Mobile phones for high-risk battered women

  • High-risk battered women may be able to receive an emergency phone allowing them be located at the touch of a button.
  • PS deputies will submit a draft law on the subject today.

Monday, PS Chamber deputies will submit a proposed law on high-risk cell phones. The date was not chosen randomly. Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“The submission date is symbolic,” explains Eric Thiébaut, the deputy behind the proposal. “But the content is concrete and responds to a real need on the ground. As mayor (Editor’s note: of Hensies) and president of a police precinct, I know the call statistics. There has been an explosion in the number of calls for help following domestic violence incidents. The problem affects a large part of the population, and it is constantly getting worse.”

What’s a high-risk cell phone? It’s a mobile phone that lets a woman call for help simply by pushing a button. The call goes directly to an emergency service with geolocation capabilities. The victim can call for and receive a rapid response without having to speak. In Belgium the existing emergency call center (112) will be used.

The idea has not come out of nowhere, continues the PS deputy: “Clearly, we’ve been inspired by foreign examples. In France, Spain and Germany pilot projects have been launched and are working well. The French government is even thinking about expanding theirs.” 

On the budgetary side a telephone requires an investment of €135 per person per month. “It’s not huge compared to the seriousness of the problem of violence against women,” says Eric Thiébaut.

The experiment will begin, as it did in France, as a pilot project. In addition the phones will not be distributed randomly. There will be specific criteria based on those used in France, “where it’s working well,” the deputy repeats. The criteria will be as follows: 1) A complaint must have been filed; 2) The victim must live separately from the partner against whom the complaint has been made; 3) There must be a judicial restraining order against the partner.

A holistic approach

Josiane Coruzzi, of the not-for-profit group Solidarity Women and its battered women’s shelter, is lukewarm toward these criteria. “How about when no complaint has been filed? A woman might be in serious danger without having filed a complaint.” The Director does however understand the need for these criteria, “We can’t distribute 50,000 phones, either.” For her the proposal makes no sense unless it is part of an overall approach to the danger of this type of situation.

“We should work together to determine the criteria to be used. It’s a complex problem with multiple dimensions. There is a process of marital domination, periods of reaction against the danger…this all has to be taken into account,” Josiane Coruzzi explains.

Beyond these issues, the not-for-profit organization’s director is enthusiastic and positive: “It’s a good thing to think about measures to protect women who are victims of domestic violence even after a separation has occurred. Many partners do not stop their violence after a breakup and some aren’t even stopped by the judicial process.”

That being said, for this interesting idea to be applied in a realistic way, politicians will have to discuss it with front-line activists.

ANN-CHARLOTTE BERSIPONT

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