Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes
House of Ruth, a social services center for women and their children in Washington, DC, has served thousands of women since it was founded in 1976. And while the reasons why women need its services, namely homelessness and domestic abuse, haven’t changed much in the past 42 years, the needs of those women have as technology has changed.
“It’s just impossible today to operate without some sort of cellular device,” says Sandra Jackson, executive director of House of Ruth. “I just can’t say enough about it. It’s key.”
While organizations like House of Ruth used to see cases of abusers literally ripping phones out of the wall, now they’re more likely to work with women whose abusive partner either destroyed their cellphone or otherwise financially damaged the victim, such as ruining their credit score, so that they’re unable to buy a new phone. In order to meet the needs of these women, organizations like House of Ruth rely on donated phones, their own funds, and maybe most essentially, a federal program founded in 1985, the Lifeline Assistance program.
The Lifeline program, which serves nearly 13 million Americans, currently provides low-income consumers $9.25 a month per household toward phone or internet service. Lifeline, sometimes colloquially referred to as “Obama phone,” expanded under the former president’s administration to provide internet and cellular devices.
But now, the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission is seeking to make heavy cuts to the program and put domestic violence victims—as well as the homeless, veterans, and citizens of Puerto Rico—all at increased risk.
Republicans have argued that Lifeline is a waste of taxpayer dollars and rampant with fraud. In a 2017 Government Accountability Office report, auditors were unable to verify the eligibility of 36 percent of the program’s participants through either income or participation in other qualifying programs, such as Medicaid. While advocates say these numbers are the result of the FCC’s own poor reporting system and fraud by carriers, not users, in November, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to initiate a series of reforms intended to cut back on program waste.
One proposed change is to only offer subsidies to carriers with their own networks, like AT&T and Verizon, which would strip eligibility from prepaid phone service “resellers” (like TracFone and Boomerang) that more than 70 percent of the program’s participants currently use. Other reforms proposed by the Republicans at the FCC include enacting a hard budget cap for the program. The move, alongside a proposed cap on access to the program after a currently undefined amount of time, could eliminate or decrease subsidies for existing recipients as well shut out millions of more eligible Americans. The FCC has already rolled back its expansion of providers under the previous administration and cut additional subsidies for tribal lands.
There are no stats on exactly how many Lifeline users fall under the category of domestic violence victims, but according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence there are roughly 10 million Americans annually who experience domestic violence. And while domestic violence is not limited to any one economic group, it is highly correlative with loss in financial security. “The reality of domestic violence victims [is even] with Lifeline they’re still barely able to keep the lights on and rent paid and reach employers,” says Cindy Southworth, executive vice president at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “If Lifeline has devastating cuts, it will absolutely impact victims.”
According to the Center for Financial Security, 99 percent of domestic violence victims endure some form of financial abuse. It’s such an extensive problem that House of Ruth has its own designated funds to help victims pay off damaging credit debts. If cuts to subsidies alone didn’t render Lifeline useless to domestic violence victims, the proposed ban of prepaid carriers that don’t require good credit would make it useless to women whose abusers have ruined their finances.
“Most of the time they have been entirely separated from families to keep them in a controlled environment,” says Jackson. “Many of them are in the process of trying to rebuild relationships. They need to have some access to call services and regain normalcy in their lives.”
According to a 2016 NNEDV survey, 77 percent of domestic violence programs surveyed gave out cellphones, but only 33 of the 287 responding agencies said they could also provide prepaid minutes for the phone, an essential benefit of Lifeline. Programs also give out more than 30 percent more nonactivated phones as prepaid ones. While a donated, deactivated phone (NSI) can still make 911 calls, the batteries often have preexisting damage that can render them unreliable. Without Lifeline phones, the number of NSI phones would likely increase. “In this game of life, we do not want victims to be given nonreliable service phones. If someone is relying on that phone they could be in serious danger,” says Southworth. Alienating victims is an important element of the abuser playbook, says Southworth. “Part of that power and control dynamics is to remove the very technology that would allow the victim to reach out to help,” she says. “It’s about, ‘You will not have contact with anybody but me.’”
Pat Brown, the executive director of the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley in Radford, Virginia, says roughly a third of the women that her organization serves come without any cellphone of their own. Providing them with a new one gives victims a chance to start over safely. “The greatest thing [for the women] is that it’s not a number that the abuser knows,” says Brown. “That’s really the greatest thing—the secrecy.”
Both Brown and Jackson estimated that at least one-third of the women their organizations serve require assistance in procuring new phones.
Cuts to Lifeline would follow another blow to domestic violence advocates: In February, Verizon announced it would end its Hopeline program, which donated phones to domestic violence survivors. Mary O’Doherty, deputy director at the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said the end of the program came as a surprise to her organization. Her organization was one of 200 that signed a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking the agency to save Lifeline. “We’re always going to be in favor of putting more communications resources in the hands of domestic violence survivors,” says O’Doherty.
It’s unclear where domestic violence victims actually stand in the FCC’s proceedings right now.
“For anyone who has experienced domestic abuse, their phone is so much more than a simple device; it’s truly a lifeline. It’s a connection to safety and support—connect with authority and connect with families’ support and reach out,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC’s sole Democrat, tells Mother Jones. “It would be beyond cruel for this agency to undermine their work and something we can’t let stand.”
And while the Republican majority on the committee appears inclined to roll back the program, it’s been eight months since the initial notice of proposed rule was passed by the commission and no final vote has been scheduled.
The rest of the proposal hasn’t gained much support from traditional allies. Providers, including Verizon and Sprint, have rebuked Pai’s claims that banning resellers would encourage them to build out better networks, and even the conservative American Enterprise Institute came out against the plan.
On July 11, a group of 44 domestic violence advocacy groups, including the National Network to End Domestic Violence, filed a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, expressing their opposition to the agency’s attempt to eliminate key elements of its phone assistance program for low-income Americans, namely reducing subsidies and banning resale providers that don’t require a deposit or credit check. “A cell phone—which can be used anywhere—enables vulnerable individuals to contact emergency services, family members, health care and social service providers, and, in short, make them feel less alone and make them safer,” the groups stated in the letter.
But advocates aren’t holding their breath for the FCC, which recently rejected a petition to reverse its decision to scrap extra subsidies for Tribal Lands, to rule in their favor. Jackson says that House of Ruth will have to increase its fundraising efforts to make sure that increased demands from their flexible funding don’t detract from other important services they offer.
“I don’t even want to think about not being able to provide a service,” says Jackson. “You have to have these services to have these women and children move forward.”
Publication Date: August 17, 2018
A war on the press is a war on democracy
A free and independent press is one of the most sacred principles enshrined in the Constitution. But today the press’ freedom is under serious attack on a scale not seen in modern times.
We are outraged and we are troubled because there is so much at stake. That’s why we are adding our voice to the hundreds of other newspapers and news organizations that are speaking out this week in defense of a free press.
This is not a partisan issue. It is not even a call to defend one profession.
This is about protecting the freedom of all Americans to think and write what we believe, the freedom to read and say what we want.
“The freedom of the press is yours,” The Atlantic telegraphed in its opinion column headline published Wednesday. We couldn’t agree more.
A press that is free to inquire about, and report on, what it deems important and newsworthy makes our democracy stronger. It can shine a light on those in power, to hold them to account and to analyze their actions. A free press levels the playing field. It provides citizens with knowledge they may not otherwise be in a position to access, knowledge that can form the basis for critical thinking and informed decision-making.
President Donald Trump says the press is a threat to national security. It is “very dangerous & sick.” It creates “fake, fake disgusting news.” A sizable number of Americans, in fact, now agree with Mr. Trump’s characterization of the press as “the enemy of the people.” That’s according to a poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University. The survey also found that among members of the president’s party, 51 percent agree with that statement while only a third believe it is “an important part of democracy.”
The president has every right to criticize the press. Presidents before him have maligned the press in response to critical and unflattering coverage. But the aim of the 45th president is broader: to sow public mistrust, to delegitimize, to drive a wedge between Americans and those in the news business who are beyond his sphere of control (that would be most of the press). And he has some especially powerful tools at his disposal in the form of real-time communications technologies like Twitter and loyal broadcast networks like Fox and Sinclair. He can reach tens of millions of Americans in a matter of seconds. The press is against me, his message goes, and cannot be trusted.
At The Record-Review, our first loyalty is to you. We work hard every day to win your trust and keep it. Our work is guided by a set of principles that demand objectivity, independence, open-mindedness and the pursuit of the truth.
We are not your enemy. We are part of the community, we are here alongside you and share your struggles and your victories. Town by town, hamlet by hamlet, we write about the diverse people and issues that impact our lives. We attend community boards and planning board meetings. We write about local elections and probe the candidates who seek your votes. We chronicle environmental dangers in backyards. We highlight the wonderful things that kids, volunteers, first responders, artists and so many others are doing in our community.
No profession is beyond criticism. We get our facts wrong at times. Our news reporting can be incomplete. We are eager to correct our mistakes and learn from them. We also share our space so you can express your opinions alongside ours.
But the national mood has put us on edge, unsure of where the rising hostility to journalism will lead the country. Attacks on the freedom of the press are increasing at a time when so many other bedrock institutions and democratic principles are coming under fire from domestic policymakers, including the White House and Congress. We are facing grave cross-border threats, too, from cyberspace hackers and hostile foreign powers that continue to mine the social, political and cultural fault lines that divide us.
The strains of facing these immense challenges require a democracy that is fully functioning, with all of its constitutionally-protected powers intact. Against this backdrop, the mounting attacks on the freedom of the press are reckless, irresponsible and destructive.
If you agree with us that a free press is essential to a vital democracy, join us in speaking out. Find out where candidates stand and make it a swing issue. Support groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists that are tracking abuses of press members in the U.S. and overseas, ranging from physical attacks to denial of access to imprisonment. In whatever way you can, fight for a free press. Our country’s democratic future lies in the balance.
Friends, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I invite you to join me for my Why Does He Do That? 5 Week Webinar Series, beginning Tuesday October 2nd.
Sixteen years ago I shared many of these insights in my book “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men,” which I hope has made a difference to many of you. Now I have added on another decade and a half of experience and rolled it all up into this webinar.
My top desire is to help abused women break free, heal, and go on to live their best life yet; to educate the public on warning signs and learn how they can support her; how to spot abusers tactics; the need for holding abusers accountable; and so much more. This webinar is my best effort to date to accomplish these goals, and includes:
~Tearing off the veil that abusive men throw over the reality of their actions
~ Explaining what abuse does to a woman’s heart, mind, and life
~Offering a road map to regaining your clarity, strength, and freedom
During live webinar times, you will have an interactive chat box to ask questions, and for the month of October, you will be invited to a private Facebook page moderated by me and my colleague Patrice Lenowitz. Plus we are offering a live Q&A on October 30th where I will be happy to answer all your questions live.
Here are all the details:
5 Tuesday’s in October (2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd) from 1PM-2PM EST, and LlVE Q&A on Tuesday October 30th 1PM-2:30PM EST.
Online; on your computer, IPad, or any smart device.
$59 for 4 weeks of private instruction; interactive chat box; private Facebook page; and 5th week live Q&A with me
EARLY BIRD SPECIAL:
Register by September 16th, and receive $10 off for a discounted rate of $49!!!
And for those who are wondering, each week you will receive a replay link good for 6 days. If you are not available at the time of the webinar, you can watch it anytime that is more convenient for you.
For more information or to register, please visit my website atwww.lundybancroft.com
What Is a Safety Plan?
A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action and more.
At The Hotline we safety plan with victims, friends and family members — anyone who is concerned about their own safety or the safety of someone else.
A good safety plan will have all of the vital information you need and be tailored to your unique situation, and will help walk you through different scenarios.
Although some of the things that you outline in your safety plan may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that in moments of crisis your brain doesn’t function the same way as when you are calm. When adrenaline is pumping through your veins it can be hard to think clearly or make logical decisions about your safety. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in those stressful moments.
Types of Safety Planning
- Safety While Living With An Abusive Partner
- Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess the risk of physical danger to you and your children before it occurs.
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.
- Don’t run to where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
- If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
- If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest public phone is located. Know the phone number to your local shelter. If your life is in danger, call the police.
- Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.
- Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house.
- Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you, nor they, are at fault or are the cause of the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to stay safe.
- Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.
- Plan for what you will do if your children tells your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.
- Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.
- Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keeping it fueled. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked — for a quick escape.
- Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used to strangle you.
- Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.
- Safety Planning With Children
- Safety Planning With Pets
- Safety Planning During Pregnancy
- Emotional Safety Planning
Leaving a Relationship
- Preparing to Leave
Because violence could escalate when someone tries to leave, here are some things to keep in mind before you leave:
- Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures of injuries.
- Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible. Keep your journal in a safe place.
- Know where you can go to get help. Tell someone what is happening to you.
- If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
- Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them, like a room with a lock or a friend’s house where they can go for help. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
- Contact your local shelter and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis. WomensLaw.org has state by state legal information.
- Acquire job skills or take courses at a community college as you can.
- Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
- When You Leave
- After You Leave
Some of this information is adapted from: Copyright © 1998 by the National Center for Victims of Crime. This information may be freely distributed, provided that it is distributed free of charge, in its entirety and includes this copyright notice.
- Restraining Orders/Protective Orders
There are some legal actions you can take to help keep yourself safe from your abusive partner. The Hotline does not give legal advice, nor are we legal advocates, but there are some great resources available to you in your community.
Please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat with us and our advocates can connect you with resources for legal help.
You can also visit WomensLaw.org and search state by state for information on laws including restraining orders and child custody information.
Protective Orders/Restraining Orders
A protective order can help protect you immediately by legally keeping your partner from physically coming near you, harming you or harassing you, your children or your family members. This legal documentation to keep your abusive partner away from you can often contain provisions related to custody, finance and more.
While protective orders may be able to put a stop to physical abuse, psychological abuse is still possible — so a protective order should never replace a safety plan.
If you already have a protective order, it should be kept on you at all times — and copies should be given to your children and anyone they might be with — especially when you’re leaving your partner.
You can get an application for a protective order at:
- Women’s shelters
- Volunteer legal services offices and some police stations.
Other Legal Actions:
You also have the right to file a charge against your partner for things such as criminal assault, aggravated assault, harassment, stalking or interfering with child custody. Ask a volunteer legal services organization (attorneys who provide free legal services to low-income individuals) or an advocacy group in your area about the policies in your local court.
Not a US citizen?
According to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), immigrant women who are experiencing domestic violence — and are married to abusers who are US Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents — may qualify to self-petition for legal status under VAWA. Get more information here.
- Calling 911