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Assembly Bill Would Allow Domestic Violence Victims To Leave Family Cellphone Plans

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Domestic abuse victims call a bill in the California Assembly a long overdue tool to stay safe after leaving an abuser.

Assembly Bill 1407 would allow a court to direct a wireless provider to transfer services in domestic violence cases. As it stands now, wireless providers do not allow anyone but the primary account holder to take anyone on or off of a family share plan.

If the primary user happens to be your abuser, it can open the door to stalking, harassment, or even worse.

For domestic abuse victims like "Sarah," who doesn't want to reveal her identity, her cellphone felt more like a straitjacket.

"It is scary," she said. "You're always you know, looking over your shoulder. You know, you never know at any given point where you know, where somebody's watching you."

She's one of many women shining a light on AB1407, which would allow domestic abuse victims to break off from a family wireless plan while keeping their service, all based on a court order.

"What we see time and time again is the ability to harass and continue to try to control when the abuser holds the power of that number," said Julie Bornhoeft with WEAVE.

The bill would require a restraining order in place before you can ask to break off the cellphone contract.

For Sarah, it's a tool that would have given her a greater sense of security after leaving her husband. She had to turn to prepaid, untraceable phones to maintain her peace of mind.

"The few people I did need to keep in contact with I gave them that new phone number," she said. "But it's a very insecure feeling that knowing your whole world is turned around and flipped upside down and he can track me."

With the bill now working its way through committees, advocates say it's a critical step in making sure these life-saving resources aren't exploited, and something that should spread beyond California.

"I would actually expect to see this law replicated in other states," Bornhoeft said.

All wireless providers are backing this bill. If it passes, the measure would go into effect next year.

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