Cell Phone Program May Have Problems

Yesterday I became aware of Los Angeles City Council Member Jan Perry’s support of the HopeLine program. It’s sponsor is Verizon Wireless. It’s set up to collect used cell phones that would be discarded. Under this program instead of being discarded, the phones are distributed to women who are targets of domestic violence so that they will have a means of calling for help in an emergency.

Councilwoman Perry’s Facebook page announces:

Do you have an old cell phone you don’t use? Come by my office at City Hall or in South LA (4301 S. Central) and donate your used phones to local domestic violence support groups. The Hopeline drop box will be in the lobby.

At first blush, this is a very compelling campaign. It’s evidence of people putting action to verbiage and making one small step toward being proactive in offering assistance and protection of those who are victimized. At first blush.

The HopeLine concept is admirable. But when it comes to actualizing the enforcement and protection that would be expected by someone who is attempting to escape the pain of a bad, the pain of an abusive relationship, the target walks a very thin chalk line. It’s virtually useless if the police don’t show up to assist the target. It misses the mark if the police are only there for those with a celebrity profile such as Rihanna.

The program is also rendered useless when the police create excuses to defend the abuser, lose reports, and decline to provide safe escort. Among those who seem to fall between the cracks are those who are not elders, not youth, not married but are being abused and battered by roommates. Police officers tell the target that what they’re describing is not domestic abuse and are therefore not eligible for protection. Officers have the impression there must be a sexually intimate relationship between the abuser and the target.

Hospitals recognize that abuse is abuse without regard to the marital nor intimacy relationship of the parties. The primary concern is getting the target out of harm’s way and into a place of safety. They recognize the situation as abuse that deserves attention.

Police say the target is not suffering from domestic abuse. When the instances of abuse occur on a chronic basis, the officers become weary of the situation. It is not uncommon for them to show up as much as an hour later. Their excuse for the dereliction of duty is that there were other calls of a higher priority that needed their attention first. The claim of domestic abuse fails. Police will not protect even when they see the injuries suffered by the target as they sit in the Emergency Room of a hospital or watch as medical personnel attend to the wounds and injuries.

It’s exciting to hear about the used cell phone program that is supposed to distribute the mobile devices for the protection of the average domestic violence sufferer. After all, this is one step toward empowering the target and allows them to start pulling their life back together. It prepares to allow escape from the harm, to get their self to a safe place.

Community Services is supposed to interview the target, take their statement, and arrange for prosecution of the perpetrator. Unfortunately, it appears that intelligence no longer applies. It’s difficult to reach the Victim’s Unit for either of the City Attorney or the District Attorney. The ones who do receive attention and protection are the Rihannas of the world — someone who can be a personality for the situation and bring positive lights to the scene.

What good is HopeLine if those who are being called for help fail to do the job of protecting the abused? The idea of it makes the heart of the abused leap for joy. The reality of the matter is it’s ineffective and merely gratuitous lip service. It would be good if Ms. Perry and others who support this and similar initiatives became aware of the lapses in service from the LAPD.

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