Columbus city attorney gives tips on getting help for domestic violence

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What constitutes stalking?

First and foremost, stalking is a crime of violence, control or intimidation. Stalking behavior is not about love or romance, it is a criminal act. The other thing to note is most stalkers aren’t strangers. In fact, the majority of stalkers are someone the victims know, and many are current or former intimate partners. And when you think of it, it’s really scary because they know the most about you – where you like to go, who are your safe people, where you go to school, etc.

Legally, Stalking occurs when a person engages in a pattern of conduct (two or more actions or incidents closely related in time) targeting a person or a business that knowingly causes the victim to believe the offender will cause physical harm or mental distress to him or her.

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Typical stalking behavior can include:

  • Following or watching.
  • Unwanted telephone calls.
  • Unwanted mail or gifts.
  • Inappropriate approaches or physical contact.
  • Unwanted contact via the internet.
  • Intrusion into your private life.
  • Threats to your health or safety.
  • Physical assault.
  • Threats against family or friends.
  • Appearing anywhere you may be for no legitimate reason.
  • Damage to physical property.

What do I need to present to a prosecutor to get help?

To prove stalking, prosecutors need to prove that the series of incidents happened and that it caused you mental distress or fear of physical harm. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein’s Office and police rely heavily upon various types of physical evidence to assist in prosecuting stalking cases. While our staff can help, oftentimes the victim can provide the most useful evidence.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Save all documents, gifts, letters, or other forms of correspondence from the stalker. Put them in paper bags and try to handle them as little as possible.
  • Keep a log of all events that involve stalking. The dates, times, a general summary of each event, any witnesses, AND your reaction to the incident will assist in establishing your case and refreshing your memory. It’s important to show how you felt or what you did after the incident.
  • If safe to do so, carry a camera or video recorder behavior and record telephone calls and screen shot texts from the stalker.
  • Obtain a telephone trap by contacting the Annoyance Call Bureau of your telephone provider. Most companies will need a case number or report number to initiate the trap. Call the Stalking Unit for this number.

What laws are in place to protect families?

  • Domestic Violence – if there is physical violence (M-1) or threats (M-4)
  • Aggravated Menacing (M-1) – if someone threatens to cause you OR an immediate family member OR your property serious physical harm (e.g. if someone tells you they will kill your daughter, that is aggravated menacing against you; someone threatens to burn your house down, that’s also aggravated menacing)
  • Telecommunications Harassment (M-1)
    • continuing to call after being told to stop;
    • calling “with purpose to harass, intimidate, or abuse” the victim;
    • the call is sexually suggestive;
    • threatens the victim or victim’s family’s home/property
    • interrupts the victim’s telecommunication service;
    • makes a false statement about the deal/injury/reputation/or criminal conduct of the victim or victim’s family;
    • makes calls at times known to be inconvenient or offensive to the victim
    • incites anyone else to do the previous

  • Protection Orders
  • Free
  • Can get whether or not there are criminal charges
  • Whether the victim is an adult or a child, OR the offender is an adult or a child
  • Criminal charges for violation of the protection order

  • The brand new Nonconsensual Images law ORC 2907.211 (aka “revenge porn”) goes into effect 3/22/19
  • No person shall knowingly disseminate an image of another person if ALL of the following:
    • Person is 18 or older, AND
    • Person can be identified from image or info with image, AND
    • Person in image is nude OR engaged in sex act, AND
    • Image disseminated without consent of person, AND
    • Image disseminated with intent to harm the victim
  • Violation is M-3
  • With 1 prior – M-2
  • With 2 or more priors – M-1
    • Protections for victims of non-consensual images ORC 3345.49 (effective 3/22/19)
      • No student enrolled in higher education and is the victim of 2917.211 shall lose any form of financial aid for the sole reason of being a victim of the violation.

No institution of higher education shall take any disciplinary action against the student for the sole reason of being a victim of the violation.

Some other thoughts and suggestions for victims

  • Stalking is behavior of the perpetrator. It is not your fault.
  • Report all incidents to the police and request an official report be made.
  • Remain in touch with the representative of Columbus City Zach Klein’s Office who is assigned to assist you with your case and provide updates about new events.
  • Be firm when ending a relationship. Sometimes in an effort to be kind we give a mixed message. A stalker will see this as an opportunity/invitation for future contacts. Do not attempt to reason with someone who displays stalking behavior.
  • Rely upon trusted family, friends, and co-workers to share your experience with so others will be aware of the potential danger you may be in.
  • Be systematically un-systematic in your daily routine.
  • Trust your intuition. Never underestimate the stalker or the potential threat level that he or she may present.