Kuster, Eshoo Introduce Legislation To Help Domestic Violence Survivors Exit Phone Plans Shared by Their Abusers
**Abusers can use shared wireless service plans to stalk or control victims**
Washington, March 17, 2022
Tags: Ending Sexual Violence
Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Anna Eshoo (CA-18) introduced the Safe Connections Act, a bill to help survivors of domestic violence and other crimes cut ties with their abusers and separate from shared wireless service plans, which can be exploited to monitor, stalk, or control victims.
Survivors of crimes like domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual assault, and human trafficking can face challenges when establishing independence from an abuser. When a survivor remains stuck on a family or shared wireless phone plan, their abusers can use the plan to limit their access to the communications tools essential to maintaining connections with family, social safety networks, employers, and support services. Survivors with limited resources and incomes are often unaware that they may qualify for participation in the Lifeline Program, which provides a discount phone service for eligible consumers.
The Safe Connections Act seeks to rectify these challenges and help survivors protect themselves by:
“Survivors of interpersonal violence face numerous challenges as they seek to stabilize and rebuild their lives,” said Rep. Kuster. “A critical but often overlooked step in this process is to separate their phone lines from a wireless plan shared or controlled by their abusers. That’s why I’m honored to introduce the Safe Connections Act, which provides a clear template for survivors to work with their phone carriers to exit from a shared plan and, where applicable, enroll in the Lifeline Program to help cover phone expenses as they get their finances in order. These are critical measures to ensure the safety of survivors and help them quickly cut ties with their abusers.”
“While shared phone plans can be a helpful tool to manage several cell phones on one account, they are weaponized by abusers to monitor, harass, and control their partners. Survivors face overwhelming barriers when trying to separate from these plans, including high termination fees and contractual obligations. It’s time for Congress to help survivors regain digital independence, and it’s why I’m proud to introduce the Safe Connections Act with Congresswoman Kuster to ensure all survivors can remove themselves from shared phone plans without prohibitive costs and enroll in the Lifeline Program to obtain new phones or phone services at discounted prices,” said Rep. Eshoo.
Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Brian Schatz (HI) and Deb Fischer (NE).
Representative Kuster is a founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, which works to raise awareness and propose solutions to the challenges posed by sexual assault and violence. The Task Force’s areas of focus include K-12 education, campus sexual violence, the rape kit backlog, military sexual trauma, improved data and collection, online harassment, and law enforcement training.