In Indiana, there are more than 40 domestic violence programs throughout the state to help victims of abuse who need to leave dangerous situations. These programs offer a variety of ways to help those who are suffering in their homes. Lawmakers are trying to help those who are in the process of escaping violent situations by requiring cell phone carriers to allow victims of domestic violence to separate cell phone plans from their abusers, as well as expand a protection order to include family pets.
Currently, wireless providers require the permission of the account holder to separate cell phones from a family plan. Under Senate Bill 323, wireless providers would be required under a court order to transfer plans over to abuse victims without the consent of the account holder. The victim would be responsible for paying that account, but they would do so knowing that their information and support network is safe and away from their abuser.
When leaving an abusive relationship, it is imperative to have a support network. Not only are we taking steps to ensure victims have access to their support network, but this also decreases the chances of the abuser knowing where the victim is by tracking their location.
Smartphones are a lifeline to most of us who wouldn’t leave the house without them. They contain precious photos and videos, as well as links to our emails and other conversations. For safety, we can track our children when they are out of sight, and in that same sense, an abuser could download a program to their victim’s phone in order to track them, even if they have left the home.
Another part of the legislation would allow judges to include pets, as they would personal property, in a protective order for domestic violence. National studies show about 48 percent of domestic violence victims report they delayed leaving because they were fearful of what would happen with their pets. Abusers use many methods to keep their victims with them, and threatening to harm a pet is one of those ways. If a person decides to leave a violent situation, they could now include their pet under the order of protection, and keep the pet with them.
Abuse is about power over victims, and this proposal makes significant and important steps to take away that power from abusers. The more people we can empower to leave these dangerous situations, the better, and this proposal gives them the chance to take their beloved pet and maintain their support network through their cell phone service.
If you or someone you know is suffering abuse from a spouse or partner, please reach out to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 800-332-7385.
Contact me with any questions or input by calling 317-232-9816 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville) represents portions of Posey and Vanderburgh counties.
A high-resolution photo of McNamara can be downloaded by clicking here.