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Jed Boal ReportingHelp is now just a phone call away for victims of one of our state's biggest criminal problems. Verizon Wireless has teamed up with the YWCA and the Attorney General to help victims of domestic violence in the Salt Lake area.
In front of the YWCA today were 1,144 white flags. Each represents a woman or child sheltered from domestic violence here at the YWCA last year. Now there's a new campaign to get cell phones into the hands of the victims.
Todd Southwick, Verizon Wireless: “Our goal is to provide a tool for those who are victims of domestic violence to be able to communicate in emergency situations."
The women’s shelter saw a 23-percent increase over the previous year; the number of children in Utah shelters increased 35-percent in Salt Lake County alone. 900 families could not find room because shelters were full, a 69 percent increase. And of 42 homicides in Utah last year, 38-percent were related to domestic violence.
The commission said 75 percent of domestic violence victims did not report abuse because the offender was a family member or close friend.
Anne Burkholder, YWCA-CEO: “Until women and children are safe from violence and abuse in their own home, our communities will fail to thrive."
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff calls it a major crime problem.
Mark Shurtleff, Utah Attorney General: “This is one of Utah's major crime problems. There are women across the state who are trapped in cages and think they're trapped in situations."
Verizon Wireless will collect used wireless phones to give the victims, through their Hopeline Project. This morning the company kicked off the program by donating 50 wireless phones to the YWCA and added 10-thousand dollars of support to the shelter. Verizon will load each of the phones with three-thousand minutes of air time that the abuse victims can use to start putting their lives back together.
So far nationwide Verizon has collected more than one-and-a half million cell phones as part of its Hopeline project. The company expects that number will increase as people become more aware of how they can help.
Verizon will have bins at each of its stores where you can turn in an old wireless phone or a phone that doesn't work any more; they can fix it and get it to the victims. It will also encourage area businesses to participate.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Next week the YWCA is sponsoring events throughout the week for their annual ‘Week Without Violence.’