COOK COUNTY, IL- The Sheriff’s Office Victim Support Services Unit (VSS) has partnered with 911 Cell Phone Bank to provide free pre-paid cell phones to assist survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
“Isolation is just one of many horrible tactics for abusers to keep victims vulnerable and disconnected from the outside world,” Sheriff Dart said. “They use cell phones as a means of power and control over victims, but through this partnership, we are able to help give back a piece of their freedom.”
The pilot program offers survivors a lifeline that allows them to contact needed resources potentially without their abuser’s knowledge. These survivors, mostly women and children, do not have phones or electronics, and in most cases, have had their devices taken away by their abusers.
This year, VSS staff have provided services such as housing, food, clothing, and connecting to social service agencies, to more than 100 survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. Of those, 38% did not have cell phones.
“As survivors of domestic violence, my team and I know all too well that one of an abuser’s favorite forms of punishment is to shut off their partner’s cell phones at the slightest hint of independence,” said Cyndi Kenzinger, Director of the Victim Support Services Unit.
The donated phones are wi-fi capable and include unlimited minute plans that will be available for free for 60 days. After the 60-day period, there is a minimal monthly fee. Subsequently, these phones will help prevent technology-based abuse such as stalking and harassment by abusers. VSS staff also provide donated tablets that can be used for tele health appointments, court calls, and online classes, as well as laptops for school and educational needs.
Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office donates cell phones to the 911 Cell Phone Bank’s “Phone it Forward” program. These are phones that residents no longer want and are gathered from drop box collection sites located throughout the county. They are then donated to the organization to be restored for use.
The 911 Cell Phone Bank is focused on restoring cell phones as emergency devices and donating them to law enforcement agencies and organizations nationwide who provide crucial services to victims of abuse and human trafficking, as well as senior citizens.
“We all would like nothing more than for domestic violence to be eradicated, but at least for now, it’s a plague we must deal with,” said James Mosieur, Director of 911 Cell Phone Bank. “We are happy to do our part and help our law enforcement partners provide practical assistance to survivors.”
This initiative is part of the Sheriff’s Office’s ongoing efforts to address the needs of all survivors of abuse while aggressively investigating and charging offenders in cases of domestic violence and human trafficking.