For many domestic violence survivors, making the decision to seek shelter can be extremely difficult. Oftentimes, survivors may not know where to turn, but one of the most important steps toward safety is calling the shelter emergency hotline. The Genesis crisis hotline operates 24/7 and is always answered by a person – not a recording – providing support for women in need of shelter, resources, safety planning and crisis intervention if needed. We know that picking up the phone and asking a stranger for help can be overwhelming, and callers may not know what to expect. Many times this is the first time she is telling her story, and reaching out for help. Here’s what you can expect when you call the shelter hotline.
“Are you in a safe place to talk?”
When you pick up the phone and dial the hotline number, one of our trained hotline advocates will be ready to take your call. One of the first questions they may ask is, “are you in a safe place to talk at this time?” Of course, if you’re seeking shelter due to domestic violence, we know you’re trying to escape from an unsafe situation. We ask this question to assess immediate risks and to ensure the hotline call isn’t jeopardizing your safety. To assess for immediate risks, we may ask if the abuser is nearby, which may result in an escalation of violence. Our hotline advocate may ask a few other questions to ensure that any critical, emergency needs are addressed before proceeding.
“May I have your name, date of birth and phone number?”
In order to provide the best service possible to our callers, it is important for us to know if a caller has reached out in the past. We may ask to collect a few bits of demographic data such as your name, date of birth and phone number, to determine who you are and to help us understand how we can best assist you. Of course, we will always keep your information confidential and will never contact you unless you tell us it is safe to do so.
“Can you tell me about your situation?”
We understand that sharing personal details with a stranger can feel uncomfortable and even intrusive. To provide the best service, we need to know some information about your situation. We may ask, “What is leading you to seek shelter?” or even simply, “Can you tell me more about what’s going on at this time?” This helps us better understand each caller’s specific needs and helps us to address them. It’s important for us to have this information to determine the most appropriate services to provide each caller.
“Let’s talk about a safety plan.”
For many domestic violence survivors, safety planning is critical. Our hotline advocates will help create a personalized, practical plan tailored to your unique situation. A safety plan includes ways to remain safe while in the relationship, planning to leave or after you leave. Having a safety plan laid out can help you to protect yourself in situations that you identify as dangerous or stressful and helps you to protect yourself physically and emotionally.
“Let me give you some other resources.”
Most of the time, callers seeking shelter are also in need of other resources, whether it be legal, financial or information about other shelter programs. Our hotline advocates are well versed on helpful resources within the community and are able to provide you with appropriate referrals.
Written by Erica Wolfe, Genesis hotline specialist, and Brenda Santacruz, lead residential advocate at Genesis.