Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Charlie Sheen arrested on domestic violence charges

Charlie Sheen, one of the highest paid actors on television, is no stranger to scandal. On December 25 his current wife, Brooke Mueller, called 911 after Sheen held a knife to her throat and threatened to have her killed, she said. Sheen was arrested on second-degree assault and menacing charges, both felonies, and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

Even though recent reports say Brooke Mueller is now recanting her story, saying that she was drunk, it is still possible for the state of Colorado to prosecute Sheen. At WomensLaw.org, people often email us to ask if their abusive husband or boyfriend will be charged with a crime even if they don't want to testify against him or if they change their story, saying that it was an accident, for example. However, if the abuser is charged with a crime, generally, it is not up to the victim whether or not the charges are dropped. It will be up to the district attorney. Sometimes, the police and the prosecutor go forward with a domestic violence case, even if the victim didn't ask them to or asks them not to. The reason why this happens is that the abuser has broken the law and the prosecutor has a duty to the state to prosecute those who break the law. Even though someone is the victim of the crime, the prosecutor represents the state’s interests, not theirs.

Some states or counties have a specific policy against victimless prosecution. But if I state does not, then there is not a cut and dry policy, whether they go forward will likely be determined by either how much other evidence they would have against the abuser without the victim's testimony -- such as a police officer's testimony, medical records from the hospital, witnesses' statements, etc.

To read more about domestic violence laws in your state, including filing for a restraining order or navigating the court system, please visit WomensLaw.org.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Seeking Social Media Intern

Are you excited about social media? Are you an advocate for women’s rights? If so, you may be the intern we’re seeking to compliment our dynamic team.

At WomensLaw.org, we believe the Internet is the most powerful tool for communication and information sharing. The Mission of WomensLaw.org is to provide easy-to-understand legal information and resources to women living with or escaping domestic violence or sexual assault. By reaching out through the Internet, we empower women and girls to lead independent lives, free from abuse.

We are looking for someone that is excited and passionate about what we do and can convey that to any audience. The position is responsible for creating awareness of the WomensLaw.org website through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and a blog to name a few. The ideal candidate for this position must have a deep passion for social networking, strong written communication skills and must be an active participant in the social media sphere.

Responsibilities include:
• Work on projects related to online marketing, publicity, and research
• Assist in the development and execution of online marketing and promotion campaigns, including contributing to brainstorming sessions and conducting market research
• Work with Director of Outreach and Operations to manage WomensLaw.org on Twitter
• Read and engage with related blogs, write biweekly posts about domestic violence in the news
• Identify additional marketing opportunities, including developing forward-thinking strategies for penetrating social networking opportunities
• Other administrative duties and responsibilities as assigned


Personal or professional experience using social media• Exceptional interpersonal, communication and organizational skills
• Excellent research and writing skills
• Familiarity with social networking: facebook, twitter, blogging etc
Established connections to women’s rights blogs, etc
• Strong computer skills
• Must be pro-active, detailed oriented (No typos in tweets!)
- Ability to work independently
• Candidate must be reliable
• Internship require a commitment of at least 20 hours per week/ anytime between 9am – 6pm Mon - Friday
• Must love to engage with others online through a variety of mediums
• Self-starter/ entrepreneurial spirit
• Exceptional organizational skills, including ability to excel in multi-task environment, good follow through and high attention to detail.

Our office is located in DUMBO, Brooklyn; however some of the job responsibilities could be conducted from your home or office. This can be discussed at a later date pending your advancement in the interview process.

To be considered for the position please email Nina Gilbert, Director of Outreach and Operations, at nina [at] womenslaw.org. Please include a resume, your Twitter account, and any blogs you have contributed to or manage, including a Tumblr account if applicable. This is an UNPAID position -- neither health benefits nor salary will be provided.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gloria Gaynor Tips Her Crown to WomensLaw.org!


Monday, December 14, 2009

A Quick Overview of the Legal System

The legal system can be confusing. That's why WomensLaw.org is here to help you navigate your way through laws which can sometimes feel like a complicated maze. Read more on the website or send us an email and we'll respond to you within 3 business days.

The legal system is divided into two areas: civil law and criminal law. Separate courts govern (control) these two areas of the law.

One of the most confusing things about the legal system is the difference between civil cases and criminal cases. In domestic violence situations, there may be both civil and criminal cases occurring at the same time as a result of the same violent act. You may want to pursue both civil and criminal actions for maximum protection. The major differences have to do with who takes the case to court and the reason for the case.

Civil Law
In a civil domestic violence action, you are asking the court to protect you from the person abusing you. You are not asking the court to send that person to jail for committing a crime. However, if the abuser violates the civil court order, he may be sent to jail for the violation. In a civil case, you are the person bringing the case against the abuser and (in most circumstances), you have the right to withdraw (drop) the case if you want to.

Criminal Law
The criminal law system handles all cases that involve violations of criminal law such as harassment, assault, murder, theft, etc. A criminal complaint involves your abuser being charged with a crime. In a criminal case, the prosecutor (also called the district attorney) is the one who has control over whether the case against the abuser continues or not. It is the county/state who has brought the case against the abuser, not the victim. It is possible that if you do not want the case to continue (if you do not want to “press charges”), the prosecutor might decide to drop the criminal charges but this is not necessarily true. The prosecutor can also continue to prosecute the abuser against your wishes and could even issue a subpoena (a court order) to force you to testify at the trial.


Safer Cyber Shopping

WomensLaw.org is dedicated to helping people learn about internet safety. You can read tips on Internet Security page on our website. Below are some tips for shopping safely online this season from Examiner.com.

Here are five tips for staying safe online this holiday season (and the rest of the year too):

1. Shop From a Secure PC

If possible, avoid using the family PC that your teens or children use to chat with their buddies and play games online. Those machines, especially if they're a Microsoft Windows computer, are often already infested with spyware. An infected system will undermine all of the other precautions you might take to avoid online fraud.

Before you start shopping online, make sure your system is running with up-to-date anti-virus software, and that you're using a firewall to block potential intruders. Just as important, be sure that your computer has the latest Microsoft software security updates installed.

2. Shop Smart, and Only at Sites You Know & Trust

Avoid search-engine shopping, which can often lead to random merchants you've never heard of. For the safest and most hassle-free online shopping experience, it's best to stick with merchants you know and trust. Most importantly, make sure you have read and understand the merchant's shipping and return policies before making any purchases.

Be sure to print a copy of each receipt or confirmation e-mail you receive. Keep all of your receipts in a folder and filed away in a safe place.

Never buy anything advertised via unsolicited e-mail. Such offers are almost always a scam. Criminals even build attractive storefronts for fake businesses that close up shop within days of accepting your online order.

Research unfamiliar sellers. The Better Business Bureau and RipoffReport may offer insights on otherwise legitimate companies that have generated more than their fair share of consumer complaints.

3. Shop with Your Credit Card

Most online merchants accept both credit and debit cards. Under federal law, credit card issuers can only hold customers liable for the first $50 of fraudulent transactions, and most issuers will waive even that amount.

While debit card issuers have largely adopted that same approach, your bank account could be overdrawn while you dispute fraudulent charges, particularly if you don't notice the fraud immediately. Experts say credit cards still present less potential for hassle when dealing with your financial institution should unauthorized charges show up later on a monthly statement.

"It's still harder to get your money back from fraudulent transactions on a debit card unless the process is transacted in exactly the way the bank wants to be, and a lot of times consumers have no way of knowing whether a given purchase meets those requirements," said Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst with research firm Gartner Inc.

Never, I repeat, never, shop at sites that ask you to wire your payment or send money orders.

4. Consider Alternative Payment Methods

For the truly fraud-wary online shopper, there are still plenty of alternatives to entering your account number at multiple Web sites. Many financial institutions and card issuers -- including Bank of America, Citibank, Discover, and PayPal -- offer customers the ability to generate unique, "virtual" or "one-time use" account numbers that are good for a single transaction or a handful of specified transactions only and cannot be reused.

While virtual account numbers may make shoppers feel safer online, they may be more hassle than they're worth, Litan said. "These virtual numbers generally are there to protect [the card issuer] more than the consumer, but they do give some online shoppers more peace of mind."

Gartner's recent studies show online shoppers are starting to turn to other alternative payment methods, such as pre-paid gift and credit cards, and services like billmelater.com. The latter allows online shoppers to shop online at some well-known retail outlets without ever having to enter a credit card number (the company requests your name, address, date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number to decide whether to grant you instant credit). A number of participating sites are offering perks for purchases made through billmelater.com, such as free shipping and deferred payment for up to six months.

5. Get a Handle on Spam

If you worry that giving away your e-mail address at multiple online merchants might wind up cluttering your inbox with more junk mail, consider creating a new address for each new Web site that requires you to enter one as part of the registration process. This allows you take action if a merchant you're doing business with sells or rents your e-mail address to marketers.

You don't really need to create a brand new e-mail address for each site: Some free Webmail providers -- most notably Google's Gmail -- will allow you to create as many "aliases" for the same e-mail address as you want.

Here's how it works. Let's say your Gmail address is janedoe@gmail.com, and you're being asked to enter an e-mail address at widgets.com as part of their online ordering process. Simply enter the name of the retailer as part your real e-mail address by using the "+" sign. In this case, you'd enter janedoe+widgets@gmail.com. That way, future communications from that retailer or any company that happens to share that particular marketing list will come addressed to janedoe+widgets@gmail.com.

Later on, if a particular online merchant generates a wave of junk e-mail offers, you can create e-mail filters to automatically send all e-mail addressed to the custom address you created to the virtual trash bin.

Happy Shopping!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Please consider supporting WomensLaw.org

Dear Friends,

In today’s economy, more women are experiencing domestic violence, a direct effect of the country’s soaring unemployment rates. Far too many women remain in abusive relationships simply because they don’t know about their rights or the legal protections created to help them.

Through a website, email hotline, and community workshops, WomensLaw.org empowers domestic violence victims with vital legal information and support, touching the lives of nearly one million individuals across the U.S. each year. We give women the information they need to take concrete steps towards escaping abuse.

Nearly 75% of the victims we help are mothers. Here is one mother’s story:

Today, we heard from a mother whose husband’s emotional abuse became violent soon after their baby was born. She wants to leave, but she is afraid he will charge her with abandonment and gain custody, as he’s promised he’d do. Through our email hotline, we explained complicated custody laws to her in a compassionate and plain-language manner, helping her think through the safest way she can leave and making certain that her chances for custody are not compromised. She is now feeling ready for the long road ahead. WomensLaw.org will be there to support her, helping her navigate a confusing legal system, for as long as she needs.

In the last twelve months alone, we have seen traffic to our website increase by more than 60%. In 2010, tens of thousands more women will be counting on us to provide them with the information they need to escape abuse. Similarly, hundreds of shelters, domestic violence coalitions, and other service providers will be relying on us to provide the information they need to help their clients.

We are deeply committed to supporting women and their families, especially at a time when they need us more than ever. We need your help to make this possible. Our goal is to raise at least $50,000 through this end-of-year campaign so we can keep up with the demand for our services. Please help us by making a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you!


Elizabeth Martin
Executive Director



WomensLaw.org had a very productive 2009! This year, we:

Celebrated with Gloria Gaynor, the Queen of Disco! Gloria Gaynor and hosts Celerie Kemble, Boykin Curry, Bronson van Wyck, Mariska Hargitay, Amanda Brooks and Moby, put on a Night of Disco for WomensLaw.org. The party featured performances by The Little Death and Gloria Gaynor, celebrating the re-launch of her eternal hit “I Will Survive” and the 10th Anniversary of WomensLaw.org. (Our 10th Anniversary is technically in February, but we thought it was a perfect time to start celebrating!) Look for Gloria Gaynor in the press and take a closer look at her wrist where you’ll see a sparkly bracelet emblazoned with the words “SURVIVE” and WomensLaw.org. We’ll send you one, too, when you make a donation to WomensLaw.org! Check out the pictures and read more here: WomensLaw.org/survive

Received a Webby Award- Jury Prize for Best Website in the law category.
The Webby Awards honor excellence on the Internet and are presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. (Some, including us, say it is like the Oscars for websites, only we didn’t get to wear gowns.)

Served 5,281 women through our Email Hotline, reaching all 50 states. Through our Hotline, we talked women through complicated legal information, such as custody and divorce, eligibility for restraining orders, and parental kidnapping (impacting a parent who may want to take her children out of state). We also continued to provide a first line of support, providing tips for safety planning, helping victims think through their decisions, and making referrals for local assistance.

Provided community workshops for 130 women in New York City. Through our Latina Outreach Project, we partnered with two local organizations, Voces Latinas and the Jewish Board of Family and Children Services, to educate their clients about their rights and provide in-person support.

Trained more than 60 lawyers in North Carolina to represent victims of domestic violence. Through a partnership with the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, we supported advocates and helped to improve legal support for domestic violence victims around the state.

Women continually tell us that we are providing them with the information and personalized support they need to escape abuse:

I just wanted to express that I love you guys and I don't even know you. I just submitted some questions, but I have been following your site for years. Whoever wrote it did an EXCELLENT METICULOUS and SENSITIVE job explaining some pertinent details regarding domestic issues in a way that most women can understand. Thank you so much to those writers and editors. XXOO

I have to tell you I am so pleased to see this website for women! Having been a police officer for 16 years, now retired, however having gone through a horrendous custody battle from an abusive spouse, there was not this type of resource available back then. I found this while researching a paper for college that I am doing on domestic violence! Thank God for you guys, bravo!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Please vote in Chase Community Giving on Facebook

The Chase Community Giving program invites Facebook users to nominate nonprofit organizations with operating budgets of no more than $10 million working in the areas of education, housing, the environment, health and human services, arts and culture, and animal welfare to receive a grant from Chase. The initiative is in addition to Chase's traditional philanthropic efforts to higher-profile nonprofits. If the effort is successful, the bank will likely commit more of its annual giving through this method of crowd sourcing nominations of smaller local charities. The one hundred organizations that receive the most votes by December 11 will each receive $25,000 from Chase.