Indiana bill would let domestic violence victims change phone pl - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Indiana bill would let domestic violence victims change phone plans, keep pets

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NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- When a domestic violence victim leaves an abuser, the perpetrator often keeps control over their cell phone. But a new piece of legislation is aimed to give victims more rights. An Indiana bill would allow victims to separate their cell phone plans from their abuser's. 

Local shelters say it's a big step in the right direction. 

St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany is one place victims of domestic violence can find safety.

"If someone's leaving everything they know, their whole life, and moving somewhere else, the only thing they have is a phone," said Tricia Byrd, Residential Director.

She explained why a victim's e-mails, photos, and especially their contacts are key.

"Once they come in, they need those kinds of things," Byrd said. "They need to have contact with their family and the people that support them, to help them through this process."

But sometimes, a cell phone can tie victims to more danger -- even after they leave.

"That can be used as leverage over them to stay, it can be used to monitor their whereabouts if they were in a family share plan where they can monitor their phone calls and location," said the bill's author Sen. Erin Houchins (R-Salem).

A newly proposed bill in Indiana would allow victims with a court order to disconnect their cell phone plan from their abuser's. Phone companies, like AT&T, are also on board.

"Victims are forced, in many cases, to stay in family-type cell phone plans with their abuser," Houchins said.

Right now, many victims are forced pay for a new phone number and a new plan after escaping domestic abuse.

"If it's separate, none of that will happen," Byrd said.

The bill would also allow victim's pets to be included in protective orders. It has passed the Senate, and now awaits a vote in the House.

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