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CCRT News – Winter 2013


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 Winter 2013

The Truth About Stalking

In January, we recognize National Stalking Awareness Month.  Stalking has become a word often used in place of the act of checking someone out on Facebook — “Facebook stalking” — but stalking is a crime that far exceeds looking at online photographs of a crush or previous intimate partner. Michigan defines stalking as a “willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened intimidated threatened, harassed or molested.” The repeated acts must be composed of a series of two or more separate noncontiguous acts. And while a stalker might often use Facebook to terrorize or harass his or her victim, using the word stalking solely in this context can be problematic because it downplays the seriousness and breadth of this crime. Stalking is a growing reality in our community, and education is an important first step to prevention.

Stalking can happen online and in real life, and often times, it occurs simultaneously. In a world where technology is more accessible and becoming easier to navigate, stalkers have adapted how they terrorize their victims. Global positioning systems, caller ID spoofing, keystroke-logging hardware and spyware are only some of the tools employed by stalkers.

And although movies often accurately depict the realities of stalking — hiding behind a bush or around a corner, leaving a token near the victim’s car that only he or she might understand or showing up unannounced at a victim’s place of employment — understanding the realities of these acts are often hard to grasp because as a community, we all too often think stalking only happens in the movies. According to the Stalking Resource Center, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime. Moreover, the majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know, meaning, stalking is not a crime exclusive to celebrities.

Stalking is a paralyzing crime that is often only one of several crimes victims/survivors report experiencing. More than half of victims/survivors who report being stalked by an intimate partner have also experienced relationship violence (Stalking Resource Center). According to a report released by the National Institute of Justice, 76% of women who were murdered by their current or former intimate partner had also been stalked in the 12 months before their murder (McFarlane, 1999).

Despite these alarming facts, stalking is often not taken seriously. Yet, for a victim who lives in constant fear as a result of stalking, it is a daunting reality. Until we treat stalking as the serious crime it is, it is impossible to stop it.

One way to learn more about stalking is through the Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It. project created by the Stalking Resource Center, National Center for Victims of Crime and the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. Its website features an array of resources, including fact sheets, quizzes and videos to be used during National Stalking Awareness Month and throughout the year.

Time to Talk Safe Dating

Teens report knowing a lot about dating and relationships; they also report that most of this information comes from their peers and media sources like movies, magazines and the internet. Sure, some of this information is probably sound and helpful, but it is just as likely that some of it is misleading, harmful, or even dangerous. Teens need to hear about dating and relationships from adults they respect like their parents, teachers, and coaches, and what better time than now: February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Teens that hear from the adults in their lives about the importance of setting boundaries and mutual respect in relationships are likely to be less vulnerable to the messages of sexual objectification and casual sexual behavior so rampant in the media.

Too many teens are experiencing dating abuse and sexual violence. Teen dating violence happens everywhere: in every culture, every socio-economic group, and every faith community. Teen dating violence occurs in person or, increasingly, through the use of technology, such as sexting, pornographic pictures online, or threats through social networking websites. Abusers often begin with verbal and emotional abuse such as put downs, insults, and name calling.  Frequently, the violence will escalate into physical and sexual assaults. Nationwide, during the past 12 months before the survey, 9.4% of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their girlfriend or boyfriend. In the same survey, 8% of students report having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to (11.8% for females and 4.5% for males) (CDC, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, 2011). One in three adolescent girls in the

U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates of other types of violence affecting youth (National Council and Crime and Delinquency, 2008).

Dating violence can have serious developmental consequences for young people by interrupting two key tasks of healthy social development: the establishment of caring, meaningful relationships and the development of interpersonal intimacy (ACT for Youth). According to the Center for Disease Control, victims are also more likely to perform poorly in school, become depressed, or engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drug or alcohol use, develop an eating disorder, suicide attempts, or unsafe sexual experiences.

Tools for teaching teens about safe dating are available! As adults, we know it’s our responsibility to set expectations for teens regarding academics and the use of alcohol and drugs, but we often remain silent when it comes to teaching teens skills to develop healthy relationships and avoid abusive ones. Unfortunately, dating abuse and sexual violence pose serious problems for many teens, and it is important that they receive guidance concerning these issues. The prevention of teen dating violence is everyone’s responsibility and requires an integrated and comprehensive approach in schools and communities. There are many online resources already in place for parents, educators, and teens providing tools for education and prevention but also tools for action.  Some of these Internet sites include teendvmonth.org, loveisrespect.org, breakthecycle.org and thatsnotcool.com.  Local efforts of collaboration on this issue are discussed below, “In the Spotlight.”

Events and Announcements

Domestic Violence Orientation
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 OR
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 from 6-9pm
Location: Safe Haven Ministries (3501 Lake Eastbrook Blvd, Grand Rapids)
  Click here for more info and to register.

One Billion Rising
Thursday, February 14, 2013 
On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, people all across the globe will WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to violence. Go to the website for more info on the campaign and local events, including one starting at the Michigan Abolitionist Project Office at 5:30pm. Contact Amy Endres Bercher (616-821-2308) to RSVP.

Running for Jenny: Fifth Third Riverbank Run
Saturday, May 11, 2013

Join the Running for Jenny team by registering here. This event will raise awareness and funds for the prevention of domestic violence. Team shirts will be provided! 

Check out CCRT’s online calendar!


CCRT Meeting Schedule

January 24, 2013:
Regular meeting
February 28, 2013:
Brown Bag Luncheon
March 28, 2013:
Regular meeting

*Meetings are from 12-1:30pm and are typically held monthly in the Kent County Courthouse- 180 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids (5th Floor Conference Room). Meetings are open to the public.*

Mission of CCRT: 
The mission of Kent County DVCCRT is to cooperate, coordinate, and collaborate on all community efforts and levels to eliminate domestic violence.

Chair: Eileen McKeever, YWCA of West Central Michigan
Secretary: Theresa Rowland, GVSU Women’s Center
Treasurer: Susan Vogelzang, Safe Haven Ministries.

Kent County DVCCRT: www.stopkentviolence.org


Contributing Writers:

Tara Aday
Amy Endres Bercher
Justine Kibet
Lori Nederveld

Policy Changes in Michigan

On December 14, 2012, four bills were enacted aimed at strengthening the accountability of batterers in Michigan. Public Acts 364-367 go into effect April 1, 2013 and have multiple provisions. Currently, if an individual pleads or is found guilty of assault or assault and battery involving domestic violence and has a sentence of solely probation, the charge is dismissed from their record if probation is successfully fulfilled. This discharge and dismissal has prevented previous convictions to be used in determining sentencing of subsequent domestic violence charges. The new law would instead classify a discharge and dismissal as a previous conviction, resulting in more serious penalties for repeat offenders.

In addition, the legislation increases the maximum term of imprisonment for individuals convicted of a third assault or assault and battery involving domestic violence, or a second aggravated assault involving domestic violence. Previously, these crimes meant a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than two years and/or a fine not exceeding $2,500. The new Michigan Penal Code indicates an increased maximum prison term to ten years and a maximum fine of $5,000.

The final provision of the new legislation amends Michigan law to make the penalty for assault by strangulation or suffocation equal to that of an assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. The sentencing would be a felony with a maximum prison term of ten years and/or a fine not exceeding $5,000. Strangulation or suffocation are defined as “intentionally impeding normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth of another person.”

Ten days prior to the bills’ passing, on December 4, 2012, Governor Snyder signed an executive order expanding the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board to include increased emphasis on sexual assault. The board will retain existing members, add new members with specific expertise in sexual assault, and be renamed the Michigan Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Treatment Board. The change reflects collaboration in efforts and resources and provides greater administrative efficiency for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Read the order.

Sources: Michigan.gov (1), Bill AnalysisHolland Sentinel, and Michigan.gov (2) 

In the Spotlight

In the Spring of 2012, four agencies in Kent County embarked on a collaboration to combat teen dating violence in the community, and alternatively, encourage the development of healthy dating relationships through education. These organizations include the Kent County Health Department paving the way, along with Safe Haven Ministries, Family Futures, and the Michigan State University Extension. The curriculum utilized, called Safe Dates, is an adolescent dating abuse prevention program developed by Hazelden Publishing for 12 to 18-year-olds. Safe Dates offers between one and nine sessions that can help shape teens’ attitudes and behaviors by educating them on the difference between caring, supportive relationships and controlling, manipulative, or abusive relationships. The curriculum helps 

teens learn how to set healthy boundaries in their dating relationships and what to do if those boundaries are not respected.  

Through this collaboration, trained facilitators from the Kent County Health Department, Safe Haven Ministries, Family Futures, and the Michigan State University Extension, have engaged Kent County adolescents in numerous dialogues. Safe Dates classes can be provided at no charge to groups of teenagers in a school, after-school, youth-group, or other setting. Staff from other youth-serving organizations can be trained to teach the program as well. For more information or to schedule classes, contact:
Family Futures (not currently offering classes)
Lucy Joswick – ljoswick@familyfutures.net,
Kent County Health Department
Amy Endres Bercher – amy.bercher@ kentcountymi.gov,
MSU Extension
Holly Tiret – tiret@anr.msu.edu,
Safe Haven Ministries
Julie Deboer – jdeboer@ safehavenministries.org

Household Pets & Domestic Violence

Effective October 31, 2012, Massachusetts became the 25th state (including Puerto Rico and District of Columbia) to enact legislation allowing restraining or personal protection orders to be granted for household pets in domestic violence situations. This act responded to the known connection between intimate partner violence and animal cruelty where abusers often use family pets as leverage to maintain power and control over their victims. In one study cited by the American Humane Association, 71% of pet-owning women entering shelters indicated that their batterer had injured, threatened, or killed family pets as a tactic of abuse against the woman. According to the Animal Legal and Historic Center, Michigan does not currently have a policy protecting household pets in situations of domestic abuse.  

Copyright 2012
CCRT News, Winter 2013
Kent County Domestic Violence Community Coordinated Response Team
For newsletter submissions or general inquiries,
Contact Justine Kibet at info@stopkentviolence.org




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