She’s using discarded books to help victims “turn the page.”

*If you or someone you love is a victim of domestic violence please call 9-1-1 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233)*

Domestic violence is cloaked in secrecy. On the outside, it’s disguised as a happy, picture-perfect home. But inside, the reality is shocking.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women and one in nine men have been the victim of physical brutality at the hands of their partner. Every 9 seconds a woman in the United States is assaulted or beaten.

The statistics are staggering, not to mention incredibly disturbing.

But one librarian in Westwood, Massachusetts is working to change it, one book at a time.

How One Librarian Is Using Books to Help Save Victims of Domestic Violence

cell phone hidden inside a book

Molly Riportella, 36, isn’t just a librarian, she’s also a domestic abuse survivor. She understands being abused, trapped, manipulated, silenced, and controlled by someone who claims to love her. And she knows just how hard it is to escape…

She’s done it.

So when a friend in an abusive relationship confided in her and reached out for help, Riportella didn’t hesitate. Knowing that abusers often closely monitor their victims’ communications and movements, Riportella bought her friend a burner phone.

She also created a new email account, added DV/social services contacts, and left notes on the phone to help her make a plan to escape. But they still had to come up with a way for her friend to conceal it. And that’s where the books came in.

“After realizing they couldn’t bring home the phone, and a meandering conversation that included Nancy Drew and spy novels, we decided I would make a book safe,” Riportella said.

Using a discarded book from the library, she cut out the pages and created a hidden compartment — just the right size to hold a phone.

Her friend used it to connect with domestic abuse advocates who helped her get out.

It was just the beginning.

Book-It 2 Freedom

Now, Riportella has created a “grassroots library and social justice movement.” She calls it the BiblioUnderground; an underground network with the sole purpose of “checking people out of bad situations.”

She buys pre-paid burner phones with her own money and loads them up with resources such as safety planning, pro bono legal action, and how to get a restraining order. All the things she wish she’d known when she was trapped in an abusive relationship in her 20s.

She says that working in a library is a perfect place to meet women looking for resources to help them leave dangerous situations.

Her vision is to eventually “establish a network of resourceful book nerds from across the country who create Book-it 2 Freedom Kits (Bi2Fks) and pass them onto local experts,” like abuse advocacy groups, OBGYNs, and health and human services departments.

She’s also created a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds. So far, it’s sitting at almost $15,000.

Riportella knows that having access to a phone isn’t the be-all, end-all solution to ending domestic violence.

But having unfettered access to people and organizations who can help is a good place to start.

Doing the Right Thing, Even if It’s Hard

As for what motivated Riportella to take this leap despite the risk that her abuser, who stalked her for years, would show up in her life again?

“I can’t live in fear anymore. People have to do the right thing, even if it’s hard, even if it’s scary. You just have to do it anyway.”

Molly Riportella