Hushed directions to battered women’s shelters in the 1970s and 1980s have been replaced by Web sites bursting with information as the first step for domestic violence victims reaching out for help, reports Women’s eNews. One new site is Abuseaware.com, which went online in December. Founder Donna Ferrato, a New York photographer, saw a man beat his wife while working as a photojournalist in 1982 and has explored domestic violence with her lens ever since. Ferrato wants the site to be haunting to visitors who have not experienced abuse and helpful to those who have.
Some sites are still basic references and others, like the Family Violence Prevention Fund, are vaults of tips, news stories and emergency numbers. Web sites still point victims to battered women’s shelters, but focus equal attention on preparing emotionally and strategically to leave an abusive partner. Many state advocacy groups also formed coalitions or networks against domestic violence, available with a quick Web search. Many sites have cautionary headings warning browsers they could be tracked electronically by abusers. Abusers often monitor computers and Internet activity, so the Washington-based National Network to End Domestic Violence recommends that victims avoid suspicion by using the home computer regularly to check e-mail or the weather, but use a library or Internet cafe’s public computer to research escape plans or find new jobs and apartments. Abuse victims should call police if they are in danger, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help steer callers and e-mailers to shelters and support programs. Last year, the hotline created a National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at Loveisrespect.org, where teens can chat live with a peer counselor.