Cell phone donation project benefits battered children

The Aurora Center collected more than 200 cell phones to give to violence victims.

Riham Feshir

Battling the issue of domestic violence may seem difficult, but doing little things can potentially make a big difference.

One such effort has been taking place on campus. The Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education – an on-campus resource for domestic-abuse victims – held a used cell phone drive earlier this month, collecting more than 200 phones for abused children to use for making emergency calls. The center is still accepting donations.

The phones were donated to the B. Robert Lewis Shelter in Eagan, program coordinator Jackie Heard said.

MN statistics

-20 women and 12 children were murdered in Minnesota in 2006 as the result of domestic violence or child abuse.
-In 2006, 5,295 battered women and 5,131 children in Minnesota used emergency shelter services.
-About 25 percent of sixth- and ninth-graders in Minnesota reported that they had been physically abused by an adult living in the household. Similar percentages of students reported that someone in their household had been the victim of domestic violence.
-Fathers who batter mothers are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children. 40 to 60 percent of men who abuse women also abuse children.
-Each year, an estimated 3.3 million children are exposed to violence by family members against their mothers or female caretakers.

Source: the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

Although the University community may not be directly involved in domestic violence cases, no one is entirely removed from it.

“Everybody knows someone who’s dealt with these issues first hand,” she said.

Each year, an estimated three million children are exposed to violence by family members against their mothers or female caretakers, according to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

Chris Uggen, professor and department chair of sociology, said he’s seen and studied domestic violence first-hand.

“We can’t assume that we’re in some sort of bubble that isn’t affected by these broader social problems,” he said.

Creative ways to prevent child abuse and domestic violence are sometimes what the community needs to win the battle against domestic violence, Uggen said.

“Often, the way we discover innovative solutions is to pilot smaller programs and see how they work,” he said.

A 911 call can save a life, but the Aurora center thought of those who don’t own cell phones. This was the motivation for their drive, Heard said.

The center collected used cell phones from students and members of various departments on campus, including sociology and psychology. The University police contributed as well.

“It allows them to get emergency intervention when they need it,” said Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson.

The problem of battered and abused women and children has existed for a long time, said Cyndi Cook, executive director for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

But society has only been battling it for about 30 years – a relatively short time – which is why the percentage of those abused remains high, she said.

Last year, 17 women were killed by an intimate partner in Minnesota, Cook said.

However, Cook added that building awareness in the community has led to progress.

Those abused started to utilize community advocacy services and turned to shelters for help. And perpetrators are warned that there is a strong social consensus against family violence, Uggen said.

“The efforts to raise awareness are beginning to pay off,” he said.