CSM Supports Calls 4 Justice Initiative


Students can donate old phones which are then repurposed into lifelines for women in domestic abuse shelters. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Jacqueline Kaiser, FCRH ’21, said she was always taught to leave a positive impact on the world. So when the junior was exiled to her messy room one day in high school to clean it, she discovered an opportunity to manifest that ideal with a handful of old cell phones that were lying around in her dusty drawers.

Cell phones go out of style so quickly that there is not much use for one after a few years, but Kaiser said she wanted to do something creative with these otherwise useless phones. After she started googling ways to donate them, she discovered the concept of a “lifeline.”

Committee on Sexual Misconduct (CSM) co-chair Emma Budd, FCRH ’20, described a lifeline as an emergency phone for those experiencing domestic violence to call the police or a helpline in the event of danger. Budd said that often in abusive relationships, an abuser tracks their partner’s cell phone use, which makes it difficult for the victim to seek help.

Budd was a fellow student of Kaiser’s at Fairfield Warde High School in Connecticut, having worked with her through a program called Raising Abuse Awareness for Teens. She said this kind of community engagement supplemented Kaiser’s drive to create her own program.

With the knowledge of a lifeline and a goal in mind, Kaiser contacted the Center for Family Justice, a multi-service organization for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, and set out to start a phone drive at Fairfield Warde.

What came to be known as “Calls 4 Justice” had enormous success in her hometown of Fairfield, and was later recognized by The Foundation for Gender Equality. Kaiser was able to develop a relationship with its co-founder Jill Fitzburgh, who served as a mentor for her advocacy work against domestic violence.

When Kaiser started at Fordham, she said she was looking for ways to continue to make an impact, and Fitzburgh’s help led her to reach out to Sanctuary For Families.

The New York City — based organization provides a variety of services, including crisis counseling, legal assistance, shelter and advocacy. Its website says one in four women will be subject to domestic violence at some point during their lifetime.

CSM was then able to help facilitate this partnership.

“Jackie saw her program as an opportunity for community engagement that would allow us to connect Fordham students to residents of NYC on a very real, very crucial issue,” said Budd.

The committee has led phone drives on campus just like those held at Kaiser’s high school. Budd described the process.

“It begins with phones being donated to drop-off points,” she said.

These drop-off points are located in every residence hall, as well as in the IT office in McGinley. Budd said the phones are collected and shipped to a cell service provider at the end of each semester. The provider wipes them of data and uploads free minutes on to each. At this point, the phones are shipped to Sanctuary For Families and are distributed under its discretion.

Sanctuary For Families not only provides the phones, but accepts these calls as well.

Lisa Mueller, director of Development and Communications, says that when someone calls, their level of danger must first be determined. If it is an emergency, the caller is told to call 911.Mueller said if they are coping and looking to begin the process of leaving their partner staff will help the survivor create a safety plan, complete an intake to judge their needs and refer them to appropriate programs.

CSM continues to put on programming about relationship violence awareness and prevention. This includes working with Resident Assistants in their Campus Assault and Relationship Education (CARE) and hosting various training sessions around campus.

“Our hope is that if any member of the Fordham community is experiencing an abusive relationship or has a friend who is in one, they know what their options are and how to find help,” Budd said.

She added that CSM recognizes financial, academic and psychological abuse as prominent problems in the lives of students.

Kaiser said she has always been passionate about the advancement of technology, and she saw the magic in a cell phone to save a life.