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?
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Marshmallows in Germany

My guess is that blogs everywhere are going to be exploding with vignettes about family, food, travel and homecomings this week. Thanksgiving week is magical – more so than Christmas or New Year’s week because so much happens this week – the child who went away to college comes home for the first time. The estranged family member accepts the invitation to dinner and is on his or her best behavior. Mothers-in-law compliment daughters-in-law, most likely for the first time. Football teams are triumphant, as are fledgling cooks who meticulously followed Martha Stewart’s dozens of suggestions for the perfect holiday meal.  Mothers are demanding and critical, relatives get drunk (and become estranged), the college kid’s friends stop by sporting funny haircuts and using strange words (Hey! Mrs. C.!  How’s it hanging?), and diabetics eat way too many carbohydrates and jack up their insulin doses.

 

Ah, yes, Thanksgiving week. I have a few fond memories and stories to share.  One year, during our annual pilgrimage to North Carolina to see my mom’s sister and family, the temperature was in the mid-seventies, so a bunch of us donned bathing suits and laid out on the deck roasting ourselves not unlike the turkey. This was a huge deal to me because this Jersey Girl was usually eating her turkey while bundled up in GoreTex, welcoming winter’s wrath at Thanksgiving.

 

I’m sure of a year or two…or six…the boyfriend du jour joined my family for the feast.  In fact, it was, again, in North Carolina that I recall a chair breaking under the weight of a not-fat-but-tall-and-solid boyfriend. I didn’t laugh because I identified with his horror. A room full of strangers and the ‘new guy’ gets the broken chair. Even now it’s still not funny to me. After the dessert plates were cleared, and the incident long forgotten, it was time to play Bonanza.

 

Bonanza is a card game played after dessert by everyone in the house – age didn’t matter, the more players, the better.  Two decks of cards are shuffled together. A coffee can of pennies lands on the table with a thump. And every one throws quarters, nickels and dimes at the guy with the can in exchange for the pennies required for play. The young children in my family learn how to gamble and hone their skills during the annual game of Bonanza. During play, cards are dealt, pennies are thrown into the pot, pennies are taken from the pot, more cards are dealt, there is a countdown, and, at the end of each round, someone wins the pot. It’s a marathon card game that would incite my family to yell at the cards and at each other, cheering and jeering the winners and losers. Games typically would end when players started falling asleep at the table.

 

My ex-mother-in-law almost caused an International incident one year. A Fulbright Fellow from Germany was visiting the college where I teach. Frauke and I had formed a nice friendship, so I invited her to join us for her first American Thanksgiving. No one is more American than my ex-mother-in-law. She bleeds apple pie and judgment.  It was a roll of the dice, and I’m not much of a gambler, but I hoped the spirit of the Holidays would shine on this small-minded Majesty and move her to keep her damn mouth shut.

 

She didn’t. She lost it over the marshmallows that topped the sweet potatoes.  Frauke never heard of such a travesty – how could someone ruin a perfectly good root vegetable with marshmallows? Okay, so that was my point of view, but still, Frauke was so amazed at the marshmallows, she took pictures to send to her friends in Germany because they would never believe this stupid American could ever do this to the humble sweet potato. Okay, so I was the one who thought it a stupid American thing, but still, Frauke was amazed; she took pictures (after asking very politely if she could) of the dish and of her holding the dish, and she even tried some of the bizarre combination at dinner (deftly, I must say, hiding her disgust for the overly sweet baked dish of Type II diabetes).

 

However, ex-mother-in-law was having none of it. She talked about the family tradition that is the marshmallows and the many American recipes that use marshmallow. Throughout dinner, she made marshmallow comments. She asked Frauke if she enjoyed the marshmallows…twice. She made it her job to point out which foods didn’t have marshmallow in them, such as, the turkey and the green beans.

 

I was thankful that Frauke spoke and understood little English. Most of ex-mother-in-law’s snide comments passed her by as she smiled back at the woman smiling at her, insulting her.

 

I was even more thankful that I brought my own wine, a punchy Cabernet Sauvignon that I knew my ex-in-law’s palates couldn’t tolerate. I drank the bottle, but my drunkenness wasn’t enough to get me estranged. I’d have to work harder for that.

 

 

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.

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