EDITOR'S NOTE: NYSUT's "It's What We Do" campaign, itswhatwedo.nysut.org, highlights members' achievements at work and in the community.
One in four women is a victim of domestic violence; for men that number is one in nine. Chances are pretty high you know one of them.
Cindy Butterworth, a high school library teaching assistant and president of the Brighton Education Paraprofessionals near Rochester, learned this summer that her sister was a victim.
"It's incredibly, incredibly sad," she said. Following another assault by her boyfriend, Butterworth's sister escaped from her home, taking only her car keys.
Butterworth's sister shared a cell phone plan with her perpetrator, who was also her business partner. When she called Verizon Wireless to remove him, she learned it would cost nearly $500.
To help her sister, Butterworth began calling Verizon asking for a fee waiver, only to be told each time it was not possible. Even though Verizon had a HopeLine program to help domestic violence victims, the company still charged an early termination fee when the contract had to be broken because the abusive partner was in jail, or the victim secured a restraining order. The perpetrator could still track her sister's calls and present her with a financial liability.
By mid-August, Butterworth was mad. She created a petition on www.change.org, asking Verizon to create a policy "that does not punish victims of domestic violence for taking the brave steps necessary to keep themselves safe." It generated 195,000 signatures, including those of NYSUT colleagues and staff.
Verizon eventually waived her sister's charges. On Sept. 27, the company announced a change to its policy, said Butterworth, who is now taking on Sprint.
"Cindy Butterworth's determination and courage should serve as a model for us all," said NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler, who coordinates NYSUT's social justice agenda. "Not only did she succeed in changing a harmful practice, but she also called attention to the fear, isolation, and danger that victims of domestic violence face each day."