Sanctuary for the Abused

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)

Essential Feature

The essential feature of the histrionic personality disorder is a pervasive and excessive pattern of emotionality and attention-seeking behavior. These individuals are lively, dramatic, enthusiastic, and flirtatious. They may be inappropriately sexually provocative, express strong emotions with an impressionistic style, and be easily influenced by others (DSM-IV™, 1994, p. 655).

The ICD-10 (1994, p. 230) describes the histrionic personality disorder as characterized by shallow and labile affect, self-dramatization, exaggerated expression of emotions, suggestibility, egocentricity, self-indulgence, and lack of consideration for others. These individuals may engage in inappropriate seductiveness and overconcern with physical attractiveness. They are easily hurt and seek continuous excitement, attention and appreciation.

Frances, (1995, p. 373) describes individuals with HPD as manipulative, vain, and demanding. However, in addition to the focus on physical appeal, the authors note that there may also be a genetic association between somatization disorder and the histrionic personality disorder. Benjamin (1993, pp. 165-166) believes that HPD falls into two subtypes: 1) those who are flirtatious and focused on physical attractiveness, and 2) those who are concerned with somatic symptoms. The DSM-IV™ Axis II HPD emphasizes the flirtatious version. However, individuals with HPD will vary in the degree to which they are sexually seductive or concerned about physical symptoms.

HPD is commonly co-morbid with conversion disorders, hypochondriasis, dissociative disorders, and affective disorders (Richards, 1993, p. 246). Kernberg (1992, p. 53) suggests that the relationship of HPD to conversion reaction and dissociative symptoms is strongest when the personality disorder is most severe.

Akhtar (1992, p. 259) notes that the current description of HPD corresponds to the previous idea of an infantile personality. These individuals had few sexual inhibitions, were impulsive, experienced identity diffusion and emotional lability, and demonstrated what the author referred to as moral defects. Yet, as described in the DSM-IV, individuals with HPD demonstrate what our society tends to foster and admire -- to be well liked, successful, popular, extroverted, attractive, and sociable (Millon & Davis, 1996, p. 366). In fact, Widiger, (Costa & Widiger, eds., 1994, p. 47) describe HPD as an extreme variant of extroversion. Extroversion involves the tendency to be outgoing, talkative, convivial, warm and affectionate, energetic, and vigorous. In a non-pathological form, extroversion is being high-spirited, buoyant, and optimistic. These factors coalesce into a personality disorder only when the needs behind the behavior are pathologically inflexible, repetitious, and persistent (Millon & Davis, 1996, p. 366). It is then that the corruptibility, manipulativeness, and disinhibited exploitation of others become factors and the personality disordered version of extroversion becomes apparent.

The literature differentiates HPD according to gender. Women with HPD are described as self-centered, self-indulgent, and intensely dependent on others. They are emotionally labile and cling to others in the context of immature relationships. Females with HPD over identify with others; they project their own unrealistic, fantasied intentions onto people with whom they are involved. They are emotionally shallow and have difficulty understanding others or themselves in any depth. Selection of marital or sexual partners is often highly inappropriate. Pathology increases with the level of intimacy in relationships. Women with HPD may show inappropriate and intense anger. They may engage in manipulative suicide threats as one aspect of general manipulative interpersonal behavior (Kernberg, 1992, pp. 58-59).

Males with HPD usually present with identity diffusion, disturbed relationships, and lack of impulse control. They are often promiscuous and bisexual. They have antisocial tendencies and are inclined to exploit physical symptoms. These men are emotionally immature, dramatic, and shallow (Kernberg, 1992, p. 59). Both men and women with HPD engage in disinhibited behavior. This is apparent in females with HPD through affective lability, manipulativeness, and intense, brief relationships. In men with HPD, disinhibition may be expressed through impulsivity, aggressive behavior, drug abuse, interpersonal exploitation, and numerous shallow sexual relationships (Frances, et. al., 1995, p. 373). If the aggressive, impulsive, and exploitative behavior become dominant in men with HPD, differentiation from the antisocial personality disorder can become problematic. There are questions raised in the literature as to whether or not HPD is a female variant of APD in men. However, as currently described in the DSM-IV™, the two are differentiated by the need to please and inclination to seek reassurance found in men or women with HPD and the more calculating and indifferent determination to exploit others found in APD. Also, a diagnosis of HPD does not require adolescent correlates of antisocial behavior as does the diagnosis of APD.

Individuals with HPD may decompensate in later adult years due to the cumulative effects of: 1) the incapacity to pursue personal, professional, cultural, and social values; 2) the frequent disruption of and failure in intimate relationships; and 3) identity diffusion. These factors interfere with ordinary social learning and consequences grow more severe with age. The usual course of untreated HPD is precarious as life opportunities are missed or destroyed (Kernberg, 1992, p. 65).


Individuals with HPD view themselves as gregarious, sociable, friendly, and agreeable. They consider themselves to be charming, stimulating, and well-liked. They value the capacity to attract people via their physical appearance and by appearing to be interesting and active people. For individuals with HPD, indications of internal distress, weakness, depression, or hostility are denied or suppressed and are not included in their sense of themselves (Millon & Davis, 1996, p. 369).

For individuals with HPD, vanity and seductiveness function to bolster and maintain self-esteem; they often become overinvested in how they look and dread aging (McWilliams, 1994, pp. 312). Growing old violates the view of themselves as glamorous and attractive people who are admired by others.

The HPD self is experienced as a small, fearful, and defective child who has to cope in a world dominated by powerful others (McWilliams, 1994, p. 310). For example, one professional man, diagnosed with HPD, repeatedly dreamed that he was a Volkswagen Beetle trying to keep up with larger, more powerful cars on an area freeway.

Individuals with HPD are consumed with attention to superficialities and spend little time or attention on their internal life. Because they know themselves so little, they often have no sense of who they are apart from their identification with others. They are able to change their attitudes and values depending upon the views of significant others in their lives. These individuals also fail to attend the details and specifics of their experiences. They have, accordingly, memories that are diffuse and general with a tremendous lack of detail (Will, Retzlaff, ed., 1995, p. 99).

View of Others

Individuals with HPD experience others as powerful and capable in relation to their own sense of being a small, fearful, and defective child (McWilliams, 1994, p. 310). This view of themselves as less powerful allows these individuals to absolve themselves from responsibility for their own behavior and to engage in manipulative behavior with others to force attention and care-taking They will behave in a seductive and enticing manner until they are denied what they are seeking. Individuals with HPD become intensely angry toward others they see as withholding.

Individuals with HPD focus on others to the point that they obtain their own identity from those to whom they are attached. Yet the attention they focus on others does not allow them to gain understanding of others or to become effectively empathic. Their intense observation skills are dedicated to determining what behaviors, attitudes, or feelings are most likely to result in winning the admiration and approval of others. Essentially, these individuals watch other people watch them. Their actual focus is on how they are doing and how they are being received by others. As a result, they are not particularly effective in understanding how others are feeling. Individuals with HPD are inclined to define relationships with or connections to others as closer or more significant than they really are. They do not see when they are being humored or placated by people who may have lost patience with their relentless need for attention and the failure to relate in a genuine way. Others may eventually withhold their own efforts to relate to individuals with HPD once they become aware that there is no real attempt to connect -- rather there is a continuing demand to be attended to and admired. Basically, it is analogous to how well the actor or actress actually "knows" their audience beyond reading whether or not the performance is being well received.


The HPD failure to view others realistically is reflected by their difficulties in developing and sustaining satisfactory relationships. Individuals with HPD tend to have stormy relationships that start out as ideal and end up as disasters (Beck, 1990, p. 214). These individuals are unable to tolerate isolation; when alone, they feel desperate and are unable to wait for new relationships to develop gradually (Horowitz, Horowitz, ed., 1991, p. 4). They will idealize the significant other early in the relationship and often see the connection as more intimate than it really is. If the significant others begin to distance themselves from the incessant demands, individuals with HPD will use dramatics and demonstrativeness to bind these people to the relationship. They will resort to crying, coercion, temper tantrums, assaultive behavior and suicidal gestures to avoid rejection (Beck, 1990, p. 51).

Even though individuals with HPD will attempt to bind others to them, they are often dissatisfied with single attachments. They tend to be lacking in fidelity and loyalty; they are seductive, dramatic, and capricious in personal relationships (Millon & Davis, 1996, p. 357). Their interpersonal dependency is not expressed through faithfulness and commitment. They start relationships well but falter when depth and durability are needed. There is a paradox in HPD relationships of coercive dependency and infidelity.

On the surface, in HPD relationships, there is warmth, energy, and responsiveness. Covertly, this behavior is accompanied by a "secretly disrespectful agenda of forcing delivery of the desired nurturance and love. . .manipulative suicidal attempts are examples of such coercions" (Benjamin, 1993, p. 173). Individuals with HPD have a strong fear of being ignored; they long to be loved and taken care of by someone who is both powerful and able to be controlled through the use of charm and seductiveness. They become helpless and childlike when faced with potential rejection (McWilliams, 1992, p. 307).

All people have dependency needs. It is the way these needs are expressed that differentiates personality-disordered individuals. Individuals with HPD tend to express dependency needs in a more uncontrolled, unmodulated, and exploitative manner (Bornstein, Costello, ed., pp. 122-123). Pathological manifestations of dependency needs include intense fears of abandonment, passive, helpless behaviors in intimate relationships, and phobic symptoms aimed at minimizing separation (Bornstein, Costello, ed., pp. 130-132). These behaviors lead to interpersonal conflict, rejection, and isolation which triggers even more pathological expression of the maladaptive responses.

Parents with HPD are inclined to use manipulative behaviors to focus their childrens‘ attention on parental needs and to evade arduous parental responsibilities while maintaining the appearance of being loving and involved. This can result in exploitation of and failure to protect children from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.

Benjamin (1993, p. 174) notes that both borderline personality disordered and histrionic personality disordered individuals engage in coercive dependency; however, the coercion and dependency appear simultaneously in HPD and switch from one to the other in BPD. Individuals with HPD mask their control and contempt in a complex combination of neediness and attractiveness.

Issues With Authority

Individuals with HPD will engage in illegal behavior with little internal moral restraint. They are often able to evade negative consequences through the appeal of their interpersonal behavior. They are not inclined to be assaultive, argumentative, or aggressive with authority figures. They are engaging, responsive, and enthusiastic. They frequently tell people they see as powerful, i.e., in authority, how wonderful, effective, competent, etc. they are. For individuals with HPD, misinformation in the service of making someone else happy is fine; that is, they are quite at ease with evasion and dishonesty.

HPD Behavior

Individuals with HPD are overreactive, volatile, provocative, and engaging in their behavior. They are intolerant of inactivity, impulsive, emotional, and responsive. They have a penchant for momentary excitements, fleeting adventures, and ill advised hedonism (Donat, Retzlaff, ed., 1995, p. 47). The HPD behavioral style is charming, dramatic, expressive, demanding, self-indulgent, and inconsiderate (Sperry, 1995, p. 97). They tend to be capricious, easily excited, and intolerant of frustration, delay, and disappointment. The words and feelings they express appear shallow and simulated rather than real or deep (Millon & Davis, 1996, pp. 366-367).

These individuals can be quite effective in situations where a first impression is important and vague expression of ideas is preferred over precision. They are less effective where performance is measured by objective measures of competence, diligence, thoroughness, and depth. Acting, marketing, politics, and the arts are fields where individuals with HPD will do well and manage competition effectively (Richards, 1993, p. 246).

The body, erotically or via illness, is often used by individuals with HPD to attract the attention of others (Horowitz, Horowitz, ed., 1991, p. 5). They will engage in inappropriately exaggerated smiles and continuous elaborate hand gestures. Movement and expressions are designed to have a pleasing effect (Turkat, 1990, pp. 72-73).

Individuals with HPD are fraudulent insofar as their inner emptiness is in contradiction to the impressions they seek to convey to others. They hide their true cognitive sterility and emotional poverty (Millon & Davis, 1996, p. 370). HPD cognition is global, diffuse, and impressionistic; these individuals appear incapable of sustained intellectual concentration; they are distractable and suggestible (Beck, 1990, p. 215). They avoid introspective thought. They are attentive to fleeting and superficial events but integrate their experience poorly with a cursory cognitive style. They lack genuine curiosity and have habits of superficiality and dilettantism. They avoid potentially disruptive ideas and urges by dissociating from thoughts, people, and activities that threaten their view of themselves or the world (Millon & Davis, 1996, p. 369).

Individuals with dependent personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder share important traits: they both turn to others for protection and the rewards of life; they are socially affable and share an intense need for attention and affection. Individuals with HPD have a more vigorous and manipulative style; these people will take the initiative in assuring that attention is forthcoming. They will actively solicit the interest of others through a series of seductive behaviors (Millon & Davis, 1996, p. 357).

Affective Issues

Individuals with HPD express their emotions intensely yet remain unconvincing. They appear warm, charming, and seductive, yet their feelings appear to lack depth and genuineness (Beck, 1990, p. 213). They have an infantile quality in their emotional expression. They experience exaggerated feelings that change frequently. They become so involved in their emotional dramas that they are unaware of or are uninformed about the world they live in. They cannot stand frustration, disappointment, or delayed gratification (Oldham, 1990, pp. 143-144).

Individuals with HPD are subject to distortion in their emotional reasoning. They accept their emotions as evidence of truth rather than just a statement about their current emotional state (Will, Retzlaff, ed., 1995, p. 99).

People with HPD experience recurrent flooding of affect. Somatic preoccupations and sudden enraged, despairing, or fearful states may occur. Patience is rare and these individuals may use alcohol or other drugs to quickly alter states of negative feeling (Horowitz, Horowitz, ed., 1991, p. 4).

Defensive Structure

HPD defenses include dissociative mechanisms. Individuals with HPD regularly alter and recompose themselves to create a socially attractive but changing facade. They engage in self-distracting activities to avoid reflecting on and integrating unpleasant thoughts and feelings (Kubacki & Smith, Retzlaff, ed., 1995, p. 168). Repression is also a HPD defense; frequent splitting off from conscious awareness of self results in an intrapsychic impoverishment; psychological growth is precluded. These individuals remain immature and childlike in their behavior. Through repression, individuals with HPD remain unaware that their thoughts and feelings are attached to their behavior. Accordingly, they claim innocence when their conduct results in interpersonal conflict (Kubacki & Smith, Retzlaff, ed., 1995, p. 171).

Millon (Millon & Davis, 1996, pp. 369-370) also noted the HPD defense mechanisms of dissociation and repression. Individuals with HPD are attuned to external rather than internal events. They dissociate entire segments of memory and feelings that prompt discomfort. They, in particular, must keep away from awareness the triviality of their entire being, its pervasive emptiness and paucity of substance (Millon & Davis, 1996, pp. 369-370).

McWilliams (1994, pp. 304-307) describes the organizing defenses of HPD as repression, sexualization, and regression. Individuals with HPD will also behave in a counterphobic manner; they approach what they fear. However, they may become helpless and childlike when faced with potential abusers.
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Friday, June 16, 2006


Criminal offense of having two or more wives or husbands at the same time.

The wilful contracting of a second marriage when the contracting party knows that the first is still subsisting; or it is the state of a man who has two wives, or of a woman who has two hushands living at the same time. When the man has more than two wives, or the woman more than two hushands living at the same time, then the party is said to have committed polygamy, but the name of bigamy is more frequently given to this offence in legal proceedings.

The crime of marrying during the continuance of a lawful marriage. Bigamy is not committed if a prior marriage has been terminated by a divorce or a decree of nullity of marriage . In the United States if a husband or wife is absent and unheard of for seven (or in some states five) years and not known to be alive, he or she is presumed dead, and remarriage by the other spouse is not bigamous.

In England this crime is punishable by statute which makes the offence felony but it exempts from punishment the party whose husband or wife shall continue to remain absent for seven years before the second marriage, without being heard from, and persons who shall have been legally divorced. The statutory provisions in the U.S. against bigamy or polygamy, are in general similar to, and copied from the statute of 1 Jac.1, c.11, excepting as to the punishment. The several exceptions to this statute are also nearly the same in the American statutes, but the punishment of the offence is different in many of the states.

According to the canonists, bigamy is three-fold, viz.: (vera, interpretative, et similitudinaria,) real, interpretative and similitudinary. The first consisted in marrying two wives successively, (virgins they may be,) or in once marrying a widow; the second consisted, not in a repeated marriage, but in marrying (v.g. meretricem vel ab alio corruptam) a harlot; the third arose from two marriages indeed, but the one metaphorical or spiritual, the other carnal. This last was confined to persons initiated in sacred orders, or under the vow Of continence.

Two U.K. sites regarding Victims of Bigamy CLICK HERE and HERE

A current story in the U.S. News about Bigamy (still in COURT!!) CLICK HERE

A police officer charged with Bigamy in 2002 CLICK HERE
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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cyberstalking: Dangers on the Information Superhighway

By: Trudy M. Gregorie, Director of Training, National Center for Victims of Crime

Although there is no universally accepted definition of cyberstalking, the term is generally used to refer to the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other telecommunication technologies to harass or stalk another person. It is not the mere annoyance of unsolicited e-mail. It is methodical, deliberate, and persistent. The communications, whether from someone known or unknown, do not stop even after the recipient has asked the sender to cease all contacts, and are often filled with inappropriate, and sometimes disturbing, content. Essentially, cyberstalking is an extension of the physical form of stalking.

Most state and federal stalking laws require that the stalker make a direct threat of violence against the victim, while some require only that the alleged stalker’s course of conduct constitute an implied threat. Although some cyberstalking conduct involving annoying or menacing behavior might fall short of illegal stalking under current laws, such behavior may be a prelude to real-life stalking and violence and should be treated seriously. Cyberstalking has the potential to move from a URL address to a real address—from virtual to actual.

In a 1999 U.S. Department of Justice report, Cyberstalking: A New Challenge for Law Enforcement and Industry, cyberstalking is identified as a growing problem.1 According to the report, there are currently more than 80 million adults and 10 million children with access to the Internet in the United States. Assuming the proportion of cyberstalking victims is even a fraction of the proportion of persons who have been the victims of off-line stalking within the preceding 12 months, the report estimates there may potentially be tens or even hundreds of thousands of cyberstalking victims in the United States.

Criminal Conduct
Experienced prosecutors are also beginning to recognize the dangers on the information superhighway. Linda Fairstein, Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a Board member of the National Center for Victims of Crime, has said, "By the use of new technology and equipment which cannot be policed by traditional methods, cyberstalking has replaced traditional methods of stalking and harassment. In addition, cyberstalking has led to off-line incidents of violent crime. Police and prosecutors need to be aware of the escalating numbers of these events and devise strategies to resolve these problems through the criminal justice system."2

Cyberstalking victims who call the National Center for Victims of Crime often complain of not being taken seriously or of not even being recognized as victims by law enforcement agencies they have contacted. Responding to a victim’s complaint by saying "you can’t be hurt on the Internet—it’s just words" or "just turn off your computer" is not acceptable or responsible. It’s unreasonable to expect cyberstalking victims to walk away from their on-line activities, which may comprise their professional career, in order to avoid this kind of problem. On-line harassment and threats are just as frightening and distressing as off-line harassment and threats.

A recent incident described in the Cyberstalking Report from the U.S. Attorney General is typical of the lack of law enforcement training and expertise that can be so frustrating for victims.3 A woman complained to a local police agency that a man had been posting information on the Internet claiming that her nine-year-old daughter was available for sex, and including their home phone number with instructions to call 24 hours a day. Numerous calls were received. Although every call was reported to local police by the family, the police officer simply advised them to change their phone number. Subsequently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was contacted and they opened an investigation.
The FBI discovered that the local police agency did not have a computer expert, and the responding police officer had never been on the Internet. The local agency’s lack of familiarity and resources may have resulted in a failure to understand the seriousness of the problem and the options available to law enforcement to respond.

The lack of state-of-the-art technology and an adequately trained, experienced workforce are two of the greatest challenges for law enforcement and prosecutors faced with investigating and trying cybercrime cases. The criminal justice system must become more sensitive to cyberstalking complaints, and the genuine threat that such stalking poses, and must devote the necessary training and resources to allow proper investigation and prosecution.

Ready Access
The only thing a cyberstalker needs is access to a computer and a modem. Due to the enormous amount of personal information available through the Internet, a cyberstalker can easily locate private information about a potential victim with a few mouse clicks or key strokes. Information is power, and stalking of any kind is all about power and control. There is little security on-line. Turning on a computer can expose anyone to harassment. Everyone who receives e-mail or uses the Internet is susceptible to cyberstalking.

Internet users are most vulnerable in cyberspace areas in which they interact with others. These include chat or Internet relay chat lines, message boards or newsgroups, where Internet users post messages back and forth, and users’ e-mail boxes. E-mail harassment usually begins with initial contact in live chat or newsgroup situations.

Cyberstalkers use a variety of techniques. They may initially use the Internet to identify and track their victims. They may then send unsolicited e-mail, including hate, obscene, or threatening mail. Live chat harassment abuses the victim directly or through electronic sabotage (for example, flooding the Internet chat channel to disrupt the victim’s conversation). With newsgroups, the cyberstalker can create postings about the victim or start rumors that spread through the bulletin board system. Cyberstalkers may also set up a web page on the victim with personal or fictitious information or solicitations to readers. Another technique is to assume the victim’s persona on-line, such as in chat rooms, for the purpose of sullying the victim’s reputation, posting details about the victim, or soliciting unwanted contacts from others. More complex forms of harassment include mailbombs (mass messages that virtually shutdown the victim’s e-mail system by clogging it), sending the victim computer virii, or sending electronic junk mail (spamming). There is a clear difference between the annoyance of unsolicited e-mail and on-line harassment. Unsolicited e-mail is to be expected from time to time. However, cyberstalking is a course of conduct that takes place over a period of time and involves repeated, deliberate attempts to cause distress to the victim.

People who do not have access to the Internet, or who choose not to go on-line, are not immune from cyberbased crime. Databases of personal information available on the Internet can enable a stalker to trace a victim’s user name to their real name, address, telephone number, and other personal information, or can enable a stalker to impersonate the victim on-line. The offender can then harass the victim on the computer via e-mail or at home through mail, telephone calls, or even by appearing at the victim’s home or workplace. Telecommunication technologies also make it much easier for a cyberstalker to encourage third parties to harass and/or threaten a victim.

For example, in the first successful prosecution under California’s new cyberstalking law, prosecutors in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office obtained a guilty plea from a 50-year old former security guard who used the Internet to solicit the rape of a woman who rejected his romantic advances. The defendant terrorized his 28-year old victim, who had never been on-line and did not even own a computer, by impersonating her in various Internet chat rooms and on-line bulletin boards, where he posted, along with her phone number and address, messages that she fantasized about being raped. On at least six occasions, sometimes in the middle of the night, men knocked on the victim’s door offering to rape her in response to the Internet "personal ad." The defendant pleaded guilty in April 1999 to one count of stalking and three counts of solicitation of sexual assault. As a result of the stalker’s actions, the victim was eventually forced from her apartment, lost her job, suffered significant weight loss, and developed a fear of going outside of her residence.4

Most of the cyberstalking cases that have been prosecuted did not involve technically complex forms of stalking, and e-mail was simply being used as an alternative form of communication. However, this is not always the case. The availability of anonymizing software provides a high degree of protection for stalkers seeking to cover their tracks more effectively. Examples of these types of technologies are "anonymous re-mailers," which automatically shield the sender’s identity with pseudonyms and send the e-mail through servers that instantly erase digital tracks to prevent later access by anyone, even law enforcement. Another example is Stratfor’s Shredder, a software program for Windows 95 that acts like an electronic paper shredder that automatically overwrites deleted files, including all the routine computer backups.5 The more complex software and computer technologies become, the easier it is for cyberstalkers to operate anonymously, and the more difficult it is for law enforcement to investigate and collect enough evidence to support prosecutions.

In order to address cyberstalking, it is critical to understand stalking in general. In many cases, cyberstalking is simply another phase in an overall stalking pattern, or it is regular stalking behavior using new technological tools. Therefore, strategies and interventions that have been developed to respond to off-line stalking can often be adapted to on-line stalking situations. There are federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies which have begun to focus on stalking, and some have recently developed special task forces to deal with cyberstalking.

As with all stalking, the greatest trauma is the faceless terror that it brings into a victim’s life—24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Internet becomes an electronic curtain behind which the stalker hides while terrorizing the victim at home and work, with friends and neighbors, and with countless people that the victim does not even know. Cyberstalkers may be located on the other side of the world, across the country, across the street, or in the next cubicle at work. They could be a former friend or lover, a total stranger met in a chat room, or simply a teenager playing a practical joke. The inability to identify the source of the harassment or threats is one of the most ominous aspects of this crime for a cyberstalking victim.

The fact that cyberstalking does not involve physical contact may create the misperception that it is less threatening or dangerous than physical stalking. Cyberstalking is just as frightening and potentially dangerous as a stalker at the victim’s front door. The psychological torment is very real, even in the absence of a distinct physical threat. It totally disrupts a victim’s life and peace of mind. Cyberstalking presents a range of physical, emotional, and psychological trauma for the victim, who may begin to develop or experience:

Sleep disturbances;

Recurring nightmares;

Eating pattern disturbances;


High levels of stress;

A feeling of being out of control; and/or

A pervasive sense of the loss of personal safety.

Recent Responses
On January 10, 2000, in a keynote speech, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno described the Internet and other information technologies as bringing enormous benefits to society, yet also providing new opportunities for criminal behavior. She proposed a round-the-clock cybercrime network of crime enforcement personnel, regional computer forensic laboratories to analyze seized computers for evidence of unlawful activity, and a secure on-line clearinghouse that would allow federal, state, and local law enforcement to share information about cybercases.6

As part of the 2000 Violence Against Women Act, Congress extended the federal interstate stalking statute to include cyberstalking, 18 U.S.C. §2261 A. In 2000, Congress also passed the Amy Boyer’s Law, 42 U.S.C. Section 1320 B – 23 (P.L. 106 – 553), which prohibits the sale or display of an individual’s social security number to the public, including sales over the Internet, without the person’s expressed consent, submitted either electronically or in writing. The law allows a person harmed by wrongful release of a social security number to sue the seller or displayer for equitable relief and monetary damages in U.S. district court. In addition, the Social Security Commissioner can impose on any such violator a civil penalty of $5,000 for each violation, with increased penalties (maximum of $50,000) if the violations constitute a general business practice. This new law applies to violations effective on December 21, 2002, two years after its enactment.

Amy Boyer’s Law is named after a young woman who was murdered after her stalker purchased her social security number over the Internet. With that information, he was able to locate her license plate number and place of employment. He detailed his plans to kill her on a web site posted under her name. Within minutes of his last web site entry, he drove to her workplace and executed her as she got into her car.

States have also begun to respond to cyberstalking by adding provisions to their current stalking and harassment laws that criminalize "stalking by electronic means" or "the use of computer equipment for the purposes of stalking."7 About half of the states currently have language in their laws that specifically address harassing electronic, computer, or e-mail communications. Other states’ laws contain broad language that can be interpreted to encompass cyberstalking behavior. Some have statutes prohibiting harassment via computer contact, while others have stalking statutes that include electronic communications. A few have both stalking and harassment statutes that encompass electronic communications. Other states have laws, outside of stalking or harassment, that criminalize computer communications or e-mail misuse. Some have statutes that prohibit making threats through e-mail or "electronically submitted communications."

Victims of on-line harassment and threats, often in collaboration with victim service providers, have had to fill the void of available resources and assistance by developing their own informal support networks and informational web sites to share strategies about how to respond to these crimes. One such program is Women Halting Online Abuse (WHOA), which was founded by women to educate the Internet community about on-line harassment. WHOA also educates the on-line community to develop web site resources, including the creation of a safe-site and unsafe-site list to enable Internet users to make informed decisions, and providing information about how users can protect themselves against on-line harassment.

You can contact WHOA at:
E-mail address:;

Other on-line resources include:

CyberAngels: A nonprofit group devoted to assisting victims of on-line harassment and stalking.

Safety Ed International : A nonprofit organization assisting the Internet community and providing specific advice, resources, and information to victims being harassed or stalked on-line.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse : A nonprofit consumer and advocacy program that offers consumers a unique opportunity to learn how to protect their personal privacy. PRC’s services include a hotline for consumers to report privacy abuses and to request information on ways to protect their privacy. They have also produced fact sheets on privacy issues including Factsheet # 14, entitled "Are You Being Stalked? Tips for Your Protection" and Factsheet # 18, entitled, "Privacy in Cyberspace."

Online Privacy Alliance : A coalition of more than 80 global companies and associations committed to promoting the privacy of individuals on-line. Its purpose is to define privacy policy for the new electronic medium and foster an on-line environment that respects consumer privacy. Available on this web site are resources for consumers, model Internet privacy policies, and news stories about recent on-line privacy violations and issues.

Network Solutions’ WHOIS : An Internet company which provides searches in its registrar database to assist persons in determining the contents of a domain name registration record found in the header of a received e-mail. The result will provide the contact information for sender’s Internet service provider.

Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Affairs Department : A resource site for consumer information from the federal government, including contact information if you have been the victim of identity theft or misuse of a social security number and fraudulent credit card accounts.
FTC hotline : 1-877-IDTHEFT

Social Security Number Fraud Line : 800-269-0271

Recommendations for Victims of On-line Stalking
If you are being harassed on-line, there are several things you should do:

1. If you are under 18, tell your parents or an adult you trust that you are being harassed or threatened. Do not keep this to yourself. Parents must know what is going on to be able to help and support you.

2. If you are getting harassing e-mail, get a new account or request a new log-on name and password from your Internet service provider. Close your old account. Learn how to use the filtering capabilities of your e-mail program to block e-mail from certain addresses.

3. Save every piece of communication you get from the cyberstalker. Save all of the header information you can if it’s an e-mail or newsgroup posting. Print a hard copy, and copy the communication to a disk for documentation.

4. Start a log of each communication explaining the situation in more detail. Document how the harassment is affecting your life and what steps you’re taking to stop it.

5. Once and only once, contact your harasser directly and state in simple, strong, and formal terms to stop contacting you. State that the communications are unwanted and inappropriate, and that you will take further action if it does not stop. E-mail a copy to the system administrator of your Internet service provider. Save copies of these communications, and note that you sent them in your log.

6. If you receive harassing on-line messages and it is possible to trace the origin of the unwanted message and you have informed the sender that you do not want to be contacted, you may want to consider reporting the on-line stalker to the Internet service provider (ISP) because many ISPs have policies that prohibit the use of their services to harass or abuse another person. Some ISPs may be willing to cancel the stalker’s account. If you receive abusive e-mail, identify the domain (letters after the @ sign) and contact the ISP. Most ISPs have an e-mail address such as abuse@[domain name] or postmaster@[domain name] that can be used for complaints. If that does not work, you can usually find contact addresses by going to (do a "who is" search on whatever ISP you need). If e-mail complaints don’t work, make a phone call. Save copies of these communications, and note all contacts in your log.

Keep in mind, however, that this may be just a short-term fix or may even exacerbate the situation if the stalker discovers that you notified the ISP. [Under those circumstances, he/she may attempt to retaliate against you or begin/continue to stalk you off-line. Regardless of whether the on-line stalking ceases, you need to be aware that the stalker may have obtained personal information on you via the Internet or through other sources, and, consequently, you may be still at risk for off-line stalking, in which case you need to do appropriate safety planning.]

7. Contact your local police. Report every incident of on-line abuse and provide the police with copies of evidence you have collected. Save copies of any police incident reports, and note each contact to law enforcement in your log. If the stalker is out of state, you should also contact your local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Call the FBI Computer Crimes Unit in your local area. [The Federal Interstate Stalking and Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2261A, was amended in 2000 to cover on-line stalking as well as stalking by phone and mail. Also, some on-line stalking cases may fall under 18 U.S.C. Section 875, Interstate Communications (to make threats to physically harm or kidnap another person in interstate communications is a felony) or 47 U.S.C. Section 223, Obscene or Harassing Telephone Calls in Interstate Communications.]

In order to better protect yourself on-line:

Use a gender-neutral screen name.

Never give your password to anyone, especially if someone sends you an instant message (IM).

Don’t provide your credit card number or other identifying information as proof of age to access or subscribe to a web site run by a company with which you are unfamiliar.

Tell children not give out their real name, address, or phone number over the Internet without permission.

Use a free e-mail account such as Hotmail ( or YAHOO! ( to pass messages in newsgroups, mailing listings, enter chat rooms, fill out forms, or correspond with someone you don’t know well.

Don’t give your primary e-mail address out to anyone you don’t know.

Spend time on newsgroups, mailing lists, and chat rooms as a "silent" observer before "speaking" or posting messages.

When you do participate on-line, only type what you would say to someone in person.

Don’t respond to e-mail from a stranger; when you reply, you are verifying your e-mail address to the sender.

On a regular basis (at least once a month), type your name into Internet search engines to see what information, if any, pops up. To have your name removed from any directories, contact each search engine on which you are listed and request to be removed.

(Tips #1 – 8 were developed by the George Mason University Sexual Assault Services, 1999.)
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Thursday, June 08, 2006

My Top Ten Rules For Avoiding Abuse

10. Learn from all your past experiences, whether they be twenty years ago or twenty minutes ago, and whether they were good or bad. In the case of good, notice what you did right, and if bad, notice what you needed that you didn't have available, and add it, then install it in your future. See my ebook, particularly chapter 16, for how to do it.

9. Strengthen your boundaries, and extend them outward further than they have been, because if you've been abused before, you haven't had strong enough ones, nor were they extended far enough. Have a buffer zone in your boundaries, a warning zone, far out from where you could be hurt. And enforce them.

8. Get distance from any boundary invader, and keep them that far away. You don't have to be close to those who are invasive. There are millions of people in the world who will treat you respectfully, hang out with some of them instead.

7. Focus on your own needs and make sure they are met. Don't be so nice to people who don't reciprocate or who take advantage.

6. Figure out precisely what you actually want in a partner or friend, and look for someone like that. Don't go for anything less. Don't even date anything less. If he/she needs some work to bring them up to standard, pass them by. Let someone else fix them. Go for one that works without tweaking.

5. Raise your standards for how you treat yourself, and for how you allow yourself to be treated. If you value yourself, and live like you do, others are more likely to value you, and treat you accordingly.

4. Remember that you are educating the people around you all the time as to how to treat you. If they've gotten the wrong idea about it, re-educate them. All you have to do to change their behavior is to change yours.

3. Practice saying no. Practice saying it looking in the mirror, say it 100 times a day. Practice with friends and co-workers, practice with your family, until it's easy. Then use it.

2. Remember Juliet's Rule: 1. Never start before you're ready. 2. People will do to you what you let them.

1. Trust your gut. If your gut tells you you're not comfortable being around someone, or with their treatment of you, get away, and stay away. You don't need to be able to understand it or explain it. Trust your early warning systems. They're there to protect you.

Pat Gundry
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Monday, June 05, 2006


3 strategies to avoid arguments.

Well, the strategies to avoid arguments drew arguments ... so, I thought it best to respond for the sake of creating peace in the world ....

I received the following note:
"I have a very hard time accepting how you would encourage someone to accept verbal abuse. Whether or not the spouse erred in saying or doing something, that person still does not deserve to be degraded for ANY reason. It is not enough to say silently to yourself that your spouse is insane.

Verbal abuse will wear down a person as well as the marriage. No matter how strong you are, pain is still felt. Although the scars from verbal abuse may not be visually seen, they are no different from physical scars from physical abuse."

Of course the writer is right; one should not be the object of verbal abuse and it is 100% wrong to verbally abuse someone. If it is a chronic situation, definitely counseling is vital. A person who is being verbally abused has to make a choice to either stay in the relationship or get out of the relationship. Oftentimes, it is very difficult to get out of a relationship. Then a person has to work out strategies to make the best of the situation. It is far better to reframe that the abuser is temporarily insane than to think the person is normal and his verbal abuse has merit; it will lessen a person from wearing down. (site owner: I disagree with this VEHEMENTLY as it minimizes & oks the abuse!!)

Ask yourself a question: Is a person who verbally abuses his spouse insane or sane? Here is the person (we'll use a husband for example) he chose to marry, to be the mother of his children, his life partner and he is verbally abusing her? Is that sane? Will it lead to fixing the situation, greater love, greater harmony in the relationship, a better atmosphere for the children? What will it sanely accomplish? Zero, zip, zilch - just a power ego-trip that won't even make the abuser feel better. Is that insane?

If yes, then isn't it better to see that and recognize that as the source rather than thinking the spouse is correct in his words - which will be far more damaging and wearing to the one who is abused?

A person who is being verbally abused has two options - keep quiet or speak up. If he or she speaks up more than likely it is oil on the fire -a person can try speaking up and see if the verbal abuser is open to reason and to being reasonable. However, it seems to me that it is unlikely that the abuser will calm down and be less abusive. Only trying will tell.

If the abuser is only incited by the victim speaking up, then keeping quiet is the better option. It will cause far less wear and tear on the victim. Angry exchanges only damage health and psyche and accomplish little other than the self-esteem of standing up for oneself - and that may be a pyrrhic victory.

The best thing is to get counseling to improve the situation. If the situation can't be improved, then one has to make the decision whether or not to stay in the relationship. And if one decides to stay in the relationship, then it might well be better for personal survival to view one's spouse as insane - perhaps temporarily insane - so as to lessen the impact of the verbal abuse. It is understood that it is often difficult to not respond, to remain calm and centered.

KORACH (Torah portion)

When Moshe reprimands Korach for seeking the priesthood, he concludes:

"Therefore, you and your congregation who gather together are against the Almighty; and Aharon, who is he that you complain against him?" (Numbers 16:11).

What did Moshe mean when he said, "and Aharon, who is he"?

Rabbi Shlomo Kluger comments that when someone verbally abuses a very distinguished personage and then disparages a common person, the common person won't take great offense. This is what Moshe was saying to Korach: Since you are really complaining against the Almighty, how can your words hurt Aharon? He will easily remain oblivious to what you say since he sees that you also have complaints against the Almighty.

Our lesson: When we come in contact with a very critical person, we need not take offense at what he says. This is the way he speaks to all people so there is no reason to take it personally. Realize that the problem is his, not yours, and you free yourself from any possible hurt feelings from what he says.

from AISH
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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Violence Against Women with Disabilities
By Marc Dubin

Violence against women with disabilities is a subject that needs to be discussed within the disability movement and within groups addressing violence against women. Furthermore, there is a need for collaborative efforts between disability advocates and members of the criminal justice community.

This article will primarily address crime victims with labels of mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. It should be noted, however, that crime victims with other disabilities are also entitled to a better response by service providers and law enforcement, including the provision of sign language interpreters, removal of architectural barriers, and policy modifications such as allowing an individual with a service animal into areas with a designated “no pets” policy.

For far too long, crime victims with disabilities have been denied services and suffered the consequences of victimization. In a recent survey conducted by Oregon Health & Science University, 30% of women with disabilities said abuse was a barrier to employment, 64% said abuse kept them from taking care of their health and 61% reported that abuse prevented them from living independently. (See Abuse of People With Disabilities, Doc. No. 2868 at

For far too long, disability advocates have remained silent. We need to educate survivors, service providers, the disability community, and the criminal justice community. Communities Against Violence Network (cavnet) provides a way to do this.

The Nature and Scope of the Problem
Women with labels of mental retardation and other developmental disabilities are vulnerable to abuse by caretakers, family members, and strangers. Alarmingly, the few studies that have examined this group have found rates of criminal victimization that are far higher than those of other women.

One study found that 70% of women with developmental disabilities had been sexually assaulted, and that nearly 50% of women with mental retardation had been sexually assaulted ten or more times. (Sobsey and Doe, 1991). This represents a 50% higher rate of victimization than the rest of the population. Children with disabilities are also at greater risk. A study of children with disabilities found that they were many times as likely to be victims of physical abuse as children without disabilities. (Crosse, et al. 1993).

Despite such high rates of victimization, few of these cases come to the attention of law enforcement or service providers. We need to ask why, and we need to do something about it. Fortunately, resources do exist, as do collaborative models.

The Report
Police officers are not always the first responders to crime victims with disabilities. When an individual is in an institution or group home setting, staff are often the first to observe the effects of abuse. It is important to train staff that suspicions of abuse must be reported — and the report should be in writing with as much specificity as possible. The date, time, and place of the incident must be noted, as well as the names of any witnesses. All staff and residents should be confident that such reports are taken seriously, and all reports should be forwarded to law enforcement for review. Photographs of injuries should be taken and enclosed with the abuse report. If the victim is nonverbal, or has a cognitive disability, the report should note this, and should indicate how staff communicates with the individual.

Efforts should be made to develop a relationship with local law enforcement in advance of any reports — the police should have a 24-hour contact number for the facility, and the facility should designate a contact person who regularly attends community meetings concerning crime victim issues. In this way, collaborative relationships can be fostered, and law enforcement can be confident that they will be able to appropriately address the needs of a crime victim with a disability.

The Investigation
Too often, law enforcement declines to make an arrest, citing an inability to interview the victim adequately, or citing a lack of confidence that the local prosecutor will go forward with the prosecution. This failure results in a reduction in reporting, as victims eventually come to believe that their complaints will not be taken seriously. What can be done to overcome this?

First, disability advocates can develop cooperative working relationships with their local law enforcement community. Meet with the local police department; meet with the local prosecutor. Let them know what service you provide, and how willing you are to assist them. Identify the group homes and institutions in your community and share this information with police.

When an officer gets a call to respond to an address that houses individuals with developmental disabilities, the response needs to be different than a traditional call. Compound questions such as “Who were you with and what happened?” may tend to confuse an individual with a mild or moderate cognitive disability. It is also important that leading questions, which may be easily answered in the affirmative, should not be used. Questions need to be broken down into simple terms, and the officer needs to change the language of the question until she is understood.

Some persons with cognitive disabilities choose to intentionally hide their disability; officers need to be trained to recognize this. In addition, the perpetrator may be a staff member, and the responding officers need to be prepared for this. If the victim has a communication or cognitive disorder, the disability advocate should be prepared to assist the officer in understanding how the victim best communicates. These discussions are best done in advance, so that officers will know who to call for assistance.

The Prosecution
It is essential that disability advocates work with local prosecutors as well. Most prosecutors’ offices have a victim/witness unit, staffed by sensitive advocates assisting crime victims. Work with them to let them know what resources you have available, and try to integrate yourselves into community meetings so that this issue is raised as often as possible.

A number of helpful materials exist. For example, ARC of the United States has developed a curriculum for law enforcement that is available by calling 800-433-5355. In addition, the National Sheriffs Association has developed an excellent handbook for law enforcement entitled First Response to Victim of Crime Who Have a Disability, (Doc. No. 2791) available on the CAVNET site at The Justice Department also has published an excellent resource called Working with Crime Victims with Disabilities (Doc. No. 757) also available on the CAVNET site at

CAVNET has hundreds of documents available on this subject. In addition, cavnet has recently developed an easy-to-use program that allows you to add any of these documents directly to your site — the cavnet DataBase Builder. Visit for more information.

Look for additional resources on the Communities Against Violence Network Web site,

Marc Dubin, Esq. is a Trial Attorney in the Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice.
Sidebar: Web Resources
All Walks of Life has useful resources and links relating to violence and violence-prevention for people with disabilities

Abuse and Women with Disabilities has research documents relating to the abuse of women with disabilities

“Beyond Abuse: Treatment Approaches for People with Disabilities” is an article reprinted from Issues in Mental Health Nursing that can be found at

Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse provides research, education, and access to violence related resources at

The Disability Resource Guide to Disabilities on the Internet has a useful listing of resources specific to abuse of people with disabilities

Reprinted by permission of TASH. For more information about TASH, visit or call 1-800-482-8274.
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