RUTLAND, VT — To assist survivors of domestic violence in Vermont, Bell Atlantic Mobile today announced the donation of 44 cellular phones and 14 voice mail boxes to 11 Vermont organizations working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The donation is part of the company's "Wireless at Work…" effort to arm victims of domestic violence with powerful, state-of-the-art wireless technology that provides a crucial lifeline to the police at the touch of a button.
Ken Dixon, Executive Director of Bell Atlantic Mobile's Upstate New York and Vermont Region, announced the donation at a statewide meeting of the Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
"In the United States, a woman is beaten every 9 seconds. Here in Vermont, you know how frequently women are assaulted or murdered by a husband, ex-husband, boyfriend or ex-boyfriend," he said. "Our cellular technology is uniquely suited to helping someone who needs an immediate link to law enforcement. That's why Bell Atlantic Mobile is dedicated to making sure this technology is available to women at risk of domestic violence" he said.
Eleven local organizations throughout Vermont will make the donated cellular phones available to women at risk of domestic violence, stalking or sexual abuse. The cellular phones are specially programmed to dial 9-1-1 at the touch of a single button. Voice mail boxes are also being donated for use by women who are living in shelters, to help them make contacts for jobs and housing and stay in touch with their families and friends.
Added to the 20 cellular phones donated to five police departments, domestic violence programs, and sexual assault organizations in Chittenden County in July 1998, today's donation brings the total of Bell Atlantic Mobile's cellular phone donations to 64.
"It is our hope that these phones will never have to be used to report an emergency," Dixon said, "but if a women feels threatened, help will be on the way immediately. This partnership between a corporation and local organizations is a perfect example of how we can pool our resources to help break the cycle of domestic violence."
"Last year our programs' services benefited over 6,000 adult victims of domestic violence and their 10,000 children who were exposed to domestic violence," said Judith Joseph, Coordinator of the Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. "Victims may be in the greatest danger when they finally do leave their abusers. Women in these situations need a way to summon help instantly from wherever they are. With these phones, domestic violence victims will have the power to contact police from home or from a car at the touch of a button, " she said. Victim advocates will also use the phones while transporting domestic violence survivors noted Joseph.
Bonnie Gainer, Executive Director of the Rutland County Women's Network said the voice mail boxes would also serve as a lifeline for women who have left their abusers and are living on their own. "Some choose to move into a shelter to escape their abusers," she pointed out. "They are separated from friends and family, and often feel isolated and vulnerable. The voice mail box gives them privacy and independence that will help them stay in touch and start putting their lives back together," she said. "We're all very grateful to Bell Atlantic Mobile for recognizing this important need."
The Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, with the financial support and participation of Bell Atlantic Mobile, has been conducting a month-long domestic violence awareness campaign as part of a nationwide effort. The worksite-based education campaign has involved employers from throughout Vermont including the State of Vermont, St. Michael's College, the Vermont Law School, C&S Wholesale Grocers, New England Air Systems, Hubbardton Forge, Northeast Cooperatives, Vermont Butter & Cheese, Hemmings Motor News, and Hunger Mountain Co-op. Participating employers are using posters, purple ribbons and kits that provide e-mail scripts, model newsletter articles and other resources to educate employees - be they abusers or victims of abuse -- how to get help.
"Corporations have a responsibility to give back to the communities they are in," said Dixon, congratulating the companies participating in the education program. He pointed out that seventy-eight percent of Human Resources professionals polled by Personnel Journal say that domestic violence is a workplace issue.
Joseph thanked Bell Atlantic Mobile for pioneering corporate participation in donations to organizations fighting domestic violence. "Bell Atlantic Mobile is setting an example that other businesses can match," said Joseph. Employers can also participate in raising awareness about domestic violence internally. "As more of us spend our daily lives in the workplace," said Joseph "domestic violence becomes a workplace issue that can effect the safety, health and productivity of our workers." Joseph identified several strategies for business and labor leaders that can be implemented to create safer and more supportive workplaces including: educating employees about domestic violence, providing management with tools to respond to domestic violence, and coordinating security personnel and local law enforcement.
Dixon also announced that the company has introduced a toll- and airtime-free link to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, allowing all Bell Atlantic Mobile customers to simply dial *HOPE from their wireless phones to reach the hotline. Customers are being alerted of the *HOPE feature via a bill message during the month of October throughout the company's Maine to Georgia footprint.
Since 1995, Bell Atlantic Mobile has focused its philanthropic efforts, under the "Wireless at Work…" community service program, on assisting victims of domestic violence by utilizing the company's resources and technology in a variety of ways. This year the company has earmarked $100,000 in 1998 to help victims of domestic violence by providing wireless technology solutions.
Bell Atlantic Mobile owns and operates the largest wireless network in the East, covering 112,000 square miles, and the largest chain of retail outlets devoted exclusively to wireless voice, data and paging. Based in Bedminster, NJ, Bell Atlantic Mobile has 5.7 million customers and 7,000 employees from Maine to Georgia and, through a separate subsidiary, in the Southwest. Bell Atlantic Mobile's parent is one of the world's largest wireless communications companies, with domestic operations in 25 states and international investments in Mexico, Europe and the Pacific Rim. For more information on Bell Atlantic global operations visit: www.bellatlantic.com/worldwide.