Northwest NEWS

June 5, 2000

Home & Garden

Help! when you need somebody - cell phones to the rescue

by Bronwyn Wilson, senior staff reporter

   In a public service announcement, actress Susan Sarandon states, "Every day, 5,000 women become victims of domestic violence. And their most powerful weapon against this atrocity may be sitting right in your home, waiting to make a difference."

   The weapon Sarandon speaks of is a cell phone. In a victim's hands, the wireless phone can literally be a lifeline, enabling the victim to call for assistance at the push of a button.

   To place cell phones in the hands of those in emergency situations is the mission of a domestic violence prevention project called Call to Protect. Launched in 1996 by the Wireless Foundation, the project's goal is to collect one million used cell phones nationally.

   In cooperation with GTE, Motorola, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Call to Protect provides preprogrammed wireless phones to victims living in fear of the next episode of violence. With the cell phone available, those in danger have instant access to help. Once donated to Call to Protect, the wireless phones are programmed with emergency numbers that can be accessed in a moment of need.

   Since Call to Protect began, Motorola has donated 16,000 wireless phones to the program, and free airtime has been provided by 74 wireless carriers across the United States who are members of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association. Call to Protect also provides wireless phones to domestic violence professionals so they can reach victims, report cases of abuse, and contact emergency services.

   Wireless industry analysts estimate that there are currently as many as 24 million inactive wireless phones in people's homes and businesses. Once collected, the phones are either donated to victims of domestic violence or refurbished and sold, with proceeds going to benefit violence programs and organizations.

   Although there is no profile of women who will be battered, there is a well-documented syndrome of what happens once the violence starts. Battered women experience shame, embarrassment, and isolation.

   A woman may not leave her situation because she fears the batterer will become more violent if she attempts to leave; her friends and family do not support her leaving; she has limited sources of cash to support herself on her own; there's a mix of good times, love, and hope, along with the manipulation, intimidation, and fear, and finally, she may not know about or have access to safety and support.

   It is this last reason for women staying in an abusive relationship that Call to Protect hopes to abolish.

   State Representative Kathy Lambert of the 45th District is asking the community for their help and will be collecting used cell phones at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse on June 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. For victims of domestic violence who need assistance, safe solutions, or referrals, call The National Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).