Reporter Ariana Green reports in the May 9, 2009 issue of the New York Times that twelve states have adopted legislation allowing the use of global positioning devices to track and monitor persons against whom personal protection orders ["PPOs"] have been issued. [View the states here.] The purpose, of course, is to make sure that abusers are not violating the PPOs or harassing their former victims. After all, a PPO is merely a piece of paper. It is not a bulletproof shield; it cannot protect a domestic violence victim from further abuse when a violent spouse, former spouse or former domestic partner is determined to harm someone. According to the NY Times, about one-fourth of PPOs are violated each year.
In January 2009, the Justice Department released a special report “Stalking Victimization in the United States.” According to this report, a survey in 2006 revealed that an estimated 3.4 million persons in the U.S. were victims of stalking. The report details the types of stalking experienced, the victims’ response to the stalking, and profiles of typical stalkers. Shockingly, nearly 80% of the victims failed to report the stalking. You may read the report here. It is valuable material for those who are victims of stalking and advocates assisting victims.
Perhaps the realization that a PPO offers little protection against a determined assailant is one reason many victims of stalking do not report it, as reported by the New York Times in February 2009.
Two reactions to the use of GPS monitoring to enforce a PPO are noteworthy:
Diane Rosenfeld, a lecturer at Harvard Law School, whose research has shown that about one quarter of women who were killed by their domestic abusers already had restraining orders, is a longtime advocate of using GPS in domestic abuse cases. She told The NY Times:
“Using GPS monitoring to enforce an order of protection makes the order more than just a piece of paper,” said. “It’s a way of making the criminal justice system treat domestic violence as potentially serious. By detecting any escalation in the behavior of a batterer, GPS can prevent these unnecessary tragedies.”
Alexis A. Moore, a survivor of domestic abuse and ardent advocate who founded Survivors in Action (a nonprofit organization for crime victims) said that her former partner had violated a restraining order more than 30 times over four years. She said he had slashed her tires, lurked outside her home and harassed her online, but without a way to prove it, she was helpless to stop it. Although legislation in her home state of California permits GPS monitoring, she was told that there was no money to pay for GPS monitoring where she lives. Thus, she said: “My stalker continues to make a game of getting away with restraining order violations — because he can,”
You may read the NY Times article “More States use GPS to Track Abusers” here.