By Samantha Clawson
The Human Resources Development Council's domestic violence program has come up with a new plan to protect victims of domestic violence.
Roxanne Ross, director for the domestic abuse program, is collecting old cellular phones to give to people who feel they are in danger of being physically harmed. Any functioning cell phone can be used to call 911 even if it doesn't have service the ability to make local and long distance calls.
Employees with the program first heard about using cell phones for protection about six months ago at a meeting of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Other programs around the state have found giving out cell phones to be helpful. "The other programs that I've talked to about this find it a valuable service," Ross said.
The cell phones collected through donations from the community will go first to people who have had to get orders of protection. An order of protection is a civil order granted by a judge to a person who is in immediate danger if they come in contact with a specific person.
Last year the domestic violence program provided assistance to 350 women and 20 men who were victims of domestic violence. A total of 82 received orders of protection.
Cell phones are helpful because people who violate an order of protection need to be reported to law enforcement immediately. If they are reported even half an hour later the transgressors may not be held accountable for violating the order.
Eventually the program would like to give cell phones to people who do not have an order of protection. "Other people who may not have an order of protection may need to make a 911 call," Ross said.
Ross believes that cell phones will help keep the victims safe. "I'm expecting that the most important result of these cell phones is that victims can feel safe in and out of their homes," said Ross. "It will also assist police in holding offenders accountable."
Cellular One has made donations of cell phones in the past. The program has gone through 10 cell phones in the last six months. The cell phones are hard to retrieve from the victims and currently the domestic abuse program has no cell phones left to give out.
"We'd like to have 30 for our use over the year," said Ross, but even after the initial donation of 30 the agency would still need donations to keep up with the large demand.
Cell phones can be dropped off at the front desk at 2229 Fifth Ave. The donation may be tax deductible. Cell phones should be donated with their batteries and charging equipment.
Donations of cellular phones would help fulfill Ross' goal, she said. "Our goal is to help the community keep the community safe."