One may define identity as the distinctive characteristic belonging to any given individual, or shared by all members of a particular social category or group.
This goes beyond the physical appearances alone, as it also includes the mannerisms, behavior and basically everything that is characteristic of a person and can be used to differentiate them from other people.
Quite a number of people have considered having a change of name, and they wonder how it will affect their identity.
Well, it will definitely have an effect, but a change in identity actually goes beyond a mere change of name. You cannot just decide to change your identity on a whim, it does not work that way.
Many reasons have been put forward as to why people desire a change in their identity, and the top five reasons will be examined here.
Witness protection program:
There are quite a number of criminals in the society, a large number of them belonging to organized and closely-knit crime families. This kind of set up makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to bring down such organizations because there is hardly any evidence to show that the crimes under investigation were committed by them. This necessitates the need for a person who will provide evidence whether by word of mouth under oath or by providing physical evidence that will help the law enforcement agencies with their case.
The person becomes a witness, and is usually the principal evidence for the prosecution.
The Federal Witness Security Program is intended for such crucial witnesses in criminal cases, whose prospective testimony puts them in immediate danger. Since its inception in 1970, more than 7,500 witnesses and more than 9,500 witness family members have entered the program and have been protected, relocated and given new identities by the U.S. Marshals Service. The purpose is to protect the witness from the criminals they will testify or have testified against. Some witness protection programs go beyond just a name change, most times it involves a complete change of the person’s identity, thus making it difficult for them to be traced.
This is one of two legal reasons for having an identity change in the United States.
Escaping an abusive relationship
According to various research, on the average about 29% of young women are either in an abusive relationship, or have been in one. For women who are courageous and strong enough, the make up their minds to leave the abusive partner. Research has also shown that most abusive men are also possessive and domineering, and so they will never willingly let go of the abused party. There are a number of women rights’ organisations who advertise their readiness to help women who want to escape from an abusive relationship. This help usually involves relocation, a change in physical appearance and of course a new identity for the abused party and her children, if any. The aim is to make it difficult to find the abused person and to give them the opportunity to have a new shot at living a normal life. This is the second legal reason for identity change recognised by the United States.
Escaping gang life
Most gangs are usually close-knit and most are made up of members that have spent many years together. Hence, a decision to leave such a gang would be seen as an act of betrayal, and depending on how violent the gang is, the punishment for the act could go as far as death for the offending party. The reasons for leaving a gang could be family, a newfound love or just simply a desire to live free of the hold of crime and the gang. Personal preservation is a natural instinct of man, therefore a person who finds themselves in a situation like that will seek for ways to stay alive for as long as possible. A ready option that comes to mind is a change of identity. This, however, might not be enough to save them from the coming “judgement” as most gangs have far reaching tentacles and the people helping with the identity change may be the very ones to give such a person away.
A number of people with a high debt profile wonder if their creditors will find them even after changing their names; the truth is you will be found eventually. There are pictures of you, and unless you decide to have facial reconstruction surgery (which you would not be able to afford if you are in debt), you may take an innocent picture sometime that will blaze a trail to you. In any case, having a change of identity as a means of escaping debt is illegal in the United States. The only reason a change of name may be considered is in cases of identity theft, where someone somewhere stole all your details and starts spending all of your money using your credit cards and operating your bank accounts. If it can be proved that the theft did occur, a change of name will be allowed as a means of escaping the debt incurred by the unknown person or group of persons. However, this involves a lot of legal processes.
Hiding from law enforcement agencies
A few people change their identities in a bid to hide from the law. This applies mostly to people with criminal backgrounds or those on the run from law enforcement agencies. This category of people have their names changed and move to new places, where they either lay low or continue their nefarious acts. For example, a U.S. Department of Justice funded research has revealed 16% of sexual offenders nationwide are beating the system by stealing identities to avoid being tracked. This means that the offenders are changing their identity by any means possible.
This shows that not all reasons for having an identity change are noble and altruistic.
However, if you have changed your identity, you must remember that your old identity is never completely erased as some agencies will still have records of you.
If you get arrested, chances are these old documents and information will be found and it may lead to confrontations and other problems – basically, keep a low profile.