Honestly, I never thought I’d be writing part three. I thought it was done—but it wasn’t.
(The first two posts in this series about restraining orders can be found here.)
So let’s talk about what happens after the restraining order is filed. Many women have reached out sharing similar stories and confirmed that what I experienced AFTER the protective order was filed and delivered is NOT the least bit uncommon. In fact, it just seems to be something to expect.
It got me thinking. I can help the women who have reached out to me (and others who happen upon my blog) by sharing online research techniques I've learned over the years. Working on cold cases with law enforcement has upped my investigative game, big time. Below, I share what I’ve learned from cops, others who are being harassed, and women just like me.
IT WON’T STOP
When I first spoke with the Flagstaff PD, the officer I spoke with said, “You know that when you file a restraining order, it doesn’t guarantee your safety, and you can pretty much bet he will try to get around the order by sending messages somehow.”
And she was right.
A few months ago, I received a message request in Facebook from a man I didn’t know. I accepted it not really knowing what to expect I would read, but at that moment, not expecting it to be something scathing and shaming. Turns out, it was just that. “Scott” told me how horrible I was for talking openly about the abuse I endured and lots of other lovely digs. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that this message could be my ex.
I wrote back that I thought it was so strange that he was writing me about something he had no experience with, and that maybe he should support women who report abuse versus shame them. I still, naively, didn’t think it was a fake profile. After I wrote back, I blocked him.
About an hour later, I received another message request from a woman named “Karen” claiming to be “Scott’s wife.” My jaw was on the floor. Who were these people who were so invested in shaming me for sharing my journey? Did they know my ex? Maybe I was a bit slow that day, or maybe I just generally believe people and what they are presenting, but I still thought it was real. Hours went by with me believing this was legit then suddenly...3…2…1…..it hit me. They aren’t real people at all. They are one person disguised to get the last word and circumvent the law.
Here’s where the tips come in. If something like this happens to you and you want to dive deeper into the fake profiles— proving they are indeed fake and tracing them to the harasser/subject of your protective order—give this a try:
Step 1: Download the profile photo of the profile. In my case, this is the photo attached to “Scott", who sent me the scathing message. (Click the "read more" button on the right to continue.)
Step 2: Go to Google.com and click on the menu item at the top on the right side that says IMAGES. See the little camera icon? Click on it. Choose upload an image. Then upload the facebook profile photo.
Step 3: Once you upload the photo, see what results show up. Scroll down to pages that include matching images. This is where you can see where the photo came from and is used on the internet. As you can see below, “Scott’s” profile pic is used in many places. Dive a little deeper, and you find out that the photo is actually that of photographer, Lee Cherry. Not Scott…hmmmm. Fake photo, and in this case, identity theft.
Step 4: Look at the profile. When was it created? Do they have many friends? Karen and Scott are “married” but she lives in Florida and he lives in Connecticut, according to their profiles. Oh, and Scott isn’t Lee Cherry, so there’s that.
Step 5: Now, it’s time to do a regular google search. In my case, I had two names to google. I googled both fake profile names and low and behold Scott and Karen both showed up on a Facebook page reviewing a woman (and her business) who is publicly connected to my ex. Also, see if you can find public records (home sales, address, tax records) for the names of the folks listed in the towns where they say they live. You’ll find nothing.
Step 6: Take all of the info and send it to your law enforcement contacts.
UPDATE: I was able to also prove "Karen Marie" is a fake profile as well. Using photos of other people, aka stealing their identity, is not smart nor legal. I followed the same procedures using Google image search to find the real identity of the avatar chosen. Poor Brooke Smith (photo "Karen" used) is a bartender living in New York. "Karen" is a woman living in Clearwater, Florida who is connected to one of my ex's former clients. See below.
Now that we’ve covered the investigative/documentation side, I want to share a resource I recently learned about from a friend.
Virtually Protect Yourself
A friend of mine shared an app that allows your friends to virtually watch you walk to your car, or home, or wherever you want to get safely. Her app is specifically for universities (http://apparmor.com ); however, I found this one online: https://companionapp.io, It works anywhere. (Companion App is shown below.)
There you have it. This is just a snippet of what you need to be prepared for after you file a protective order.
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to understanding how to protect yourself and your loved ones. Keep standing up for yourself and keep speaking out about abuse.
I’m with you. I’m here for you. I am so very proud of you.
If you have other tips or info to share, please share them with me and I'll update this post to include your submissions. Thank you!