What Does Calling A Domestic Violence Hotline Do?
If you are experiencing intimate partner violence and are considering calling a domestic violence hotline, you are not alone. Intimate partner violence affects over 12 million people yearly and is serious. Knowing what to expect when you call a domestic violence hotline can help you feel more prepared and confident about reaching out for support.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Additionally, teen survivors of domestic abuse can call Love Is Respect, a dedicated hotline for young people, at 1-866-331-9474. Love Is Respect also offers a text line and an online chat feature.
What are domestic violence hotlines?
Domestic violence, sometimes called domestic abuse or intimate partner violence, can be defined as physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or financial abuse by one person against another as part of a pattern of behavior intended to gain or maintain power and control. Domestic violence often occurs in romantic relationships but might also occur in familial or platonic relationships.
Experiencing domestic violence can feel isolating, and knowing where to turn for help may be difficult. Domestic violence hotlines exist to provide crisis support for individuals in these situations. The National Domestic Violence Hotline, for example, is free, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Whether you are the recipient of abuse, the perpetrator of abuse, or another party needing advice on behalf of someone enduring domestic abuse, you can call and receive immediate guidance.
If you are experiencing sexual abuse or have experienced assault, note that the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) has a hotline dedicated to supporting individuals experiencing sexual assault, harassment, or intimate partner violence. You can contact them anytime by calling 800-656-HOPE (4673) or using the online chat.
What to expect when you call
Reaching out for help can be intimidating, so it may be beneficial to know what to expect before you call. While every call may be unique, you might encounter the following subjects or questions.
Are you safe to talk?
One of the first questions most hotlines will ask is, “Are you safe to talk?” The reason hotlines begin with this question is that an abuser may be aggravated by a survivor’s action of calling for help. If you are not in a safe environment to speak, the advocate receiving your call may advise you to call back when the abuser is not present. Abusers often act on the desire to control others. If you suspect that an abuser may lash out in response to the perceived loss of control, it may be wise to take out the number or website from your phone after contacting a hotline.
Current safety evaluation
One of the first questions many hotlines will ask is, "Are you safe to talk?" The crisis support individual may ask this to ensure you're not being watched, listened to, or abused by someone due to your call.
If you are not in a safe environment to speak, the advocate receiving your call may advise you to call back when you are safe or reach out to certain authorities. People acting abusively may act on the desire to control others. If you suspect an individual may lash out in response to the perceived loss of control, you might consider taking out the number or website from your phone after contacting them.
Once the advocate has gathered whether you are safe, they may ask questions to get to know you and your situation. You can divulge as much or as little as you need. You might discuss a recent event or past red flags or lay out the timeline that has led you to call. The advocate may ask you what steps you've taken or are ready to take to help you determine your next steps.
Part of the potential benefit of calling a domestic violence hotline is the opportunity to talk about your situation with someone trained to listen actively and who has experience helping individuals experiencing domestic violence. An advocate may help you discuss your options to make an informed decision based on your situation.
Hotline advocates may also ask if you're taking care of yourself. An abusive relationship can be taxing and make it difficult to practice self-care. The advocate might suggest coping strategies like taking a bath, having a yummy breakfast, or practicing mindfulness with them over the phone.
While each call may be unique depending on your situation, advocates may offer resources to support you in your situation. Many domestic violence hotlines are focused on immediate crises and may connect you with a local shelter or emergency housing.
A hotline can also connect you with support groups, counselors, legal advisers, and other advocates. A hotline advocate will not tell you which option is best for you but can help you weigh them as you decide. Hotlines can also provide information about shelters, and you can search through an online database as you talk to find local options.
A hotline counselor may also help you create a "safety plan." If you are considering leaving an abusive situation, it might not be safe to walk out or make a solid plan in the presence of the person abusing you. A safety plan can help you determine how to leave without risking harm to you, your family, or your pets.
If you and your advocate create a safety plan, they might stay on the line with you while you reach out to other services or pack your items to leave. They might also ask if you need a follow-up or support in setting up an appointment with a counselor.
What happens after you call?
What happens after you call a domestic violence hotline can be up to you and your unique situation. After talking with a hotline advocate, you may have clarity on what you want to do next or seek additional time to figure out the best course of action. If you're not ready to leave your relationship, calling a domestic violence hotline may give you a better understanding of abuse, whether your relationship is unhealthy, and what resources are available when you're ready.
Hotline counselors may not be allowed to tell you what steps to take or influence your decision-making. However, they can provide thoughtful support and help you evaluate your options. They may also let you know if your experiences are dangerous and how to reach out for support in an emergency. As you talk to the counselor, you might come up with solutions. However, you can ask questions if you're not sure how to proceed on your own.
At times, being able to talk about your challenges or struggles with a caring professional may feel like enough to move forward. Objectivity can be reassuring, and speaking with a counselor might offer clarity if you're unsure whether a situation is abusive. This comfort of "talking it through" can also benefit friends and family witnessing or observing abuse to someone they love.
Support is available whether you are a perpetrator or a survivor of domestic violence. In addition to reaching out to a domestic violence hotline, other discreet and affordable services are available to survivors, including online counseling. Online therapy can provide individuals with an internet connection to receive comprehensive care from home or any location.
If you are in a situation where commuting to and from an office may be difficult because of a controlling partner, online therapy may be a helpful alternative. With online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, you can speak with a therapist from wherever is most convenient for you, as long as you have an internet connection.
Online therapy has been proven effective for survivors of intimate partner violence. For instance, one study found that internet-delivered cognitive-behavioral therapy (I-CBT) significantly reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression for survivors of intimate partner violence.
If you are experiencing a living situation that feels unsafe or unsustainable, a supportive relationship with an online therapist may provide guidance and encouragement to make a positive change. You deserve to feel safe and heard, and speaking with someone, whether through a hotline or therapist, can be beneficial.
What are some examples of research questions on domestic violence?
Understanding domestic violence is one of the most important goals for individuals in psychology, sociology, criminal justice, and other specialties devoted to stopping it—to understand it, researchers in these areas must know which questions to ask. A few of these types of questions may include:
- What are the most common types of domestic abuse?
- What are some of the effects of abuse?
- What causes domestic abuse?
- What are some warning signs that someone might be an abuser?
- Who is most at risk for domestic abuse?
What are some laws that defend against domestic violence?
The majority of domestic violence cases are handled on a state or local level— and state and local laws often vary. However, there are federally recognized laws passed by Congress that defend individuals from domestic violence. For example, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) recognizes domestic violence as a national crime, and revisions to the Gun Control Act make it a federal crime for abusers to own or possess guns in certain circumstances.
What is the 16 days of action against domestic violence?
The 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence campaign is a dedicated period during which individuals and communities come together to take action and advocate for people experiencing domestic abuse through awareness and education. In 2023, it begins on November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and concludes on December 10th (International Human Rights Day).
During the 16 Days of Action, individuals may learn about crisis intervention, safety planning, dating violence, family violence, how to support a survivor, and more. They may acquire the funding and resources needed to seek legal assistance, referrals for counseling services, youth services, safe shelters, and adult life skills training for individuals who are ready to return to independent living.
What are some key facts about domestic violence?
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) website is an excellent resource for state and federal domestic violence statistics. Some domestic abuse facts provided by NCADV include:
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
- Domestic violence hotlines field more than 20,000 calls per day on average.
- The risk of homicide in a domestic abuse situation is 500% greater if there is a gun involved. 19% of domestic violence incidents involve a weapon.
- Domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes.
- Women between 18 and 24 years old are most commonly abused.
- People who experience domestic violence are at a higher risk of mental illness.
What is the impact of domestic violence on victims and community?
Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Not only does domestic violence impact an individual’s physical and mental health, but it can also hinder the ability to function productively at work, school, or in social situations. The economic impact on a personal level can also have broader implications for a community’s fiscal health.
What are some facts about domestic violence and mental health?
Mental disability and domestic violence both show a strong bi-directional link—with research suggesting that women subjected to domestic abuse are more likely to experience mental health issues, and women with mental health issues are more likely to be abused.
Common mental health disorders associated with domestic abuse include, but aren’t limited to:
- Substance Use Disorder
- Dissociative Disorders
- Personality Disorders
Domestic violence survivors may internalize the verbal abuse they receive from their partners, resulting in isolation and low self-esteem. They may blame themselves for the abuse, resulting in feelings of resentment and anger towards themselves as well as for their abuser. This can create difficulties in other relationships or the workplace.
Why should we be concerned about domestic violence?
Domestic violence can cause injury to virtually every part of the individual’s life. Physical and mental injuries are common, but abuse can also negatively affect an individual’s social, economic, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Domestic abuse not only impacts the individual, but it’s a societal issue and public health problem that touches everyone in one way or another. For example, abuse often diminishes economic productivity in communities. Research also indicates that abuse can have a significant long-term impact on future crime rates due to “victim-offender overlap.”
If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence, help is immediately available through the National Domestic Violence Hotline toll-free at 1-800-799-SAFE or text 7233 for immediate assistance.
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