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Stalking, Domestic Violence, and Support at the Family Court Programs

By Leah Scondotto
February 14, 2019

Every day at Safe Horizon we see the challenges stalking survivors experience when trying to seek safety. While many people think of stalking as a crime committed by a stranger, over 80% of stalking survivors know the offender (CDC, 2014). Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted behaviors that creates fear in a person. Stalking is a method of coercion used to gain power and control over a partner. In this blog, I will explain the link between domestic violence and stalking and how the legal system can help stalking survivors.

Stalking and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence involves violence or abuse by one person against another. It’s all about power and control. Stalking is one way abusive partners may attempt to gain or regain power and control over their current or former partners.

Partners engaging in stalking behaviors can be harmful because they know details of their partner’s lives, such as daily routines, family contacts, their place of work, etc.

Is it Stalking or Harassment?

In New York, stalking is a series of acts committed over time while harassment can be a one-time event or threat.

In stalking cases, the perpetrator engages in repeated behaviors that cause the victim to fear for their safety. Stalking may include repeated events of any unwanted communication, threats, or direct contact with the person or member of their immediate family.

For survivors of stalking, the legal options available may differ.

What to Do if You’re Being Stalked – The Importance of Documentation

To build a stalking case, I recommend that someone experiencing stalking document everything! When I say document, I mean collect anything from paper notes left by the stalker to screenshots of text messages or social media messages. You can also write a log of the stalking activities.

Since the legal definition emphasizes a pattern of behavior, it’s important to show that pattern any way you can. Making reports of all events to the police can be crucial to proving your case. A growing list of reports can help establish this pattern of stalking behavior.

Safety Planning as the Cornerstone of Support

At Safe Horizon, we safety plan with all survivors of abuse and violence.

Safety planning involves discussing survivors’ unique needs and risks and addressing any safety concerns regarding themselves, their children, or their family members. We work with survivors to identify safety options and resources that may help increase their safety. This may include changing routines or other taking other steps to avoid a situation where they are alone with the stalker. Read more about how our advocates safety plan, here.

Family Court Program Brooklyn

A snapshot of one of our Family Court Programs in Brooklyn.

Safety Planning at Family Court Programs Can Help Stalking Survivors

Family Court Programs offer support for people who have children together, who are related by marriage or blood, and who are now or were in an intimate relationship.

At any Family Court Program, we can support individuals being stalked file an Order of Protection right from our office. An Order of Protection intends to limit the behavior of someone who harms or threatens to harm another person. It addresses various types of safety issues, including, stalking and domestic violence.

While many survivors report that the Order of Protection helped decrease stalking behaviors, it may not be the right course of action for everyone. Filing an Order of Protection may not cause the stalking to end. After an Order of Protection is served, survivors may come back to court for continued proceedings. Consider filing an Order of Protection as a possible starting point. We can continue to work with you to create and modify a safety plan tailored to your safety needs. We are here to guide you through any situation.

Safe Horizon Resources for Stalking Survivors

If you or someone you know is in a stalking situation, we are here to help.

My colleagues and I at the Family Court Programs can talk through a safety plan and offer practical steps that someone can take to further document any future incidents, including filing an Order of Protection. Here is a link to the Family Court Programs locations and hours.

Additionally, Safe Horizon has advocates stationed in every police precinct in the city through our Crime Victims Assistance Program (CVAP) and anyone may contact an advocate directly.

If you prefer to visit one of our community-based programs, my colleagues in our Community Programs can help safety plan, assist in documenting the situation and discuss further options

If you want to talk through your options, or just want a listening ear, you can call our 24-hour hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE (4673). Experiencing stalking can be difficult to manage and seeking help can be complex. However, you are not alone. Safe Horizon is here to help. For more information about stalking and other available resources, visit our Get Help: Stalking page.

  • Leah Scondotto, Brooklyn Family Court Program Director

    Leah Scondotto has been with Safe Horizon for over 15 years. As Director of Safe Horizon’s Brooklyn Family Court Program, she is responsible for overseeing the Reception Center, Children’s Center and Supervised Visitation Program.

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