“Since the fall, employees, patients and families have donated 563 cell phones to the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence,” Luckey said. The coalition is a statewide nonprofit that works to eliminate domestic violence, and provides support and training to domestic violence agencies.
The cell phones, collected at campus drop-off locations including the hospitals’ gift shops, will eventually become a lifeline for a victim struggling to escape an abuser, Luckey said. The coalition sends them to Shelter Alliance, a recycler that pays participating organizations for the phones they turn in. The coalition provides refurbished phones to victims of domestic violence to ensure ready access to 911. Cell phone drives raise funds and keep phones out of landfills.
“Abusers often restrict a victim’s communication,” Luckey said. “A victim may not be allowed a cell phone or email account – or their abusers may monitor those accounts – so that they can be controlled.”
The funds raised through this partnership help the coalition provide services, training and support to organizations including Safe Homes of Augusta, a local shelter for women and children leaving abusive situations.
“And abuse comes in many different forms – physical, mental, emotional and sexual,” Luckey said.
Men, women and children can all be victims of abuse beyond visible bruises that might serve as a red flag for friends, family and medical providers, according to Angie Boy, Project Connect Coordinator for the coalition. And abuse affects the health of the entire community – especially the youngest members.
“There are some pretty specific impacts that violence can have on public health. The obvious is injuries. But there is a relationship between partner violence and unintended pregnancy, because frequently the abusive partner controls access to and methods of contraception,” Boy said. “Partner violence during pregnancy can result in low birth weight and increased hospitalization unrelated to the delivery. Studies have also shown that women who are abused are less likely to breast feed and have difficulty accessing social services.”
Those statistics are Luckey’s reality: “It resonated with me in a very tangible way because in addition to working in Women’s Health, I’m also involved in teen pregnancy prevention.”
The coalition tracks statistics through projects such as the Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review, which compares fatality numbers year-by-year. Richmond County had an average 3.5 deaths a year between 2003 and 2009 – just one in 2006, but six in 2004. Columbia County reported two deaths in 2005 and one each in 2003 and 2008, and Burke County reported one in 2004, two in 2003 and three in 2008, according to the report.
Luckey expects to continue the cell phone donation drive in autumn. When victims seek treatment at Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center—the primary critical care center for 13 counties—health professionals must be able to recognize the signs that cry out from the victims, Luckey said.
And if they can’t, she hopes the donated cell phones help victims cry out on their own.