Don't make domestic violence victims pay to stay safe
This summer, I got a phone call that nobody wants to receive; on the other end of the line between sobs I heard, "He beat me up." My sister had been attacked and beaten by her boyfriend and was in the emergency room. Without even putting shoes on her feet, she quietly escaped their house in the middle of the night with nothing but her car key. Because he had taken her phone she went to a small pub around the corner to call her daughter, who lives 3 hours away and then drove there for help. Her glasses were broken, her nose was broken, her ribs were cracked, her heart was broken - she knew this was the beginning of a long and difficult journey to reclaim her life. After the initial shock and urgent care treatment, my sister began to take the necessary steps to keep herself safe and get away from her abusive partner. As a couple, they were also business partners owning a mobile car mechanic service; it was her only source of income. She booked the appointments and ran the billings. They used her credit to secure a small loan, credit cards and bank accounts. Everything was joint or in the business' name, which meant her abuser had access to all of the accounts. One of the first things she tried to do was cancel their shared contracts with Verizon Wireless - ending the contract was a complicated but extremely necessary step. If Verizon would not end the contracts, it meant that her abusive boyfriend would have continued access to all of her phone records and would know who she was calling and most horrifically, where she was calling from. My sister's life and safety, like many other survivors’, depended on being able to stay away from her abuser. She was shocked when Verizon informed her it would be $500 to end these contracts and stay safe. She had no money – he had taken everything from her. Not only was she emotionally shaken, but because of Verizon’s policies she would have to pay extra money to keep herself safe. After a long battle, Verizon finally waived my sister's fees, but thousands of other victims of abuse are in her shoes right now, facing the choice between safety at a huge cost and continued danger. One in four women and one in nine men are victims of domestic violence. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner every year. It takes so much courage to step out of an abusive relationship, seek help and start over. And Verizon Wireless knows it. They even have programs to help victims of domestic violence, like HopeLine. But Verizon Wireless is punishing these customers by charging an early termination fee, even when the contract must be broken because the abusive partner is in jail or a court has ordered a restraining order. They can and should do better. Please sign my petition asking Verizon Wireless to create a policy that does not punish victims of domestic violence for taking the brave steps necessary to keep themselves safe. Verizon should not charge fees for early termination of contracts if they are because the person has been a victim of domestic violence.