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Monday, November 29, 2021
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‘Secret’ app lets domestic violence victims record their abuse

The VictimsVoice app helps victims discreetly document and store the kind of evidence needed to charge and prosecute an abuser or get a restraining order. Rosanna Philpott reports.

“I’m lucky to be alive, I really do believe that if I had stayed in that relationship that I would be dead.”

Heather Glogolich is a police lieutenant in Morris County, New Jersey.

She’s also a survivor of domestic abuse.

“In October of 2008, my ex-husband came home and he had been intoxicated and he tried to start an argument with me, and I just was done with it by that point, and he proceeded to beat me up for four hours and it ended with him putting a pillow over my face and pulling the trigger of his gun after loading a round in. And then he just passed out and I was able to just kind of lay there and let time pass and be able to construct a plan to get safe. And, you know, once we both woke up, I was able to call the police and he was arrested and charged, and that was the end of our relationship.”

Her story of domestic abuse is one of many across the U.S.

The burden of proof falls squarely on survivors, but building a case and collecting evidence for court can be complex.

Glogolich was inspired to help.

“I am a law enforcement adviser for VictimsVoice.”

VictimsVoice is a Web-based app that helps victims discreetly document and securely store

the kind of evidence that law enforcement and district attorneys need to charge and prosecute an abuser or get a restraining order.

Victims can diarize a timeline of the abuse they suffer and upload photos.

The app is ‘hidden’ upon exit, with no records of it in the history folder.

The force behind the app is Sheri Kurdakul.

“VictimsVoice is really built to simplify a complex process of getting evidence from each incident of abuse to the justice system, whether it’s a protective order or it’s a criminal case or a civil case.”

She is a survivor of decades of child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

Globally, 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner.

The situation has been exacerbated by the stress and enforced isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Calls to helplines have doubled or tripled in some countries.

Dr. Jill Zinckgraf is executive director of a domestic abuse shelter.

She says post-pandemic, the numbers have ‘exploded’.

“Our numbers have increased 380 percent in shelter. We have an 86 percent increase in counselling, in counselling services. For the first time in my eight years here, we have a waitlist for people.”

(Sheri Kurdakul) “When COVID happened, it immediately locked down the courtrooms. It locked everything down. And we could literally see the states that were locking down by the usage spike that went up. And we’re hearing reports across the country that phones went silent, that the calls coming in to crisis centres, the calls coming into police departments effectively just dropped. But we saw the opposite and we saw six states across the country that had triple digit percentage increase in usage.”

VictimsVoice is available through advocacy organizations, shelters, and law enforcement, or through the VictimsVoice website.

Glogolich was an early contributor and now uses it regularly in her work.

“The prosecution level of abusers is going to go up and there’s going to be more justice for victims and they’ll be seen as believable and trustworthy because it isn’t just, ‘he said-she said, he said he said’, whatever the relationship is, it just makes our job easier to be able to put the bad people away, right? And that’s what we want to do as police officers. We want to protect people and we want to put the bad people away.”

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