Many people have utilized the convenience and ease of cellular phones, discontinuing the use of a land-line altogether. It is for this reason that it is important that a cellular phone can be a hinderance to the safety of a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault.
If you are leaving, or have left your partner, you should consider the following in regards to the use of a personal cell phone: 1. Does your abuser have access to the account through your phone provider as an authorized person on the account? 2. Does your abuser have access to the account through an internet source with a login username and password? 3. Does your abuser have a program, such as Family Locator (Verizon), that can track the location of the phone when it is turned on? 4. Does your abuser have access through a third party to obtain information (family member or friend with access to your account)? 5. Is your abuser still able to make contact with you on your personal cell phone number?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, your safety and well being can still be in jeopardy. But there are ways to eliminate these concerns.
First, contact your phone provider and discuss with them the ability to remove your abuser as an authorized person on the account. If they are the account holder, ask how to complete a "Transfer of Responsibility" (Verizon's terms) in order to be solely responsible for the use of your phone line only. Many cell phone providers are able to assist you with ease and complete the process within minutes of your request. *NOTE: If there are voicemails saved in your cell phone account that are pertinent to any legal matters involving your abuser, first have those copied onto a disk or flashdrive. Many cell phone companies cannot save these when completing a Transfer of Responsibility and they will be lost! If you are in need of assistance with this, contact Safe Space at 406-782-8511.
Now that your abuser cannot access your cell phone account information by going through a cell phone company representative, the next step is to remove access to your account on any internet access. Companies such as AT&T and Verizon have webportals that are set up to allow customers to manage their billing, payments, and settings online for convenience. This information could allow your abuser to know who you have been in contact with, how often, and where you may be going. Simply access your account and change your log in information, including the information that is set up to help remember a password such as security questions or the email attached to your account to retrieve a password reset.
Once this is complete, you should be the only person able to access your cell phone account information, unless you have authorized a trusted family member or friend that would not release the information to your abuser.
To find out if a locator or tracker has been installed on your phone, contact your cell phone representative. If there is one, they will be able to assist you in removing this or provide you with other options.
If you have completed the above steps, and your abuser still has your phone number, or if you change your number and your abuser obtains the new phone information, talk with your cell phone provider about "blocking phone numbers" Verizon allows for up to 5 phone numbers to be blocked free of charge in 90 day increments. This will prevent the specific phone numbers blocked from calling, texting, or leaving voicemails for you. THIS DOES NOT PREVENT YOUR ABUSER FROM USING OTHER PHONE NUMBERS (SUCH AS WORK, FRIENDS, OR FAMILY) FROM CONTACTING YOU! If you have blocked your abuser's phone and you are still contacted, call your local police department to file a report of Stalking or Privacy in Communications (links provided are the Montana Annotated Codes for these violations).
If you are unable to complete the above steps, consider changing your phone number, cell phone providers, or disconnecting your cell phone and request a 911-only emergency cell phone from Safe Space.