“D” Spotwell knows the frustration of trying to get a restraining order. She had a violent husband (currently serving a life sentence, which is why I’m not using her first name) and another relationship that turned into stalking. She went to court numerous times to get restraining orders, complaining of telephone harassment. She left court empty-handed. Why? Because she had no evidence of the harassing calls.
Spotwell has since learned how to get proof of telephone harassment that a judge will usually accept. Now, she’s helping women (and men) in similar situations.
Spotwell is a representative for a telephone answering system called SpeechPhone. This is essentially a computer technology that screens all incoming calls, relays the calls to you, asks you if you want to take the call, and if not, records a message from the caller.
SpeechPhone is often marketed to businesses as a way to make sure important calls and messages are never missed. The service uses speech-recognition technology, so callers can just say the person or department they want, rather than punching in extension numbers or weeding through a menu.
SpeechPhone is also marketed to individuals. The main benefit is that you only need one phone number—not a work number, home number, cell number. You tell the system which phone you are currently using. Or, the system can search for you—if you don’t answer one phone number, it tries the next.
The company itself does not promote SpeechPhone as a tool to gather evidence in domestic violence or child custody conflicts. But it’s an application of the technology that Spotwell has found to work.
Here is why the telephone service can help you get a restraining order: It logs all incoming calls, it informs a caller that he or she is being recorded, and it keeps all messages. All this information is available over the Internet—which a judge can access during a hearing.
“It saves the verbal message,” Spotwell says. “The log shows the date and time. If a judge clicks on the call, he can hear the message.” Plus, the system records the fact that you refused to answer a call. This helps you prove that you really do not want to speak to the person who is harassing you.
The system can also record text messages, e-mails and faxes. Everything is logged with a date and time.
Spotwell explains that if you try to get the police to trace your calls, sometimes it takes awhile for them to get started. And, they cannot keep a trace on a phone line indefinitely.
Spotwell says she’s helped hundreds of women. “I’m teaching people to protect themselves at all times,” she says. “When he calls your phone, you’re showing the judge that you don’t want to be an abuse victim. You don’t have to take the call; you can let it roll over to voice mail. And you have documented proof.”
Selling the service
Yes, Spotwell is selling this service. A couple of weeks ago, she posted information about it in comments on the Lovefraud Blog. Several people contacted me to report it as spam, and I deleted the postings. Then Spotwell called me to apologize—she said she was just trying to get the word out so she could help the victims of domestic violence. As a blog newbie, she didn’t realize her posts looked like spam.
Spotwell also says she encourages domestic violence survivors to become sales representatives for the company. “It’s a self-employment opportunity. They can come into the phone company business and sell to anyone,” Spotwell says. “I do work from a laptop and advertise on the web.”
To find out more about the service, call Spotwell at 714-649-5161. Calls, of course, are screened through through her own SpeechPhone service, so she feels comfortable posting her phone number. (SpeechPhone is available in the U.S. only.)
Disclaimer: I have not actually tried this service, but based on my years of writing marketing materials for telephone and technology companies, SpeechPhone looks legitimate. SpeechPhone also calls itself a “Christian-based direct sales company.” I have no opinion regarding its religious orientation.