before we do something about it. Developing a safety plan is crucial to your sound mind and safety!
Love you to life,