The 12th annual Domestic Violence Breakfast & Briefing, held this morning at the Gainesville Police Department, featured a presentation on how technology affects victim safety, plus offered precautions and online tools to combat abuse.
Presented by the Hall County Domestic Violence Task Force, the event also recognized the Court Services Division of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office as the “Domestic Violence Officer of the Year.” That honor typically is given to an individual officer, but as Hall County’s Chief Assistant Solicitor Amber Sowers explained, the work of the officers tasked with serving temporary protective orders (TPOs) warranted a break with tradition.
Sowers said that in many communities, the issuance of a TPO doesn’t always mean it is served in a timely manner. That’s not the case in Hall County. Sowers said that the Court Services Division works directly with nonprofit organizations like Gateway Domestic Violence Center and Rape Response to determine possible locations and “come up with inventive ways to serve” TPOs to alleged abusers as soon as possible.
Sowers and Jessica Butler, executive director at Gateway, delivered a presentation about how technology can be misused to abuse and even stalk others, adding new dangers for people fleeing domestic violence and those who work to combat it.
For those in their early 30s and younger, they’ve never known a time without Internet access and personal devices, Sowers and Butler observed.
“Online has become a place to hang out,” Butler said, adding that the age at which children and teens are being pressured to share photos, passwords and communicate digitally is getting younger and younger.
Abusers are misusing technology, particularly cell phones, to control and stalk, by using unknown numbers and phone number “spoofing” and through GPS tracking, social media tagging and hidden spyware software.
Among the tips offered to increase personal safety:
- Turn off location services on mobile devices.
- Don’t “check in” to places via social media.
- Keep your passwords private.
- Regularly check privacy settings on social media.
- Turn off Bluetooth on mobile devices when not in use.
Sowers and Butler noted that normal social media behavior that seems innocuous has the potential to put others at risk who may need privacy to remain safe.
They offered tips to help others who might be at risk, including:
- Do not tag people without their permission.
- Be careful of the photos and videos that you post to social media – even if you don’t tag someone, your friends and sometimes their connections can still see those photos and videos.
- Don’t post personal information such as phone numbers, addressees, etc.
- Do not share passwords.
“The good news is that there is also technology that can help,” Butler said, detailing a number of apps aimed to help parents and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. They include Aspire News, OneLove My Plan, Circle of 6 and National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Tech Safety App.
Additional speakers at the briefing included Jeanne Buffington, executive director of Rape Response, who welcomed the crowd and introduced Susan Joiner. Joiner was a friend and former co-worker of Ginger Turner, who was killed by her husband in a murder-suicide in June 2013. She led the audience in a moment of silence for three area residents killed in domestic violence incidents during the past year: Jessie Weber, 32; Mary Ward, 42; and Heather Phillips, 42.
The Domestic Violence Breakfast and Briefing, held each October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, was presented by the Hall County Domestic Violence Task Force.
Breakfast was generously donated by McDonald’s.