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An old cell phone may not seem that useful, but it could make a world of difference for a victim of domestic violence.

Verizon Wireless’s HopeLine program, which has collected more than 5.6 million used cell phones nationwide since 2001 to help victims of domestic and sexual abuse, is now accepting donations at the company’s new University City store, located at 3631 Walnut St.

The Penn installation of the HopeLine program began on Aug. 28, the day the Verizon Wireless store opened, and will continue until Nov. 7.

The program collects used cell phones from any carrier, explained Russell Preite, regional director of communications stores for Verizon Wireless.

If a phone is in working condition, it is refurbished and given to a domestic violence victim for emergency situations. If not, it is recycled and Verizon Wireless makes a monetary donation to a domestic-violence prevention agency.

“It’s taking our own technology and being able to utilize that for good,” Preite said.

For every phone collected at the Penn store, he said, Verizon Wireless will donate $5 — up to $5,000 ­— to be split evenly between the Division of Public Safety’s Department of Special Services and the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence, run out of the School of Social Policy and Practice.

In addition, Verizon Wireless donated $2,500 to each organization when the store opened on campus, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.

With the initial donation, she added, DPS is refurbishing the suits worn by officers in the Rape Aggression Defense program, which teaches women how to repel aggressors.

Rush said since the 1970s, Penn has placed “a lot of emphasis on programs to help women avoid victimization of all types,” specifically the foundation of the Penn Women’s Center and the Office of Special Services, which is now the Department of Special Services within DPS.

Ortner Center Director and Professor of Social Policy Susan Sorenson said the center is involved in a “range of projects” relating to domestic violence.

Specifically, she said, the center is currently investigating the phenomenon of strangulation of women, as well as ways of handling domestic violence among international students.

“I’m really excited about what the Ortner Center represents,” said first-year Social Policy and Practice graduate student Matt Graber, pointing to the Ortner Center’s focus on policy and education as “what’s going to eliminate domestic violence.”

Graber, who is working to collect cell phones for HopeLine across campus and across the city, called the program a “two-fold attack,” since it addresses both the immediate symptoms as well as the structural roots of domestic violence.

He added that one in four women is a victim of sexual violence at some point in her lifetime.

“Chances are, most people do know somebody involved with sex-based violence — it’s just still taboo [to] address the issue,” Graber wrote in an e-mail.

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