By Rob Perez
Not content with just inflicting physical or verbal abuse, domestic violence offenders are turning to the digital and electronic worlds to hound their victims.
Those who deal with restraining orders in domestic abuse cases say they are seeing a growing number of examples in which the abuser uses text messaging, public Web sites or other forms of high-tech communication to reach their targets.
Family Court Judge Michael Broderick, who presides over protective-order requests, said he is seeing more cases of abusers turning to the Internet.
He recalled one recent case in which an ex-boyfriend wrote on a public Web site that his ex-girlfriend was great in bed, wanted lots of sex and listed her home address.
The high-tech abuse is happening even though protective orders that Broderick and other judges issue prohibit any type of contact, including e-mails and text-messaging. Someone who violates a protective order is subject to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Allegations of high-tech abuse show up frequently on petitions for restraining orders.
"He is writing blogs about me on MySpace without my consent," one woman wrote in her petition, which alleged that her ex-boyfriend beat her, destroyed her treasured possessions and once threw her into the shower fully clothed and turned cold water on her after she refused to shower with him.
"Some blogs also contain our 'love story.' The whole world can basically read what was going on between us."
Another woman who alleged her husband physically abused her said he sent text messages about him having sex with two girls and kept referring to her as a "fat ugly whore."
One woman said her boyfriend threatened to put on the Web a video of the couple having sex — she said he took the footage without her knowledge — if she broke up with him. She broke up with him anyway but is still worried about what he might do.
The latest text message she got from him: "It's not over til I say it's over."
Some abusers take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet.
A Makakilo woman told The Advertiser her ex-boyfriend responded to her Craigslist ad, posing as a stranger. He sent a series of e-mails seeking more information about the item she was selling, then started asking personal questions about her social life. The e-mails eventually devolved into demeaning comments about her, she said.
The woman had a restraining order against the man, and she said he was using a fake name on the Internet to circumvent the court order.
When she reported the abuse to police, she was told nothing could be done because she couldn't prove the e-mails were from him, the woman said.
Sometimes, just the threat of online abuse is enough to get a response.
Ed Flores, executive director of Ala Kuola, a nonprofit that helps people file petitions for restraining orders, said a woman recently came to his office to complete paperwork seeking an order against her boyfriend, who had been physically abusing her.
While she was at the office, her alleged abuser called on her cell phone and threatened to write about their sex history on a public Web site if she went through with the petition.
The next day, Flores said, the woman called to say she wasn't going to pursue the restraining order because of her boyfriend's threat.