Why our Startup is Working Pro-bono for Victims of Stalking
In the last few weeks the Safe Shepherd team has put in extra overtime to help victims of stalking. We’re working with the Stalking Resource Center to provide free premium service to stalking victims and we’re leading a campaign to bring better anti stalking laws to all fifty states.
We spend a lot of time listening to our users, and passionate users were telling us that Safe Shepherd was helping them keep information out of the hands of their stalkers. As I looked into stalking laws, the passion of our users came into frighteningly clear focus. I knew about the evolution of stalking as a crime, but I didn’t know – and could hardly have imagined – that a victim could do everything within the criminal justice system and still not have her address kept from her stalker.
Some states have taken steps to change this, but not all – not by a long shot. So we decided to try and fix that. We see this as a problem that affects our users, a group of people who we care deeply about. Since our strength is creating amazing, user-friendly websites we decided to make one to petition for anti stalking legislation that would protect victims’ addresses. To get the word out, I’ve contacted every stalking victim organization I could find.
Each conversation begins with a double-take “wait, are you a non-profit?” they ask. The idea of a company, particularly a startup, putting together a major pro-bono program isn’t something they’re used to. One memorable advocate even demanded to know whom I was really working for. After all, if you aren’t a major corporation facing a PR disaster or a non-profit why would you work on a project that doesn’t increase your bottom line?
The answer is two part: first, it’s the right thing to do and second, considering the ways the Internet is changing everything else, we think the Internet should be a source of better legislation as well.
As to the legislation itself, the only reason we could find that it hasn’t been passed nationally is a lack of attention. Unless a woman is murdered by her stalker, the issue doesn’t get much attention from legislators. Even after a woman is murdered it can take years and a crusade by her family before better laws are passed. That’s a pretty harsh statement, but every time I found out about a successful campaign it had a murdered woman’s name attached to it. It’s happened so often, we put together a timeline of some of the laws that were passed after women were murdered by their stalkers.
Safe Shepherd hired me with an open mandate to use my legal and policy skills to help make people safer on the Internet. I couldn’t be prouder that this is my first major project for Safe Shepherd. After reading about our campaign, I hope you’ll join us here.