Status of Domestic Violence Protection In 2020
As January is National Stalking Awareness Month, I wanted to honor victims by reviewing past and present domestic violence laws, and current progress made in combatting it. It’s a known fact that the Trump Administration did not renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAMA) last year. That decision has already proven to be a short-sighted grave mistake on their part.
Domestic violence takes many forms, some more insidious than others. It can verbal, physical, or done with cyberstalking warfare. With all the technological breakthroughs in our society over the last several decades, cyberstalking has unfortunately become a booming industry for all types of predators. An example of this is “phishing” when someone opens an email that scams them out of their personal confidential information. This type usually preys on the elderly and wipes out their bank accounts and steals their identity.
In the case of a scorned ex-lover, cyberstalking takes on a whole new terrifying meaning. Alexis Moore, who is now one of three worldwide cyberstalking experts, endured twelve long years at the mercy of an ex. He physically abused her and cyberstalked both her and her immediate family. While Alexis did manage to survive with her life, she lost immeasurable things of value. Two of those things were her identity, which her ex stole, and the other her financial well being. Alexis was forced to declare bankruptcy as that was the last resort used to throw her highly skilled perpetrator off her trail. The last most important thing taken was her sense of security, independence, and peace of mind.
It took years of reporting to law enforcement, running, and using honed survival skills. Still, Alexis was finally able to obtain a permanent restraining order. Unfortunately, that’s also in jeopardy as her ex, who is in jail on unrelated charges, is STILL in the process of stalking her with the end goal of controlling her life. To find out how that story ends, you will have to wait for the book I wrote to be published. After all the years Alexis endured looking over shoulder, not sleeping or eating, and fearing for her life regularly, she still cannot get to heal. That’s true more than ever since her ex remains determined to own and control her even from his jail cell.
Another poignant example of cyberstalking is that of Lenora Claire. In 2011, she was named one of L.A. Weekly’s People of the Year for her work as a curator and casting director. Suddenly she had a man named Justin Massler (a.k.a. Cloud Starchaser) start stalking her. He even showed up at her gallery telling her she was his next victim. He was drawn to her dyed red hair and the fact that she resembled “Jessica Rabbit.” He had just made bail from stalking Ivanka Trump, and Lenora was his new victim. It has been verified that Massler suffers from a form of Schizophrenia and was homeless while cyber stalking her.
In the beginning, Claire did not take him seriously. However, when she began receiving explicit rape and death threats over email and social media, that immediately changed.
Over seven years, Claire has received more than 4,000 pieces of communication from Massler. This includes several obsessive websites and blogs dedicated to her, some of which suggested she be put on a “rape list.” Throughout the stalking, Lenora did not eat, sleep, or have any quality of life, very similar to Alexis’s experience. Prepared with a veritable library of evidence that included thousands of threatening emails, voicemails, handwritten notes, and social media posts, she went to the LAPD. The goal was to walk out with a restraining order. Given the paper trail he’d left, she thought she’d have no problem (MelBeta 2011).
As is often the case, Lenora received the same reception Alexis did from the police. They denied her request for a restraining order despite the piles of physical evidence she provided. They told her if she wanted to solve the problem, she should “Change your hair color and get off the internet.” The result is that for years she was subjected to stalking and harassment by Massler.
“It was like I was being held underwater and that I was trying to scream, but nobody could hear me or would help me,” Lenora says (MelBeta, 2011).
According to cyberstalking expert, risk management consultant, and attorney Alexis Moore, the police usually prefer to use their time and resources following up on more tangible, clear-cut offenses like robbery or murder. “Stalking crimes can also be ‘he said, she said’ situations,” explains Moore. “They’re difficult to prove. Often, it’s not clear to the police that a law has been broken until the worst happens.” That might explain why in half of all reported stalking cases, the only action taken is filing a report. Twenty percent of the time, the police do nothing at all (Alexis Moore, 2011).
Lenora even reached out to the Trump Family, Ivanka specifically, to try and elicit support for the anti-stalking proposals that she was working on with Rhonda Saunders. Saunders is an international author, threat advisor, and prosecutor as it pertains to stalking. Together they have worked on legislation that combines all states and federal staff to coordinate serving a restraining order even to a homeless person and a national registry for stalkers. Lenora has continually been met with silence by the Trump family and Ivanka herself. Overall, Ivanka has used none of her political capital to speak out for other victims like herself (MelBeta2011).
Lenora additionally proposed a legislation initiative in California that would allow stalking victims to use GPS-connected ankle monitors. They would be synced to an app that victims could use to monitor their stalker’s location. This cutting edge technology could potentially save lives. According to the New York Times, one quarter of stalking victims are murdered by stalkers who they already have restraining orders against. Alexis Moore is quoted in a New York Times article from 2009 as sharing that her ex had violated a restraining ruling more than 30 times over four years. Unfortunately, she had no way of proving it. She said California lawmakers had told her there was no money to pay for GPS monitoring where she lives. However, legislation allowed for it (New York Times,2009).
As of December 6, 2019, Massler is free on bail, and Lenora is again holding her breathe fighting to stay alive. To this day, the Trump family has ignored Lenora’s plea for help, and that’s one thing she cannot understand. Despite their political differences, Ivanka could reach out to her and at least hear her story and proposed legislation. Says Lenora of the Trump Administration, “This just may not be the administration for crimes that happen largely to women to be taken seriously (Yahoo, 2019).”
Another case that looks at a fatal stalking incident is that of Nikki Goeser. Her husband was shot and killed in front of her by her stalker in a Tennessee restaurant. She is now the Crime Prevention Research Center’s Executive Director. She works hard everyday at ensuring that victims should have the right to carry arms to defend themselves(Crime Prevention Research Center, 2019). Goeser is an example of how women who lived through harrowing stalking situations have evolved into experts. They work tirelessly to help ensure others don’t fall victim to the same circumstances.
The last case that examines the pitfalls of the system as it pertains to stalking victims is that of Nicole Beverly. Her husband was charged and sentenced to jail time, but a loophole in the charges might free him early from prison (Detroit Free Press, 2018). Nicole describes the exhausting process of being a stalking victim and how endless it is. “Here, I am after almost nine years of just leaving, and I’m still going through this.” (Detroit Free Press 2018).
The similarities of these four stories can’t be disputed as all the women still live in constant fear of the unknown. They are continually haunted by the past heinous events that transpired, that affects every aspect of their daily lives and their ability to function.
The numbers themselves when it comes to stalking cases are staggering. Seventy-five million people are stalked every year in the USA alone. Seventy-Five percent of intimate partner femicide victims have been stalked by their intimate partner. Fifty-Four percent of those same victims reported stalking to the police before being killed by their partners (Stalking Resource Center 2015).
Reviewing stalking case statistics three years later, the data shows that:
Less than 40% of stalking victims reported that the police took action against the perpetrator ( 2018 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Guide: Crime and Victimization Fact Sheets).
Almost 20% of victims reported that law enforcement took no action in response ( 2018 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Guide: Crime and Victimization Fact Sheets).
Alexis Moore reported the same findings earlier on in this article regarding police action. It’s abundantly clear that there remain far too many loopholes in stalking laws, and way too little progress in helping victims survive. Additionally, if the stalking victim is lucky enough to survive, there is a massive gap in policies that help them regain any semblance of their former lives. The proposed, realistic laws are ready to be enacted thanks to women like Lenora, Saunders, and Moore. For anyone wishing to help be a catalyst for their members of Congress to pass national cyberstalking laws that are the same for each state and protect the victim can do so. Here is the link to find your contact and start a formal request:
Let’s hope that this is the year that those who have the power to affect change will finally realize that so many lives could be saved with the proper proposed legislation.