This post was written by advocate Lauren C.
Being in a relationship should not mean you lose your right to privacy or your right to talk to whomever you like. But in an abusive relationship, an abusive person may isolate their partner from sources of support. This is often done by checking their partner’s call log and text history or denying their partner the right to a phone.
Reaching out for support when you’re in an abusive relationship is scary, especially if there are barriers to having a safe phone. If you are having trouble finding a safe way to communicate with others for support, below are some options to consider:
- Semi-Safe Phone: If you do have a phone that you use but you are concerned your partner sees your messages or call history, you could selectively delete texts and phone calls. Also, you could clear your search history on a smartphone so your abusive partner cannot see what websites you have visited. Additionally, if you have a family member or friend you trust, you can work out a plan with them where you decide on a code word that you’ll text them when you need help. When that person receives that message containing the code word, they’ll know to take some agreed upon action to help you, like calling the police or picking you up at a certain location.
- Trusted Loved One or Neighbor: If you do not have access to a safe phone, there may be someone you trust who will let you use their phone to safely call for support.
- Phone Not Connected to Service Provider: Sometimes an abusive partner will cut off their partner’s cell service. Even if the phone doesn’t have service to make general calls, it will call 911. Keeping it charged and near you will give you a way to call 911 in an emergency. If you have a smartphone, you may also be able to use the internet on the phone by connecting to wifi. If your home doesn’t have wifi, going to your local library, community center or coffee shop could be a way for you to reach out for support online.
- Internet: There are services such as Google Voice (only available in the U.S.) or Skype that allow you to call someone via the internet. Keep in mind that Google Voice doesn’t work for all 1-800 numbers, but Skype is able to connect with most of them. Facebook also allows you to call other users you are friends with using wifi.
- Secret Phone: If it is safe for you to do so, consider getting a phone your abusive partner doesn’t know about. You could keep it at work, with a trusted friend or family member, or in another safe place your partner won’t have access to. There are affordable pay-as-you-go phones which you could purchase and add minutes to when you need them. Another option is Verizon Hopeline, which provides free, refurbished cell phones to survivors through local domestic abuse centers. Safelink is also an option for low-income individuals to receive free phones and minutes.
- Community Phones: Local community centers and libraries may have pay phones or public phones you can use. If you live in an apartment complex with a business center, it may offer you a safe way to reach out. Online searches can help you locate pay phones in your area as well.
When you feel safe and ready to reach out for help, don’t forget that Hotline advocates are here to support you 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, or you can chat live here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.