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Key Findings

Responding to Stalking

To maximize victim safety and offender accountability, communities must work collaboratively from the time the stalking incident occurs through the enforcement of any civil or criminal orders.

Many systems in Georgia are already employing best practices to address intimate partner stalking and improve victim safety and offender accountability. Those systems should continue their important work and mentor others who are seeking to increase and strengthen their own response. We encourage systems seeking ongoing improvement to incorporate the following recommendations into their work to enhance their response to intimate partner stalking.

Furthermore, connecting victims of intimate partner stalking to a domestic violence advocate is crucial. Advocates offer two vital services many other responders do not: safety planning and risk assessment. Although any responder is capable of offering these services, advocates can assure victims confidentiality, along with other services, such as shelter, legal advocacy and specialized expertise. Prompt safety planning is necessary in stalking cases. If an advocate is not immediately available to the victim, other responders must fill this role.

Take Action

Recommendations for Law Enforcement

CONTACT WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • When responding to any type of case, in any contact where a victim reports harassing behavior, consider the possibility of a stalking case. Determine whether it is an isolated incident or repeated conduct.
  • If stalking is identified, provide the victim with resources and brochures for local supportive services. Connect the victim to an advocate at a local domestic violence program and provide them with Georgia’s statewide 24-hour domestic violence hotline: 1-800-33-HAVEN.
  • At subsequent calls for service, look for escalation. Ask the victim what has changed since the last call. Connect the dots to previous calls in your report and check in with others involved in the case.
  • Conduct victim interviews in private or with an advocate. Maintain a nonjudgmental attitude during the interview. Use techniques that build rapport with the victim and demonstrate your concern and care.
  • During all contacts with victims
    • Obtain excited utterances.
    • Avoid stopping the victim in the middle of explaining an incident. You can always go
      back and correct the timeline of events.
    • Obtain the basics: who? what? when? where? and, most importantly in stalking cases, why?
    • Ask open-ended questions such as “And then what happened?” and use statements
      such as, “Tell me more about that.”
    • Listen closely to victims and document everything they report, even if it sounds
      unbelievable.
    • Take precise notes and use quotations in incident reports when possible.
    • Develop the context of the stalking. Ask victims why they are afraid, even if their fear appears unreasonable.
    • Consider obtaining a handwritten statement. If the victim changes her mind about prosecution, the statement may prove helpful in an evidence-based prosecution.
  • Interview the suspect at home when possible. Be observant: Take note of his vehicle, what type of phone(s) and computer(s) he uses, presence of cameras, journals which may detail the stalking, and photos or videos of the victim. Use search warrants for the suspect’s residence, vehicle and workplace when appropriate.
  • Prepare for the future of your case by preserving evidence of stalking behaviors at each and every contact.
    • Take photographs of text messages or written communications.
    • Photograph any items that have been vandalized, damaged or written on.
    • Collect any physical evidence, such as items left for the victim.
    • Ask victims if they have reported the issues to anyone else, police or otherwise.
      Obtain contact information for others who may have been informed of the issues.
    • Guide the victim to look for information in phone records and emails. Encourage the
      victim to use a stalking log and to identify witnesses who can corroborate the stalking behaviors.
  • Consult with a prosecutor to determine additional evidence that may be needed. • Address the suspect’s firearms access at all contacts.
    • Collect information on firearms access from both the victim and offender
    • Offer “keep and maintain” opportunities both in response to Temporary Protective Orders and in cases where the perpetrator agrees to safekeeping when no order is present.
    • Work with community partners to develop a firearms surrender protocol.
  • Investigate co-occurring incidents, such as vandalism, burglary, or violation of a protective order, to determine if the behaviors establish a course of conduct.
  • If the victim is still engaging with the stalker, understand this may be the best way for the victim to remain safe.
  • If you are unable to determine probable cause, take time to discuss how to document and report the offending behavior with the victim, so that you may build a case.
  • Assess whether any court orders have been violated. If they have, take swift action to enforce the order. Never mediate an alternative to a court order involving the parties.
  • Obtain additional contact information for victims. Ask about other locations they might be staying if they had to leave their home for safety. Document the additional contact information on a protected portion of the incident report, if there is a concern the location should be shielded.
  • Consider using appropriate threat or risk assessments which can be implemented in your practice, including Jacquelyn Campbell’s Danger Assessment (dangerassessment.org) or the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (O.D.A.R.A.)
    (odara.waypointecentre.ca).
  • Ensure other involved responders have knowledge of the offender’s stalking behaviors. Provide incident reports pertaining to stalking to probation and community supervision officers that are supervising the offender.

Recommendations for Court Systems, Judges and Judicial Personnel

VICTIM AND PERPETRATOR CONTACT WITH COURTS

  • Recognize many threats made by intimate partner stalkers are often implicit and appear benign to outsiders. Consider the context of the stalking and why the behavior could be frightening or distressing to the victim.
  • Consider the defendant’s past behavior toward the victim in any bond or release conditions. Understand even if the defendant has no other criminal history, the defendant can still pose a threat to the victim.
  • Consider developing a domestic violence court and/or domestic violence accountability court dates. Hold Compliance hearings on firearms issues and Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP) attendance.
    • Information on best practices pertaining to domestic violence courts can be found
      in “Georgia Domestic Violence Courts Best Practices” developed by the Judicial Council-Administrative Office of the Courts and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. The guide is available for download at gcfv.georgia.gov/georgia-domestic-violencecourts-best-practices.
  • Develop protocols for response to abusive or retaliatory filings by intimate partner stalkers. Note on the record that the action is believed to have been retaliatory and dismiss the case with prejudice.
  • Realize intimate partner stalkers may use children in common with the victim as justification for stalking behavior. Be aware their strategy for maintaining contact and control may include indicating they need to have contact with the victim to discuss and co-parent the children.
    • Include children as protected parties on Temporary Protective Orders so they receive protection during the victim’s parenting time.
    • Discourage the practice of the stalker providing technology, such as cellphones for the children. Instead, require the stalker to provide the victim compensation for purchase of technology to decrease the likelihood of electronic stalking.
    • Develop safe public visitation exchange locations. Be aware not all law enforcement precincts are staffed at all times and may not be an ideal exchange location. Consider developing funding for a safe or supervised visitation exchange location.
    • Encourage the victim and stalker to develop third-party resources who can conduct custody exchanges on their behalf.
    • Outline specific remedies for addressing financial support, such as use of ChildSupport Services, a Family Support Registry or a safe mailing address for the victim.
  • Ensure up-to-date Family Violence and Stalking Temporary Protective Order (TPO) forms are provided to victims seeking relief. When the parties meet the required relationship criteria, encourage the filing of Family Violence TPOs over Stalking TPOs, as they allow for additional relief.
  • Craft orders that are safety-focused and encourage accountability.
    • Whenever possible, obligate intimate partner stalkers to participate in a Family
      Violence Intervention Program (FVIP).
    • Require large distances of separation for the stalker from the victim and their
      frequent locations. Consider restrictions of 500 yards or more.
    • List specific dates of visitation or attach a calendar which outlines the visitation
      schedule.
    • Include detailed language about what qualifies a sthird party contact or relaying of
      information, and list prohibited relationships and locations with which the stalker
      must refrain from contact.
  • Explain that violation of orders is subject to criminal or civil penalty, even if the contact is “allowed” by one of the parties. At the time of a final Temporary Protective Order hearing, encourage victims to seek extensions of their orders in the event of ongoing safety concerns.
  • Develop safety procedures such as staggered leaving from the courthouse, with the victim leaving in advance of the perpetrator.

Recommendations for Prosecutors and Victim Witness Advocates

CONTACT WITH PROSECUTION

  • Consider any and all applicable charges to best hold the offender accountable. Even if there is not enough evidence to uphold a stalking case, charge what is appropriate. Many stalkers are serial offenders, and charges will build an offense history and pattern of conduct
  • Consider the defendant’s past behavior toward the victim in any bond or release conditions. Be aware lack of prior criminal history does not indicate risk to the victim ceases to exist.
  • Ensure other responders have knowledge of the offender’s stalking behaviors. Provide information on the originating offenses and stalking behaviors to probation and community supervision officers who will be supervising the case post-sentence.
  • Obligate perpetrators of intimate partner stalking to participate in a Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP) and give preference to no-contact orders over no-violent contact orders.
  • Maintain regular contact with victims to conduct safety checks and to offer advice on how they can best document the offending behaviors to help build a stronger case. Make contact with the victim prior to court if there are provisions in place, to verify there has been no contact by the stalker.
  • Obtain multiple methods of contact for victims, including friends or family members who will know how to reach them, even if they change their own contact information.
  • Provide warm referrals to domestic violence advocates for ongoing supportive services and safety planning. Make brochures and materials on domestic violence program services available in prosecution offices.

Recommendations For Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocates

VICTIM CONTACT WIHT ADVOCACY PROGRAMS

  • Conduct thorough risk assessment and safety planning with the victim, including addressing any electronic abuse they may be experiencing. Consider use of appropriate threat or risk assessments which can be implemented in your practice, including Jacquelyn Campbell’s Danger Assessment
    (dangerassessment.org) or Gavin de Becker’s DV MOSAIC (mosaicmethod.com)
  • When working with survivors who are experiencing surveillance and technology abuse, utilize the “Technology Safety Plan: A Guide for Survivors and Advocates” from the National Network to End Domestic Violence and other resources available in their toolkit, “Technology Safety & Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors” available online at techsafety.org/resources- survivors.
  • Collaborate with other responders, such as law enforcement and prosecution, to educate victims about the ongoing dynamics of stalking cases and what documentation maybe required if they choose to seek legal action against their intimate partner stalker.
  • Collect information on firearms access from both the victim and offender, including locations where weapons are stored.
  • Develop a plan to document the pattern of stalking and preserve existing evidence. Guide the victim to look for information in phone records and emails, and identify witnesses who can corroborate experiences. Encourage the victim to consider video surveillance if out of the relationship with the stalker. Encourage use of a stalking log, such as the one included on page 44 of the 2017 Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Annual Report.
  • Maintain ongoing contact with the victim for periodic safety checks outside of times of acute crisis.
  • Conduct an evaluation of the Temporary Protective Order process to determine whether it is victim-centered and whether relief requests are comprehensive. Ensure up-to-date Temporary Protective Order forms are being provided and utilized by Pro Se victims.
  • When processing violations of existing orders with victims, encourage criminal accountability rather than civil contempt, when appropriate. Assist the victim by making a warm referral to law enforcement if criminal action is pursued.
  • Avoid implementing restrictive policies that control or limit survivor access to cell phones, social media or other technology. Instead, educate survivors about the risks and benefits of technology and safety plan with them (and their children) in an empowerment-based and realistic way.
  • When safe to do so, help survivors rebuild connections with support systems, including the use of social media. Evaluate programmatic policies and practices that may hamper the victim’s ability to stay connected or reconnect with these key supporters, especially when the victim is utilizing shelter services.
  • Include messages in public education and outreach efforts directed to family members and friends. Include definitions of stalking in public presentations to address common misconceptions. Incorporate tips for ways to support a victim, where to call for help, and how to recognize signs of escalating danger, including the risks associated with stalking behaviors.

Recommendations for Domestic Violence Task Forces

  • Implement a court watch program to gain insight into judicial response to intimate partner stalking and abuse.
  • Communities should evaluate mechanisms for reducing the likelihood a lethal abuser has access to firearms. Develop a protocol to address firearms access for abusers in your community.
  • Invite an expert to speak about stalking awareness and safety at your meeting, training or conference.
  • Conduct training to local stakeholders on services available to stalking victims in your community.

Recommendations for Family Violence Intervention Programs

PERPETRATOR CONTACT WITH FAMILY VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PROGRAM

  • Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP) facilitators play a key role in recognizing stalking behaviors in the acts of abuse described by class participants. Facilitators must take the time to tease out the stalking behaviors and talk with the class about why stalking is not acceptable.
  • Be on the lookout for stalking behaviors when talking with participants about their relationships. Ask for more details when participants mention other parties who may be engaging in proxy stalking for them.
  • Prepare to have conversations with participants about how their stalking impacts the victim.
  • Incorporate examples of stalking behaviors into your curriculum.
  • Discuss the stalking behaviors with the victim liaison, particularly in cases where monitoring may be happening currently.

Recommendations for Faith Leaders

CONTACT WITH FAITH COMMUNITY

  • Get to know your community’s domestic violence program and create a resource referral network.
  • Let congregants know it is safe to discuss domestic violence related issues by providing information through sermons, newsletter articles/ bulletins and in premarital counseling. • Avoid counseling couples together when allegations of domestic violence or stalking are present.
  • Work with domestic violence advocates to train staff and volunteers about domestic violence and stalking. Make an organizational plan for responding to abuse and stalking within congregations, prioritizing victim safety and abuser accountability.
  • Offer safe accompaniment to religious functions for victims who may be experiencing stalking behaviors.
  • Request extra patrol from law enforcement around your place of worship if there are concerns a stalker may try to establish contact with the victim there.

Recommendations for Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Officers

CONTACT WITH PROBATION AND PAROLE

  • Assess all offenders as possible stalkers when there has been any report of harassing behavior or prior intimate partner violence and determine if the offender has previously engaged or is now engaging in stalking behavior. Partner with your prosecutor or law enforcement agency to review or receive incident reports and pertinent history pertaining to the offender’s history of stalking.
  • When offenders are engaging in stalking behavior, focus on victim safety, changing the behavior of the stalker, and providing accountability.
  • Interview the victim, when possible. Explain you are concerned for the victim’s safety, explain your role, and encourage follow-up should any abusive behaviors develop. Provide a referral to the local domestic violence program, even if it is likely the victim has previously received a referral. Assure victims you will maintain their privacy and confidentiality and will not share their concerns with the offender directly.
  • Determine the presence of civil orders which may address the stalker’s behaviors, and monitor the offender’s compliance with those provisions, in addition to the criminal sentence. Past civil orders should also be considered a risk factor for ongoing stalking by the offender. Partner with the local domestic violence program or clerk of courts to request and receive copies of relevant civil orders, including Temporary Protective Orders (TPOs).
  • Supervision conditions and case plans should be based on an offender’s risk level and potential threats to victim safety.
  • When new acts of stalking occur, consult the recommendations for law enforcement on page 35 of the 2017 Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Annual Report to build and document your case. Immediately seek remedies such as additional criminal charges and revocation of sentence or supervision agreement.
  • Ask the court to amend conditions of supervision to require an offender who has utilized stalking or abuse against an intimate partner to attend a State-certified Family Violence
    Insert Contact with Faith Community Chart from page 40
    Intervention Program (FVIP). Add FVIP to an offender’s rehabilitative plan to supplement the standard conditions of supervision if FVIP was not added.
  • Consider developing a specialized caseload of intimate partner violence and stalking cases within your agency. Develop staff expertise in stalking dynamics and tactics of abuse.
  • Specific recommendations and suggestions for supervising probationers and parolees who engage in stalking behavior are highlighted in “Responding to Stalking: A Guide for Community Corrections Officers,” developed by the American Probation and Parole Association, the Stalking Resource Center and the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Recommendations for Employers and Coworkers

EMPLOYMENT STATUS OF VICTIM AND PERPETRATOR

  • With the victim’s permission, keep a log of stalking and abusive incidents you become aware of. Consider using the sample Stalking Incident Log on page 44 of the 2017 Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Annual Report for help with documenting stalking behaviors. This information may prove helpful to a victim when she is ready to take action against her abuser.
  • Provide the number for the domestic violence hotline (1-800-33-HAVEN) to all employees and coworkers.
  • Ask clarifying questions to human resources personnel about how an individual can access an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other supportive resources offered by the employer.
  • Conduct regular, mandatory domestic violence training for managers, supervisors, HR professionals and Employee Assistance Program personnel.
  • In collaboration with experts, develop a plan for addressing domestic violence and stalking which makes sense for your company. Plans may include development of a model policy regarding domestic violence in the workplace. You can access model policies at workplacesrespond.org.
  • Request extra patrol from law enforcement around the job site if there are concerns a stalker may try to establish contact with the victim there.
  • Collaborate with victims to alter work schedules and/or locations to assist them in keeping their employment as they navigate staying safe.

Recommendations for Georgia Legislators

  • Align state firearm forfeiture laws with federal law to clarify law enforcement’s authority to remove weapons and establish penalties for the possession of firearms by Temporary Protective Order (TPO) respondents and those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors.
  • Introduce protections for victims who have been in a dating relationship with their abuser, but who have not been married to, lived with, or had a child with the abuser.
  • Introduce or support legislation designed to increase victim safety such as address confidentiality programs which allow victims to receive mail at a confidential address while their home location remains undisclosed, or tenant protections which allow a victim to vacate a lease without penalty if they need to relocate for safety reasons.
  • Expand locations where the crime of stalking can occur to include the perpetrator’s residence and allow warrants for stalking to be taken in either the jurisdiction where contact originated or where it was received.