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Massachusetts librarian creates phone safes out of books for domestic violence victims

Westwood librarian helps domestic violence victims by hiding cell phones in books
Westwood librarian helps domestic violence victims by hiding cell phones in books 02:58

WESTWOOD - A Westwood librarian is fighting back against domestic violence by using a cell phone and discarded library books.

Molly Riportella works at the Westwood Public Library and is a survivor of domestic violence. When a coworker told her she was in an abusive relationship, she gave the woman a cell phone to make discreet calls for help.

"My first thought was, 'Oh my gosh, you need a phone," said Riportella. "I had an extra line, extra phone, and went ahead and charged it all up for her. I went ahead and loaded different resources from the state and national. And she goes, "Oh, thank you for the phone; it's great. I started using it, but I can't bring it home because he will go through my things.'"

Molly used a discarded library book to hollow out a book safe to conceal the phone. The idea sparked a broader project she calls BiblioUnderground. Riportella is creating more book safes with burner cellphones for domestic violence victims. The phones come loaded with domestic violence resources and contacts as well as free minutes.

"I want anyone who wants to escape to know that they have a phone to do so," said Riportella, reflecting on her own experience that happened when she moved in with her boyfriend in her early 20s. "He hit me that day, and I remember - it sounds so stupid now - but I was like, I just told everybody I had moved in. I had deep shame. I was so scared to get a restraining order because I didn't know if that would come back to hurt me, because I wanted a public job. Now that I am in my 30s, I am like, that is so dumb, but I didn't know, and why would I know?"

The idea is to get these secret book phones into the hands of local organizations combatting domestic violence. She started funding the project with her own money, but has since raised $13,000 through a GoFundMe page. The money is going to buying more phones.

"You don't give the number to your kids, don't give the number to your girlfriends, you keep that number to yourself and give it to your lawyers or your advocate," explained Riportella.

If you don't feel safe in a relationship and live in Massachusetts, you can call 988 or the Mass SafeLink Domestic Violence Hotline at 877-785-2020.   

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