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Harnessing Technology to Help Victims of Abuse

by Employee ‎08-03-2012 07:52 PM - edited ‎08-03-2012 09:32 PM

Jack McArtney at NNEDV Safety Net 2012 conferenceOn Monday I spoke at a conference for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Their Safety Net “Training of Trainers” event marks its 10th year, so I was happy to join the celebration – and I brought a robot to help. 


Safety Net does great work providing education on technology abuse and online safety, particularly to people who help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.


NNEDV’s Safety Net believes that as the use of technology grows, its use among abusers grows too. So through Safety Net, the NNEDV helps victims and their advocates learn to use technology as well. When domestic abuse survivors spoke at the conference, it was clear that this kind of work remains essential.


“The Safety Net Project at NNEDV and the entire movement saved my life,” said one survivor. “My abuser used technology to advance his abusive behavior, and the Safety Net team helped me hide my tracks and stay safe from a tech-savvy stalker.”


At Verizon, we strive to build safety into every aspect of our phones, but concerns like this – hiding your tracks from a potential abuser – can be easy to overlook. So for years we’ve asked the NNEDV to look at our products and policies through the lens of a domestic violence victim. That perspective has had a material impact on our product design and guidelines.


Since this was a tech-savvy audience, I brought along my friend VGo the robot to show off the kind of innovative technology we are working with at Verizon. Developed with support from the Verizon Innovation Centers, the VGo relays the sights and sounds of both its environment and the person controlling it, allowing for conversations as it rolls through a remote location. As part of a pilot project, the Verizon Foundation will test it places such as museums, hospitals and classrooms to see how it might be used best. Think virtual field trips, or helping a sick kid attend class from home.


I told the group of some of the work we’ve done on domestic violence prevention: our longstanding HopeLine program, which turns no-longer-used wireless devices into support for victims, our Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Program in New York State, which helps domestic violence survivors start their own businesses, and the way we leverage our TV, mobile and web platforms to maximize the impact of our public service announcement campaigns. I could have talked about more, like our newly launched HopeLine mobile app for Android, but time ran short. There’s always next year. If I can’t get there in person, maybe they’ll let me attend through the VGo instead.

by JenniferD
on ‎08-17-2012 04:05 PM - last edited on ‎08-17-2012 05:41 PM by Moderator Emeritus

Dear Mr. McArtney,

My aunt recently escaped a domestic abuse situation and Verizon is charging her hundreds of dollars for breaking contract because she shared the account with her abuser. A petition has been created about this cause inspired by her. Verizon's policy needs to be changed so as to rally behind domestic violence survivors, rather than to further their struggle to gain independence.

Thank you so much for your time,

{edited for privacy}

by Employee
on ‎08-21-2012 05:49 PM

I’m sorry your aunt experienced this situation. I have provided feedback to our training department and will have one of our Executives contact you to resolve her account.

by JenniferD
on ‎08-23-2012 08:58 AM

Thank you for your response, Mr. McArtney. I received word from my aunt that Verizon has dropped the fees. I really appreciate your company doing the right thing in this situation. Now that you are aware that this is an issue, what do you think can be done about it so that other abuse survivors can more easily break ties with their abusers without suffering the financial hardship of termination fees? I hope that a policy change can be made especially when there is a restraining order involved.


Sincere Thanks,



by Employee
on ‎09-10-2012 12:28 PM

Verizon Wireless has a policy that enables our employees to evaluate each situation and make decisions based on each customer’s unique circumstance. When we learned about this situation, we immediately resolved the issue. We recognize that domestic violence is a critical social issue and are committed to breaking the cycle of violence. For more than a decade, Verizon Wireless has worked with organizations across the country to support survivors of domestic violence. Through our HopeLine program, Verizon Wireless has provided more than $14.2 million in grants and more than 123,000 refurbished phones with minutes to assist domestic violence survivors.


Thank you for bringing your aunt’s situation to our attention.

by JenniferD
on ‎09-10-2012 08:46 PM
Mr. McArtney,
I greatly appreciate that you are taking the time to address this issue. I do want to make you aware that it was only after I contacted you and another executive (Greg Haller) about my aunt's case and our petition for a policy change that my aunt's fees were waived. She and my mother both made numerous attempts with your customer service department and supervisors explaining the situation and offering to provide police reports etc and yet the fees remained. It is obvious to me that while you are trying to empower your employes with this policy, a change needs to be made so that there is no question about what to do in the case of domestic abuse with a restraining order or police report. Most people in such a situation do not have someone on their side to create a petition or track down executives. I urge you to not only re-train your employees about sensitive cases but to also have something set in stone for them to refer to regarding early termination fees when a restraining order or police report exists. Thank you.


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About the Authors

Rose Kirk

V.P. of Global Corporate Citizenship and President of the Verizon Foundation

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Rose leads Verizon's global corporate responsibility initiatives and philanthropic strategy, which focuses on applying Verizon's technology to improve education, healthcare and energy management.

James Gowen

Chief Sustainability Officer/
V.P. of Services Operations

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James oversees Verizon’s supply chain, vehicle fleet, investment recovery, purchasing and materials management and sustainability initiatives.

Jack McArtney

Director of Corporate and Community Responsibility

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Jack promotes digital wellness and online safety. He works with parents, educators, service providers, application developers and industry leaders to foster responsible use of Verizon's mobile and broadband networks.

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