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MO Bill Helps Free Victims From Abusers - KOAM TV 7

MO Bill Helps Free Victims From Abusers

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

For domestic abusers, a phone can become a tool for control. 

"If [an abuser] owns that line he knows he can turn it off, he knows he can break [the victim's] phone. He can't get in trouble for breaking the phone because it's his property," Crisis Intervention Specialist at Lafayette House, Linnea Hanshaw said. 

When a victim is ready to leave an abuser, Hanshaw says their cell phone plan can put their only means of communication at risk. 

"I don't know how many times I've met with a woman when she comes in and says, 'this is my phone number. but I don't know how long I'm gonna have it because he's the one that pays for the plan'," Hanshaw said. 

Monday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed SB838, which says full orders of protection will permit wireless service providers to transfer the victim's cell phone service to a new account where they can retain their wireless services and associated telephone numbers.

"It's not unusual to see offenders take phones away or give communication devices away from victims," Joplin Police Captain Bob Higginbotham said. "It's just another way they can manipulate and control them."

"[Lafayette House does] safety calls once a week if we haven't seen someone in a while," Hanshaw said. "And if they've changed their phone number because their abuser has their phone and has disconnected it, we have no way of reaching that victim."

Besides the practical aspect, advocates say the new law can help provide piece of mind. Maybe victims gaining control over something as simple as their cell phone number can be another step towards independence and recovery.

"It's gets her a little more independence, but a continuity while she's leaving that situation," Hanshaw said. "She knows that the school still have her phone numbers, her kids may still have her phone number, things like that. And it gives her a sense of calm in that chaos that's going on."

The bill goes into effect, August 28th.

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