Nora Campos, 2010. (Mercury News archives)
Nora Campos, 2010. (Mercury News archives) ( Maria J. Avila Lopez )

SAN JOSE -- Deluged with phone calls from strange men, Nancy Duong couldn't explain why they were bombarding her confused and irate dad.

But the San Jose student soon discovered the chilling reason for the barrage: Her ex-boyfriend -- not content with merely punching her for dumping him -- had photo-shopped her face onto a picture of a nude woman.

He then posted the composite photo, along with her home address and phone number, on an escort service's sexually explicit website. Soon, sleazy phone calls were pouring in.

"I felt horrible when I saw that page," said Duong, now a 20-year-old student at Evergreen Community College. "He caused my family much embarrassment."

Now, a bill sponsored by state Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, would give judges in domestic violence cases more power to prohibit that form of cyberbullying, which is now proliferating on Facebook and other sites.

"With the continuing explosion of social media, we are seeing more cases of impersonation online," said Andrew Cain, an attorney with Legal Advocates for Children and Youth in San Jose.

Eliminating confusion

Campos is sponsoring several other bills promulgated by the Santa Clara County Domestic Violence Council and the Santa Clara County Office of Women's Policy. All appear to be eagerly embraced by the Legislature.

"She's really showing leadership in this area," said Julie Saffren, a San Jose family law attorney with a focus on domestic violence issues. "We appreciate her efforts to work for the protection and safety of victims."

Impersonating someone the way Duong's ex-boyfriend did is already illegal under state law. But advocates say Campos' proposal, Assembly Bill 157, is necessary because judges are sometimes confused about whether impersonating someone online is abuse or could be construed as an expression of free speech.

The law would eliminate any confusion by adding high-tech abuse to the list of behaviors that can trigger a protective order. That includes creating a fake Facebook page or Twitter account in someone else's name and then posting inflammatory statements designed to alienate friends and family or damage the target's reputation.

"Abuse takes many forms," Saffren said. "It's more than just the obvious slap in the face, punch or push. It's about power and control, any way possible."

Insurance protection

Another Campos proposal, Assembly Bill 176, was the brainchild of Judge Michael Clark of Santa Clara County Superior Court, Saffren said.

Families involved in a criminal domestic violence case often are involved in parallel civil matters, such as divorce, custody or juvenile proceedings. As a result, multiple courts may wind up issuing protective orders at different points in the process.

The problem arises when one order allows a greater measure of contact between the defendant and the victim than the other.

The bill would provide that if more than one restraining order has been issued and one of the orders is a no-contact order, a peace officer must enforce the no-contact order. It also authorizes police to seek an emergency protective order from a court 24 hours a day if the person or child is in immediate danger.

Another Campos proposal, Assembly Bill 161, would give courts the power to protect insurance coverage of victims in domestic abuse cases. In divorce cases, a spouse is barred from discontinuing certain types of insurance (health, life, auto and disability). But continuation of coverage is not required under domestic violence restraining orders, and abusers often threaten to take their spouses off the policies to intimidate them into staying against their will.

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.