I’ve Been Asked to Testify

Black Friday, indeed…as the retail stores climb their way out of the red and into the black, so do I pull myself out of despair.

My State Senator contacted me today. Called my cell phone. On Black Friday.

On 19 November I sent him an email explaining my case and asking for a meeting to propose new legislation. I sent the same email to his Delegates as well. You know…just in case…

I wrote:

“Senator [name],

I am the victim of online harassment and online stalking. Unfortunately, due to the current lack of legislation regarding these offenses, my harasser/stalker will go unpunished.

I have met with a legislative aide from US Senator [name]’s office ([name]) who suggested I contact you.

In 2010, when the harassment began, I quickly sought the help of the [local] county police. The officer who took my report simply said there was nothing he could do.

My stalker began harassing me again in September 2011. Although I have been diligently researching resources and found the [name] State Computer Crimes Unit, the Trooper who took my case can not assist me in pressing criminal charges. There are simply too many weaknesses in the current legislation.

Senator, I would like to talk to you about passing legislation that will protect victims of online harassment and online stalking.

I have been researching the current legislation regarding online harassment and online stalking and drafted two bills, one proposing legislation for Digital Impersonation and the other amending the current Online Stalking statutes. Also, I am working with the Trooper from the Computer Crimes Division of the [name] State Police to draft a bill amending the current online harassment statutes.

I’d like to discuss these draft bills with you and discuss working together to move them into legislation.

As a result of the harassment I’ve experienced, I have had to go on medical leave from work (I am a [title] of [a subject] at [a school], so I am available to meet with you on the day and at the time that is most convenient for you.

I can be reached at [123-456-7890] or at [DeliaV@gmail.com].

For detailed information about my case, please see my blog which is maintained under a pseudonym to protect myself and my children: www.deliav.com. If you are interested in reading my professional writing, please see my blog at [URL]. For updates regarding my case, I can be followed on Twitter: @deliavenditti

Thank you for your time and consideration,
~[Delia Venditti]”

As it turns out, this issue was to go to legislation twice before…for some reason, one in which I will learn, it was swept to the side. As a result, My State Senator is very motivated and fully supports my issue.

In fact, he asked me if I would testify before Congress.

So I’ll testify. Can I get an A-men?

His Chief of Staff will be contacting me sometime during the first two weeks of December. We will then meet to revise my draft bills and prepare them to go before Congress.

The new session starts in January.

Can I get a Hell-yeah?

Progress

It has been an emotionally exhausting few days. I needed time to process my thoughts about my meeting with my State Senator’s Legislative Aide.

The meeting went well. I presented 2 draft bills, one that mirrors New York’s recent legislation that makes Digital Impersonation a crime http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S4015A-2011 .

The other draft bill proposes an Online Stalking Law. Currently, most legislation does not separate Stalking from Online Stalking, so Online Stalkers are not prosecuted, as their behaviors fall slightly outside the limits of the law.

I also discussed the draft bill I am working on to strengthen my State’s Online Harassment laws.

The aide with whom I met was eager to assist me in researching current legislation and other groups who may be working on similar legislation. She told me she would put my proposals in front of my State Senator ‘soon.’

I contacted my other State Senator to request a meeting as well.

Now the hard work begins. It’s time to begin a grassroots lobbying effort. I need to build a voice. The constituency needs to push their local government, so senators will join and co-sponsor my bills. I also need to, somehow, reach out to the judiciary committee.

How the hell am I going to do this? I’ve been asking myself that question for the past couple of days. I have researched grassroots lobbying efforts, which has given me ideas and a plan.

Right now, I am drafting emails, letters and a petition that can be circulated electronically and sent to local and state government officials. I am making a list of the local women’s groups that I plan to contact and ask for their support. Not only do I need individual voices, I need groups to join the push.

Please subscribe to this blog as a show of solidarity.

Why I Fight

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/angie-varona-14-year-unwillingly-internet-sex-symbol/comments?type=story&id=14882768#.TrvgumBuFp8

My father sent me an email this morning:

“go to abc news night line wed. (11/09/11) go to the Angie Varona story. dad”

I knew it would be somehow connected to my case and the lobbying efforts I have begun, so I Googled it and read her story.

This is why I am fighting. While there is debate over her intentions – she uploaded the pictures to a public site (Photo Bucket), the pictures were in circulation for three years – the bottom line is this, she is a victim. What started as an all-too-common practice, a very sad practice that is destroying our adolescent girls, of showcasing her body via electronic means, exploded into harassment, stalking, exploitation and victimization.

That’s what matters. That is the only thing that matters. A young girl, following a dangerous yet wildly popular social trend, in that adolescent mindset that believes they are invincible, has been tortured.

And it seems that laws couldn’t help her. I say seems because I haven’t researched the full story to learn what legal means she has pursued. My uneducated guess is the current legislation failed her.

Stop judging. It’s time to protect our girls, our women and not only teach them that their behaviors are self-exploitation, but also enact legislation to prosecute the people who are perpetrating this harassment and further exploitation.

I Got a Meeting

I received an email today from a Legislative Aide who works for my State Senator.  She is willing to meet with me to discuss new legislation to protect victims of online stalking. I’ll be going to DC on November 8th to get the legislative ball rolling.

I am ready. I have been researching new legislation in other states and have found that New York, Texas and California have enacted laws that make impersonating someone online a crime.

There has been a case in New Jersey I’ve been following that is similar to a part of my case: http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011311030018 What is significant is that a judge felt the defendant’s actions were criminal enough to go to trial even though New Jersey doesn’t have an impersonation law in place.

I feel honored to have the opportunity to speak for the rights of so many victims of online stalking and harassment.

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