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Prison Phone Calls Reveal Coercive Methods Used to Silence Victims in Domestic Abuse Cases

Prison Phone Calls Reveal Coercive Methods Used to Silence Victims in Domestic Abuse Cases

Victims of domestic abuse have a new strategy in their corner for keeping perpetrators behind bars – the telephone.

Since last year, every prisoner telephone call at every New York City jail has been recorded  with the exception of calls made to doctors or lawyers.  In cases of domestic violence, the recordings paint a graphic picture of the many ways abusers coerce their victims into silence.

In fact, 75% of the time women victimized by domestic violence stop helping the prosecutors working to convict their abusers – especially after speaking to them.

The recordings reveal anything from specific instructions for how victims should proceed, to sweet-talking attempts and insults meant to belittle and keep victims silent, and even confessions of what really happened like the examples below:

“I need you to prepare the kids to start lying.”

“Whatever you do, do not speak to the D.A.”

“Basically tell him things like this: ‘It was just a misunderstanding. I love him. We want to get married and we want to have children together…Say something nice like that, anything like that, you know what I’m saying, baby?”

“I need you right now in my corner.”

I’m a “brand new” man. I was under the spell of a “passion of love.”

“I’m smarter than you.”

“There was mad blood in the house.”

The recordings are immensely helpful for prosecutors who can use the conversations as proof of abuse or as a mean to explain why injured women remain silent and choose not to testify against their attackers.

“When you’re talking about domestic violence cases, this policy of monitoring every jail call is probably the single most important investigative procedure put in place in the last decade anywhere in the country,” said Casey Gwinn, president of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, which provides training and assistance to domestic violence prosecutors.

With so many victims coerced by their attackers to remain silent, domestic abuse cases are notoriously difficult to prove in court. This new strategy offers prosecutors a new method to get victims much deserved justice.

Related from Care2:

Representative Gets “Immunity” From Domestic Violence Charge

Rapist Gets No Jail Time Because Victim Was So “Inviting”

Police Officer Advises Women to Avoid Sexual Assault By Not Dressing Like a “Slut”

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Photo by Ken Mayer used under a Creative Commons license -

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9:54AM PDT on May 28, 2011

YAY one for good ole NYC

8:55PM PDT on Mar 17, 2011

Public telephones should be used to record some of the conversations between the couples. The alleged abuser should not expect the tight to privacy.

3:15PM PST on Mar 12, 2011

Many years ago, when calls from jails all had to be collect calls and handled manually by an operator, I was working as such and did, I hope, just a bit to help prevent some intimidation. A man called from jail, and when I explained to him that the call would have to be accepted by the other party, he said "I'll tell that b**** she f***** BETTER accept the call."

Fearing intimidation, I "isolated" the two sides of the call, so that the man could not hear me talking with the woman, and vice versa. I called, and explained that she had this call coming in, but that he could not hear us, and if she chose not to accept the call I could just tell him that there was nobody available to accept the charges. She was very grateful. I dropped her off, went back and told him. He complained in very bad language about not hearing me say anything, and I explained that that was one of the ways that modern telephone technology worked, and I was sorry. Then I disconnected from him. There were always a lot of people waiting to use those phones in the limited period when the inmates were allowed to use them, so he lost his turn.

I have no idea if that did any long-range good or not, but at least for that one day I did not have to be a party to verbal abuse. Some satisfaction, anyway.

5:31AM PST on Mar 11, 2011

This should be the norm!

2:00AM PST on Mar 9, 2011

Not only should all phone calls from these types of cases be recorded, so should those who are sex offenders, who use similar lines like that to keep victims quiet. Abusers who are already there need to be kept in.

9:01PM PST on Mar 8, 2011

Prisoners should not have phone prividleges period!! They are supposed to be in there for punishment for their crimes. They have it too good as it is. Gyms to work out in, free medical, free dental, free meals, TV's, etc. Many get out on parole but return because prison life is easier and cheaper than living in the free world. I know this for a fact. I worked in a prison. Many prefer to be there than to be free.

9:48PM PST on Mar 6, 2011

I thought all calls were recorded when your in jail.

6:34PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

This should ALWAYS have been the law.

7:19AM PST on Mar 5, 2011

Yes tape those calls! Domestic violence victims need to be protected!

10:54AM PST on Mar 4, 2011

If someone has a history of violence against their partner then hopefully this will help them stand up to their abusers once and for all.

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