It has been said that pain and suffering are natural elements of the universal human condition. Most of us will experience some degree of trauma in our lifetime, but our responses to that trauma will vary significantly based on a variety of factors including genetics, disposition, temperament, and early home life. Mental health professionals cannot pinpoint a single, universal reason that some victims display more resilience to the crippling effects of trauma; however, they do know that there is a strong link between violent crime and ensuing psychological distress. For this reason, mental health services can be a critical resource for victims.
On the heels of recent tragedies like the Isla Vista shooting and the Reynolds High attack in Troutdale, OR, it is certainly important to consider the factors that may cause criminal conduct and to address the role of our mental health system in violence prevention; yet, it is equally important to address the well-being of victims and to recognize the host of mental health challenges they face as a result of violent crime.
By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer
In honor of National Internet Safety Month this June, here are a few common ways that you may be inviting cybercriminals into your home, and what you can do to safeguard yourself and your family from identity theft, fraud, harassment, cyberstalking, and more.
Poor Privacy Settings
- Location Services: GPS capabilities can be useful in finding directions or nearby restaurants; however, many users are unaware that smartphone apps often run hidden location services in the background. These apps not only pinpoint your exact coordinates, but attach them to your status updates, tweets, and more. Prevent stalking, spying, and theft by customizing your settings to use location services only when necessary.
- Public Profiles: It might surprise you to learn that default privacy settings on social networking sites are actually quite public. The next time you log on to your social media profile(s), conduct a quick overview of your account options to ensure that your information isn’t visible to the world.
- Phishing is a tactic commonly used by cybercriminals to obtain confidential information from a target. Typically a victim provides access to the crook by clicking on a fraudulent link that appears to be from a legitimate company. To prevent fraud or identify theft, never log into an account from a link in an email, regardless of how real it appears; instead, open a new browser window and manually enter the website address.
- Viruses and Malware: Email attachments and links are also a major source of viruses and malware that can compromise your personal information and cripple your computer. A good rule of thumb: if you are not expecting it, don’t open it. When in doubt, close it out!
False Sense of Security
- Passwords: Although weak passwords are the most common mistake, even the strongest password isn’t foolproof. If you aren’t changing your passwords regularly, or if you are using the same password for different websites, you are increasing your risk of victimization.
- Public WiFi: Don’t conduct sensitive business or transmit confidential information over public WiFi hotspots, where hackers can easily intercept unencrypted data. Banking transactions should only be completed at home.
- Online Shopping: Enter your credit card information on secured sites only. A locked padlock or unbroken key symbol in your browser denotes a “secure” website. In addition, when making a purchase, the beginning of the retailer’s URL should change from “http” to “https” to indicate the connection is secure.
- Online Marketplaces: We teach our kids not to trust strangers, and it only makes sense to exercise the same caution when conducting business on websites like Craigslist. To avoid fraud and ensure personal safety, always meet potential buyers/sellers in daylight hours, in a public, well-trafficked location. If possible, bring a buddy along. Ask questions – a legitimate seller won’t mind. Obtain proper documentation if necessary.
- Parental Controls: 95% of teens (ages 12-17) are online.1 Even the most responsible kids can stumble upon inappropriate content or encounter an online predator. For this reason, it is important to monitor children’s internet activities. Parental control options can be activated on almost all new computers, smartphones, and tablets.
By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer
 Lenhart A, et al. Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites. Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2010.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There are approximately 8.6 million survivors of sexual violence in California. CalVCP is working to promote awareness about sexual assault and the financial help and services available for survivors. Learn more on http://calvcp.ca.gov.
National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention MonthBy Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer
It can be hard to relate to statistics; after all, they are just numbers without a face, right? But what happens when that next statistic is your best friend? Your teammate? Your little sister? The closer it hits to home, the easier it is to see that even one victim is too many.
The prevalence of teen dating violence is inexcusable, but the good news about bad statistics is that YOU can change them. Dating violence is not usually a one-time incident, but a pattern of destructive behaviors used to control another person. In that sense, putting an end to teen dating violence is a matter of spotting healthy versus unhealthy relationships, looking out for your peers, and building a culture of respect where abuse is unacceptable.
- Every year, almost 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend.1
- That’s one in ten high school students who has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a partner.2
- Females are disproportionately affected, with one in four high school girls a victim of physical abuse in their relationships.3
- When including emotional and verbal injury, the rate of dating abuse jumps to one in three teenagers.4
Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse, 5 and 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.6 It’s time to change these attitudes in our schools and communities. As a mother, the thought of any child being hurt by, or inflicting pain on another, is infuriating. We—parents, teachers, coaches, mentors—need to speak out against teen dating violence in order to stop the abuse before it begins. We have a shared responsibility to model healthy relationships founded in respect and equality; to teach our children that love and abuse cannot exist simultaneously and that violence doesn’t equal strength. This February, make your voice heard during National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
If you or someone you know has a question about a relationship, visit loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522. For additional resources, visit http://www.teendvmonth.org.