A new law will help victims of domestic violence separate their cell phone contracts from their accused abusers.
Prior to this law, victims did not have a way to cancel or change their cell phone plans unless they were the primary account holder. Under the new law, victims who have a personal protection order would be able to get a court order from a judge to cancel or transfer their cell phone or data plan that they share with an accused abuser.
Carla Blinkhorn, CEO of the YWCA West Central Michigan, says cell phones can be dangerous for individuals in a violent relationship. “Cell phones in general provide challenges for domestic violence survivors primarily because they have locator services so that you are able to track another person,” Blinkhorn said.
The bipartisan legislation was sponsored by State Representatives Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw) and Tom Barrett (R-Potterville). Guerra says the new law will go a long way in keeping victims safe in the cell phone age. “This bill was necessary and truly long overdue,” Guerra said. “Nowadays, obviously, our personal information is so connected to our cell phones. Making a victim of domestic abuse then go obtain a new cell phone number is an additional barrier that they have to face when starting their life over.”
The new law was created in part with phone company AT&T. AT&T has helped develop similar legislation in other states, including Wisconsin and California. “Defending the victims of domestic abuse couldn’t be more important, and AT&T will always work to help protect those that find themselves in such a terrible situation,” said Jim Murray, President of AT&T Michigan in a press release. “This new law will significantly help victims of domestic violence, and we’re very proud to say we were a part of that effort.”
Michigan is the fifth state to enact a law of this kind. The law goes into effect on September 29.