One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Apps Against Abuse May 1, 2012

Filed under: cell phones,dating violence,Options for Help,rape prevention,safety — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:45 am
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It seems like smart phones are becoming more and more common these days.  Education and awareness of interpersonal violence is also spreading as well.  Have you ever wanted to combine the technology of a smart phone with ways to promote education and prevention of  sexual assault or dating violence?  Well, there’s now an app for that.  Two apps actually.  Circle of 6 is an iPhone app that is designed to serve as a mobile way to look out for your friends and help get them out of uncomfortable or unsafe situations.  It aims to prevent sexual assault and rape.  The Love is Not Abuse iPhone app serves as an educational tool for parents.  The app simulates digital dating abuse and provides a multitude of resources for users who want to learn more about dating violence.  Both apps are free.

Circle of 6 is one of the winners of the White House Apps Against Abuse Competition.  The White House released a statement saying, “Young women aged 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while one in five will be a victim of sexual assault during college.  Many of these assaults occur when the offender, often an acquaintance, has targeted and isolated a young woman in vulnerable circumstances.”  This is where Circle of 6 can help.  It is designed for college students and is modeled after the idea that there is safety in numbers, even if you might be separated from your friends at the time you need help.  After downloading Circle of 6, users must choose six trusted friends from their contact list who live near them.  A text message is then sent to these six notifying them that you have put them in your circle.  The app is very simple and uses icons to represent actions so no one around you can see what you are doing.

With just two taps, users can immediately send text messages to the six people in their circle.  The user can send a message asking friends to call and pretend they need the person in order to serve as an interruption and chance for her or him to leave.  The user can also ask for her or his six friends to come get her/him because she/he needs help getting home safely.  GPS technology allows a Google Map to be sent with the message so friends know exactly where to go.  Phone numbers for national hotlines are pre-programmed into the app, and local hotline numbers can be entered as well.  There is also a button that will send a message to everyone in your circle to let them know that you have received help and are safe.  Circle of 6 provides young people with concrete strategies to support each other and stop sexual assault from occurring in their circle.

Love is Not Abuse was started in 1991 by Liz Claiborne Inc. to help combat domestic violence.  The Love is Not Abuse App “is designed to teach parents – in a very real way – about the dangers of teen dating abuse and provides a dramatic demonstration of how technology can be used to commit abuse. Over the course of the experience, text messages, emails and phone calls will be received real-time, mimicking the controlling, abusive behaviors teens might face in their relationships.”  It is often hard to begin to understand what victims and survivors of dating violence go through, and this app gives a small glimpse into what forms of digital abuse a teen might face.  Users can select different examples of abuse they wish to experience, such as threats, excessive contact, sexting, and privacy invasion.  For the forms that the app is unable to simulate, users can watch short video clips that provide examples of that type of abuse and the effect it can have on a teen.

The app provides immediate, concrete, steps for parents to take if they are concerned their child may be a victim of dating abuse or may be an abuser.  It offers suggestions for how to talk to your teen about dating violence and tell them that no one deserves to be abused.  This app challenges the notion that all abuse is physical.  You often might not be able to tell if a teen is involved in an abusive relationship just by looking at her or him.  Even if you are not a parent, it is a great app to check out because it allows you to experience first-hand some of the forms of abuse victims of dating violence are facing and also learn more about dating abuse.

There are positives and negatives to all apps, so we encourage all iPhone users to download the Circle of 6 and Love is Not Abuse apps and see if they would serve as good resources for you.  These apps provide two more ways that we can help make sure our friends and family members are safe in their relationships and provide them with concrete ways to escape a potentially violent situation.


Foursquare May Have Safety Risks for Users August 16, 2011

Foursquare, a location-based social networking website for mobile phones that allows users to “check in” at locations of interest and compete with others for both virtual and real-life rewards, has grown in popularity to over 10 million users since its launch in 2009 (including, recently, President Obama). The program uses GPS to establish check-ins, which are then sent to users’ friends within the foursquare network and linked to Twitter and Facebook if they choose.

A recent Wall Street Journal study found that 60% of foursquare check-ins in a given week are made by men, as compared to 38% by women. Tech experts often explain tech differences like this in terms of men’s greater likelihood of becoming early adopters of social media, but foursquare’s statistics may be related to another concern for women users: safety.

I don’t use foursquare because of concerns about the safety of sharing my real-time location over the internet. But choosing not to use foursquare hasn’t completely protected me from location sharing because it has become a feature on other social media platforms as well. I realized recently I’d been accidentally broadcasting my location to all of my Twitter followers with every tweet because I had unknowingly clicked a button below the text box on my Android phone. My Twitter account is public, so I was shaken to realize how much information readers had been receiving.

Leo Hickman, a journalist for The Guardian, wrote an article last year about how he was able to stalk a random woman at a sporting event based on her foursquare posts. He raised concerns about privacy issues related to foursquare. “Sure, you might earn yourself a “free” decaf latte when you check in five times at a coffee shop, but at what price to your privacy?” Hickman wrote. In 2010, a San Francisco programmer was able to capture 875,000 supposedly private check-ins through a security loophole that was later fixed.

Location-based social media have exciting prospects, but some have noted that women in particular may not feel as free to use them for fear of unwanted surveillance. Especially for those involved in abusive relationships or for victims of stalkers, foursquare and programs like it could be used as weapons. And in a culture that frequently blames sexual assault victims because of their outfits or their level of intoxication, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that victims could also be blamed for “putting themselves out there” and inviting victimization by allowing others to view their locations on social media platforms.

Many tech experts say GPS-based apps will become even more ubiquitous in the future, and other social media platforms have already begun to adopt location-based elements. My experience with the GPS feature on Twitter caused me to scrutinize my privacy settings for my other social media accounts, but I still don’t feel confident I completely understand my chosen settings. I feel concerned that sites like Facebook may have made privacy deliberately complicated, causing users to choose more relaxed settings that allow advertisers to mine their data more easily.

How will developers be able to ensure safety as they continue to curate this technology? In a male-dominated field like computer science, how can we work to ensure an individual’s unique privacy concerns are taken into consideration throughout the development of new products? Leave a comment below to weigh in!


“In Kindness” Donations: Five Simple Ways to Celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Week February 16, 2011

The "garden cosmos" is the official symbol of the World Kindness Movement, an international collection of national kindness movements whose purpose is to promote small, random acts of kindness throughout the world

Monday marked the beginning of national “Random Acts of Kindness Week” ; a time when everyday people engage in spontaneous random acts of kindness aimed at near-total/perfect strangers.

Sponsored by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, participants are asked to engage in as many Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) as they are comfortable with during the campaign’s one-week duration, either overtly or anonymously, in the hopes of precipitating other RAKs by other people in a cascading cavalcade of compassion, cooperation, consideration and good karma.

In the spirit of this week of kindness, and all random acts thereof, we at FVPC have come up with a list of possible RAK suggestions, which are not only within reach of the casual RAKer, but also keep in mind the victims of DV in Orange County.

RAK Idea #1: Donate a $20 grocery or gas card to FVPC for use by a victim and her family.

Transportation is a critical component of most safety plans for victims–not just because it provides a means of escape from dangerous situations, but because it empowers victims to make their own decisions about their own lives and destinies.  Transportation provides victims with the means of controlling when and where they go out, and for how long, as well as providing them with the means of traveling to and from jobs and job interviews–not to mention the safety and peace of mind that comes from picking up and dropping off your kids yourself.

Groceries too, are of great help for victims attempting to create a safety plan for themselves, especially for victims who are wholly or partially reliant on their abusers, financially.  In these situations, even if a victim wishes to leave an abusive situation, if he or she (for whatever reason) finds themselves with limited funds, and/or few employment opportunities with which to obtain greater funds, such realizations can dissuade some victims from taking action–especially if there are young children or other dependents involved.

Even something as simple as a full tank of gas and/or a bag of groceries in the back seat can have a powerful effect on a victim’s sense of empowerment, motivation, and commitment to taking action, and can mean the difference between moving forward to something better, or doing nothing for want of better options.

If you are interested in donating grocery or gas gift cards, they can be dropped off at the FVPC office on the corner of Rosemary and Henderson Streets in Chapel Hill.  For more information, visit our website.

RAK Idea #2: Clean your closet and bring clothes to The Stock Exchange to consign for FVPC’s benefit.

The Stock Exchange is a clothing consignment store that allows consigners to donate a portion of the proceeds of their merchandise to the charity of their choice.  People interested in donating to FVPC simply bring their consignment goods (in-season, late-market clothes that are undamaged and in good condition) to The Stock Exchange, and rather than enter in their own account number, indicate that FVPC should be the beneficiaries of their items’ sale.  If goods do not sell, however, there is still the possibility that your donation can help assist the victims of domestic violence.

When customers consign with the Stock Exchange, any unsold items can either be returned to the owner, or kept by the Stock Exchange to be sold at lowered prices during a bi-annual charity bargain sale, of which a portion of the proceeds benefit FVPC.

RAK Idea #3: Donate non-perishable food stuffs like mac and cheese, pasta, sauce, biscuit mix, tuna, soup etc. to our food pantry.

FVPC operates a small on-site food pantry with canned and dried goods for use by victims seeking temporary assistance with day-to-day living considerations as they make the transition from their current situation, to a more fair, equitable and stable living arrangement.  Often times, victims who are leaving abusive relationships struggle with some of the day-to-day expenses associated with newly-independent life.  This can include struggles to both arrange living space, and essentials like food and utilities, and frequently access to reliable and nutritious food staples can go a long way towards helping victims re-establish themselves, stabilize their living arrangements, and begin reclaiming some of their lost independence.

To that end, FVPC will be accepting donations of canned goods, dried goods, pre-packaged foods and other non-perishables that do not require freezing or refrigeration.  These items will be distributed to FVPC clients who need temporary assistance with arranging meals, particularly those who are transitioning from one housing or living situation to another.

RAK Idea #4: Donate an old or unused cell phone to help support victims of domestic violence

One of the most common patterns of emotional abuse and domestic violence, is limiting victims’ abilities to ask for help and reach the outside world.  Often times, batterers will keep their victims isolated, refusing to let them drive, work outside the home, or in extreme cases, to even use the phone or go outside.

In these situations, and particularly when there is a danger of physical violence, simply having the means to call for help can be difficult if not life-saving, and just having access to a phone can be of great emotional and psychological comfort to victims, in addition to a practical safety consideration.

That’s why we at FVPC offer free “911 phones,” which have no plans attached, but can still be used for emergency communication like dialing 911.  These cell phones allow victims one more element of control in their lives, and empower them to not only seek help, but also protect themselves should a situation become dangerous.

Members of the public interested in donating old or unused cell phones may do so at our office, or can call our hotline to find the FVPC collection box nearest to them.  Wherenever possible, phones intended for use as 911 phones should be accompanied by the appropriate charging cable.

However, even damaged phones, or phones without charging cables, can still be donated to FVPC, and will be recycled for components by a local charity, who will then make a reciprocal donation to our office, proportional to the value of the phone and salvaged materials.  These donations will then be used to help provide critical services to victims of domestic violence, including community education campaigns designed to help prevent violence from ever occurring.

To learn more about cell phone donations, go to our website at, or call our office at (919) 929-7122.

RAK Idea #5: Write a letter to your representatives, indicating your support for victims of domestic violence.

Recently, the President Obama signed into law the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), whose provisions are designed, at least in part, to help the victims of domestic violence, and their children.

While this is a fantastic start, and a big leap forward in the advancement of victims rights and woman’s issues, there is still more that can be done.  Write to your Congressman or Senator today, indicating your support for the CAPTA and FVPSA acts, and to encourage them to support further measures aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence, and their families.  If you feel comfortable, write about why these issues matter to you, and how you would like your government to respond to the reality of domestic violence in our community.

To learn more about domestic violence, and how agencies like FVPC serve and help victims, visit our website at

To learn more about who your Congressmen and Senators are, and how to contact them, go to the US House of Representatives website here, and type in your state and ZIP code, or go to the US Senate website here, and type your state.


“…not about a show of force but a show of presence” December 14, 2010

The recent increase in attention to cyberbullying has left many parents confused and frustrated. The New York Times recently published an article, “As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch Up,” that offers us some understanding of how parents may address the issues of safe uses of technology as well as cyberbullying.  Perhaps one of the strongest points the  article makes is that because cyberbullying is an evolving practice that takes so many forms and affects children in so many ways, it is important that parents know their children. Some tips to keep in mind

  • Pay attention to your child’s moods and their willingness to talk openly about friends and school. Changes in behavior may hint at a deeper issue.   Also, knowing your child will allow you to handle a case of cyberbullying more effectively, whether your child is the victim or the bully.
  • Along with knowing your child, know what you’re giving them. If you plan on giving them a cell phone familiarize yourself with the phone and its applications. Phones are no longer just phones but “mini computers” as the article puts it.  Consider laying down some ground rules for the technology you supply your child with i.e. handing the phone over to you at 10:00 pm or making sure it is off when the child is doing their homework.

The article also attempts to guide parents to address the issue as it arises.  For e4xample, parents often mistakenly assume that the awareness of and punishment for cyberbullying falls into the hands of their children’s schools. Schools, however, already dealing with limited resources, are more often than not shrugging the “off-campus” matter back to the parents.   Parents may find the following model script from the article helpful if their child has been bullied: “I need to show you what your son typed to my daughter online. He may have meant it as a joke. But my daughter was really devastated. A lot of kids type things online that they would never dream of saying in person. And it can all be easily misinterpreted.”

A Nashville man’s daughter was a victim of online bullying until he intervened.

What is most important in this model is its tone. Rather than coming off as accusatory or angry, the language here explains the problem calmly without making a judgment about the bully or his/her parents. This is crucial because it allows the parent to be a model for his/her child instead of perpetuating the cycle of violence and showing the child that violence, physical or verbal, is the way to handle conflict.  Parents undoubtedly have the largest potential to be an advocate for their children when it comes to cyberbullying.

But what if it is your kid who’s the bully? The article also offers a wonderful example of a mother explaining what is wrong with bullying by bringing it to her daughter’s level. In the specific case mentioned, the mother asks her daughter if she would want someone to harass her puppy but a similar approach could be used by asking the same question about a favorite doll, toy or even friend. Using this method, parents are not only expanding their own child’s understanding of bullying as a problem but also creating the possibility for their child to stand up against bullying amongst his/her peers. Like all violence, cyberbullying should be taken seriously. It’s not just “kid stuff.” It is hurtful and its effects can be long lasting.

If you or someone you know is experiencing cyberbullying, you are not alone. We are here to help. Call our 24-hour hotline at 919-929-7122. We will be happy to listen and work with you to find helpful resources within our community. For parents of middle aged children participating in the Start Strong program, education does not have to end with our program. Ask your child what they learned, if they know anybody who had been affected, or any question to open the door for future dialogue. If this topic is of particular interest to you we encourage you to volunteer as a community educator at FVPC.  Our next training session begins in January.


Giving some, getting more November 22, 2010

With only 4 full-time and 2 part-time staff members, we rely a great deal on volunteers.  FVPC volunteers answer the hotline (24/7/365), accompany clients to court, facilitate our DV primary prevention programs Start Strong & Save The Date programs in local schools, provide crisis counseling services to clients in need, speak at fundraisers, lead support groups, offer interpretation services to non-English speakers, train local professionals, coordinate our cell phone collection program and much more.

Folks give their time to us for many reasons (academic credit, personal connection, service hours, etc.) but whatever the reason, they are usually surprised by how much they receive in turn.  Especially when they didn’t actually “give” anything except their time and active listening skills. When I do annual reviews with volunteers, I ask for some of their high points.  They sometimes mention things like helping someone with shelter. But they mention the “small things” too: the client who told them that they were happy that they answered their call, that they were there to listen and not judge.

Finding volunteer opportunities is easier than ever.  Sites like Volunteer Match or Idealist offer countless opportunities to help your local community in whatever area you are skilled in or have an interest. And of course volunteering is not only good for your community but it can be good for your health and your career too.

But if you are looking for direct service work here in Orange County, look no further than FVPC! Twice a year, we offers our core volunteer training for folks interested in working directly with victims of domestic violence (Hotline Advocates) as well as a training for those who are interested in our community education efforts.  The next sessions are fast approaching.  Hotline Advocate training starts in mid-February and runs for 6 weeks, two nights per week.   Community Educator training for our Start Strong programming is Jan 26 at 5:30 pm.   Details about both positions are here.  Click here to view our Volunteer Application.

Please let us know if you are interested but unsure how or where.  We welcome men and women of any age, sexual orientation or background.  Give the office a call at 929-3872.  We can get you started!


Answering the Call: DV Awareness Month and You September 14, 2010

Filed under: cell phones,dating violence,domestic violence — Johnson Intern @ 4:13 pm

"Can you hang on a minute? I want to support the victims of domestic violence."

It’s that time of year again, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month is once again just around the corner.

This year, we’re opening the door to members of the community to get involved in their own DV Awareness campaigns, specifically their very own DV Cell Phone Drives.

Donating a cell phone, or starting a cell phone drive of your own, are some of the easiest and most rewarding ways to get involved in DV prevention, as you get to see firsthand how you and your drive supporters are making a lasting difference.  Aside from helping clean the environment, the primary purpose of the cell phone drive is to raise funds for FVPC’s crucial services.  Those services include a 24-hour hotline, crisis counseling, court advocacy, community education,  support groups, children’s programs and much more.  Each time someone donates one of their old, broken, used or unwanted cell phones,  FVPC receives a monetary donation from a company that collects and recycles/reuses the worn-out components for use or salvageable materials.  But the campaign also serves another, less tangible (but no less important) service in the fight against domestic abuse.

It serves as a visible reminder, that the issue of domestic violence is both real, and present, even in communities like ours. And most importantly, it sends a message, both to victims and the community at large, that there are still those who care about the issue, and are willing to do their part to help victims through their hardships.

We hope that members of the community will begin hosting cell phone collection boxes placed in visible areas throughout Chapel Hill and Orange County–churches, office buildings, or other community centers.  Collection box hosts will then publicize their event (through internal memo, PA, listserv), and encourage their community members to participate.

For more information on how you can help, visit our website at, or call our office at 929-3872 and ask for Elizabeth.  Or drop off phones at our existing locations: Whole Foods Market, the UNC Student Union (by Alpine Bagels), or in the Hendrick Building at the Friday Center.


Domestic Violence: an ageless problem September 9, 2010

Note: Photo is not of victim, perpetrator, or anyone associated with the incident described below.

On August 31st, The Associated Press published a story about a North Carolina woman who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend after changing her Facebook status from “single” to “engaged.”  The man then turned the gun onto himself. According to Onslow County Sheriff’s Maj. Donnie Worrell, Jacksonville native Karen Rooney was shot twice in the torso by ex-boyfriend Peter Terrence Moonan, with a .357 caliber handgun.  Moonan and Rooney had previously dated for more than sixteen years, even buying a house together in 2002, before ending their relationship in February of this year.

Neighbors reported that Rooney had already begun dating another man.

What was perhaps most shocking about the incident, however, was not just the suddenness and senselessness of the incident (there had been no previous indications of domestic violence from the couple), but the ages of the persons involved.   Rooney, age 63, was just a year older than Moonan, age 62, and both were just a few years shy of the national retirement age.  Both had apparently remained amicable even after the split, and while family close to Moonan said that he was visibly depressed, there had been no prior indications that he had been dangerous or violently so.

One common domestic violence stereotype is that instances of DV tend to involve young individuals, and usually involve at least one partner with a history of violence, depression, or abuse. However, the incident in Jacksonville serves as a tragic and painful reminder that when it comes to domestic violence, there is no “typical” DV situation; there is no “profile” that can applied, either to perpetrators or victims, and sometimes triggers for domestic violence can be as sudden and without-warning as a simple Facebook status.

As with any tragedy of this nature, there will undoubtedly be a wave of “could-haves” and “should-haves” and “what-ifs,” from all parties affected by the incident.  But if anything is to be learned from this event–and with tragedies such as this, answers are often few and far between–it is perhaps that the issues related to domestic violence are ones that transcend all boundaries; be they race, culture, religion, or age.

It is also worth noting that no incident of depression, particularly surrounding older adults or sudden life/romantic changes, should be treated as trivial or fleeting.  Even in the absence of any history or predilection towards violence or suicide, desperate individuals have, when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, resorted to drastic and desperate actions, often with tragic and heartbreaking results.

But another important aspect of this terrible incident is the role that social networking media, in this case Facebook, played in the tragic events in Jacksonville.  While by no means a “cause” for the incident, it is worth noting that “over-sharing” personal information can sometimes have drastic and unforeseen consequences–particularly information pertaining to one’s personal and intimate relationships.

From a DV perspective, this is especially important, living as we do in an age of digital communication; an age in which stories travel farther and faster than they ever could before.  All too often, information  has a way of getting ahead of us, finding its way into unexpected (and unintended) hands,  sometimes out of context, and very seldom for the better.  Simply managing all this information–both data coming in, and going out–can be confusing enough, even without the added burden of controlling who has access to what.

And when the information being shared consists of the things best kept under wraps or to ourselves–“private matters”, perhaps, if not actually our “secrets”–the need for constant awareness can be that much more important.

Think about the things that you share over social networking media like Facebook and Twitter; the photos you post/are tagged in, the messages that get left on your wall or Tweet history.  Think about the comments that you leave, or that are elicited and left by others, that together make up your electronic “internet personality.”  But beyond just thinking about what this information “says” about you, think carefully about who this information is available to; be they friends or employers, family or lovers.

And, most importantly, think about which bits of information you might share openly with one group, only to guard jealously, even possessively, against access by another.

How do you protect your information, allowing the right information to stay in the right hands, and keeping the wrong information out of the wrong ones?  How might you be vulnerable, and what steps can you take to help protect your personal details from unwanted and unnecessary scrutiny?