New law helps domestic violence victims keep their phone numbers

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JEFFERSON CITY - A new law will allow victims of domestic violence to keep their cell phone number and contract separate from their abuser. 

Gov. Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 838  into law on Monday and it takes effect on August 28. The legislation will allow full orders of protection so cell phone providers can transfer the victim's account, and any services of children, to a new account, letting the victim keep their number.

Zachary Wilson, the development director of the Missouri Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said this law is necessary because communication is so important for victims.

"Whenever a full order of protection is granted and has this provision in it, it allows the survivor to be the one that is able to retain that so no social isolation happens," Wilson said. "There's not those opportunities they have to lose because they're not able to be connected."

Wilson said domestic violence is about power and control over a survivor's life, including manipulation partly through isolation. 

"People will also manipulate through finances. If your'e not able to have a job or if you don't have control of your finances, you don't have the kind of resources that may be necessary in order to get away." 

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said the issue was brought to his attention by a cell phone carrier. The carrier said family plans couldn't be separated, even in the case of domestic violence, because of contract law. A victim could get a restraining order, but an abuser could still cut the victim off from their cell phone.

The law will allow for a cleaner transition process after the victims leave a violent situation.

"They don't have to go and get down payments for new phones. They don't have to get new contracts established if they don't have credit history. It's something that will maintain them where they need to be," Wilson said. "It allows them to focus on other aspects of their life and recovery as opposed to get some of those basic fundamentals once again taken care of," Wilson said. 

Silvey said it's rare a bill is passed the first year it is introduced but the issue was supported across party lines.