Get the Records Straight – Part 2

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This is a continuation from Part 1.

The next step in becoming more liberated from a stalking situation (or a marriage gone bad) is to covert all of your paper copies of notes and evidence into digital form.

This is a great tactic, and especially useful for winning a legal case or prosecuting a criminal matter. Most often, half the battle is in the organization and presentation of the evidence.

I highly recommend doing this if your case facts or evidence is substantial, may ever go missing, get stolen, damaged or destroyed, or you just want to access it through the internet (especially if you may have to relocate to another city or country).

The fun part of it is finishing off all the paper documents by running them through the shredder (ALWAYS make sure that they are safely scanned and backed up to numerous digital locations and use a cross-cut shredder for extra privacy). It is definitely one of those experiences that made me feel physically lighter and free again. There was nothing that could weigh me down after that experience! Plus, I had a lot less to pack when I left for Mexico.

The Scanner
Everything having to do with a case can be digitally scanned into PDF format. To do this, get access to a scanner (borrow or buy an inexpensive one) and hook it up to your computer.

If you have access to a commercial scanner, such as the type on a large photocopier at your work or school, it will speed up the process if you have larger documents to digitize. Hours of your precious life can be saved this way.

Just set the document in the feeder (or on the glass) and press the button. The scanned document can be sent to your email or saved to a removable hard-drive, both of these options I will talk about next.

The Hard-Drive
To save your evidence to a removable hard-drive, get two removable hard-drive storage units with ample storage memory (Think GB, not MB). Reason being, if one fails or gets damaged, you always have your work saved on the other.

It is wise to continually back-up your main hard-drive with the other, as the documents are saved. Everything will then be retrievable at the click of a mouse, safe on your hard-drive. You will never have to find a paper document again by flipping through files or binders if you adopt this technique.

Keep your digital storage units secure in two different physical locations. For example, one in a fireproof safe at home, the other at work or in your locker at school. Pick a place you can gain access to them quickly.

Saving to Email
If you cannot afford to buy two good hard-drives, then another possible means of saving documents is to set up a new and separate email account that you will never use to receive any personal email, and that is not associated with your IP provider (try Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.).

You do not want a virus or some sort of malware attacking your email where you store essential records. You may need to access them one day. So do not send out emails to anyone from this account; only send the scanned documents to yourself.

Log into your email regularly to make sure everything is still there. I have read stories where Hotmail account holders lost everything in their email with a little glitch… so to be extra sure, use two different email accounts through different providers and save all the documents to both.

Or you can use the other possible option of one hard-drive backed up by an email account. Whatever works for you.

Then, your downloaded files can be accessed remotely from anywhere in the world, wherever there is an internet connection.

I like to do this with all my pictures too. It can be heartbreaking to lose those memories into thin air, and creates a blank gap in your life when it happens.

Documents Digitized and Organized
So how does one organize it all on the computer? Easy!

Set up a File Folder and name it something like YourName vs. TheJerkFromHell.

Scan each document in its entirety. When one document (consisting of one to however many pages in length) is completely scanned, name it in a way that a computer can automatically organized it chronologically by date, like this:

2010-03-24 Ltr ABC to DEC
2010-04-17 Fax DEC to ABC
2010-04-31 Email DEC to ABC
2010-05-01 Phonecall ABC to Dr Smith
2010-05-01 Report ABC to Dr Smith
2010-05-14 Report ABC to Police
2010-05-28 Claim ABC to FGH Insurance
2010-06-14 Phonecall FGH Insurance to ABC
2010-06-17 Notice of Motion filed by DEC
2010-07-21 Affidavit filed by DEC
2010-07-26 Responding Affidavit filed by ABC

So the trick is to name every file the same consistent way:
(Year-Month-Day – Document Type – Author Initials – to – Recipient Initials)

In the case of documents dealing with lawyers, or certain police officers I have regularly dealt with, or child welfare personnel, I usually use the last name of the individual:

2010-01-26 Ltr ABC to Jones
2010-03-24 Ltr Jones to ABC

Photos, Videos and Audio Clips
All of your digital media can also be organized in a similar fashion:

2010-01-28 Photo 1 ABC Assault
2010-01-28 Photo 2 ABC Assault
2010-01-28 Photo 3 ABC Assault
2010-01-28 Photo 4 ABC Assault
2010-01-31 Audio Phonecall DEC Threat
2010-02-14 Video Investigator Outside Home
2010-02-15 Photo 1 Footprints Outside Home
2010-02-15 Photo 2 Footprints Outside Home
2010-03-20 Audio Phonecall DEC Threat
2010-03-24 Photo Graffiti
2010-04-30 Photo Exterior Package Received
2010-04-30 Photo Contents Package Received

Expenses and Costs
A person who is stalked or harassed can be further drained when it costs them financially, prevents them from working, or is inundated by legal expenses.

So, every expense incurred, related to your case, whether it be a parking stub, repair to a vehicle or property, legal expense, court filing cost, relocation to another city, insurance deductible for damage (anything really!) can also be digitized.

Just scan the receipt (always keeping the originals in a safe place) and save it like this:

2010-05-13 Expense Parking $2.40
2010-05-27 Expense Time Off Work $220.00
2010-06-14 Expense Lawyer Retainer $1500.00
2010-07-16 Expense Dr Smith $45.00
2010-08-02 Expense Insurance Deductible $750.00
2010-09-21 Expense Graffiti Removal $250.00

Even though it is rare that a victim is ever compensated for financial losses relating to a stalker or harasser, it is useful to track just how much the stalking or harassment has cost you. Money is clearly measurable and revealing to judges, lawyers and prosecutors. Actually, they love anything to do with money.

The Case and Snapshot At a Glance
After compiling everything digitally, as one looks through all the document files at a glance in the folder, it is easy to see the timeline from a chronological perspective, and pick out the letters from the emails, the phone calls from the expenses, the photos from the videos, and so on.

A picture paints a thousand words, and by utilizing this technique to digitize a case, a person can see everything on a computer screen. Any outsider or investigator can see what kind of evidence you have, and may also take the case more seriously if the large part of their job of compiling the evidence has already been done by you.

The Modern Age of Evidence and Legal Pleadings
Nowadays, more and more courts accept digital files and evidence compiled in specialized legal case management software.

If all documents are saved in PDF format, they can be loaded quickly into the software. It is pretty cool software because notes can be made on the documents by legal professionals, documents can be cross-referenced and linked, and affidavits can be put together rapidly. After just pressing *print*, its ready for signature and filing in the court, and many judges are already using computers on the bench to conduct trials and hearings.

In a nutshell, these techniques and the use of legal professional software creates professionally compiled evidence in a reader-friendly way, useful to the courts, the police and your case.

And not only does it save trees, but it saves storage space in the file rooms of courts and law offices (and in your home!). It is much more easier for the judges, prosecutors and lawyers to comb through digital files when dealing with complicated legal matters.

Think Long-Term
Evidence, no matter how insignificant you may think it is at the time, can be useful to you later. If record-keeping seems like too much to bother with, remember that stalking and harassment can escalate into violence. To avoid becoming a statistic, it will be easier to have a system in place to be able to act fast – from a legal point-of-view – especially if you need an immediate restraining order.

If the police, prosecutors and players in the legal system have started using digital methods to operate more effectively, so should victims of stalking and harassment. As the saying goes, Do what the Romans do when in Rome.

It is Worth It
If you can find a way to document it, do it. It may take time, energy and money (unfortunately this is the personal cost of having a stalker or psychopath) but it can pay dividends in the end, and make or break your case. Your evidence, if prepared well and organized, will serve you favourably in the future.

Until next time… keep safe and sane…

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