Domestic violence is a complex issue that affects more than just two intimate partners. Children may also be direct victims, especially of ongoing coercive control. Children experience abuse the same ways that adults do – feeling confused and afraid, and even entrapped by the perpetrator. It’s important to know that once an adult victim escapes an abusive relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the abuse ends.
Coercive control is a form of abuse that perpetrators use against their children after their ex-partner has separated from them. Coercive control can include violence, threats, intimidation, stalking, monitoring, emotional abuse and manipulation, interwoven with periods of seemingly caring and generous behavior as part of the overall abuse.
Let’s focus on the “stalking” portion of coercive control. Stalking is a repeated pattern of behavior that includes following, watching or harassing someone. It occurs over a period of time and could be defined as threatening behavior. And most importantly, stalking is a crime.
- Women are stalked at a rate two times higher than men.
- Over 85% of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know
- Young adults ages 18-24 experience the highest rates of stalking
Beware of Smart Toys
The Internet of Things (IoT) has moved beyond thermostats and fitness trackers and into the hands of young people, in the form of toothbrushes, robots, plush toys and more.
Remember to double check your children’s toys and devices. Some “smart toys” have cameras or GPS tracking in them, and can store personal information such as an address, birthdate and names of children, location, or personal health information.
For example, let’s assume that two parents share custody of a child, even though one parent is a known perpetrator of abuse. A perpetrator may gift their child a seemingly harmless toy, such as a Fisher Price Smart Toy Bear. The Smart Toy Bear has a small camera in its nose and comes with an app where parents can control the bear remotely. This toy can be used as a tool to monitor an ex-partner and their children’s activities, which is a form of stalking.
What Are My Options?
If you feel like you or your children are being stalked:
- Document the incidents. Whether it’s happened twice or 20 times, jot them down and note the date, time, location and any other details that you remember.
- Contact your local police department or stalking unit to report it. Having documented proof of the stalking could assist you in receiving a protection order. A legal advocate will be available to help you through the court process.
- Notify a friend, family member, employer or any other organization that you are involved with.
- Contact a local agency to get help in creating a personalized safety plan, which will include the safety and children and pets.
- If you feel you’re in immediate danger, call 911.
- Download free personal safety apps to your smart phone – these apps alert selected contacts when you are safe or when you feel you’re in danger.
- If you believe your stalker is tracking you by smart phone, go to your Privacy Settings and turn off Location Services. Location Services lists where you’ve been down to the date, address and arrival/departure times over the last 30-60 days.
- Reset your online account passwords every 90 days.
- Don’t post photos or videos to your social media accounts that show your exact location at that point in time. Remind your kids to do the same.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month. Please help spread the word to your loved ones. Everyone deserves to feel safe. On social media, use hashtags #NSAM2021 and #EndStalking.
For more stalking information and resources, visit https://www.stalkingawareness.org/stalking-awareness-month-2021/.