I am a domestic violence advocate. One of my responsibilities is to answer HELP’s 24-hour crisis line. Sometimes the calls are easy, “Do you take donations of personal care items?” (Yes.) And sometimes the calls are much more difficult, “My partner is threatening to hurt me and my child. I am scared and don’t know what to do.” This is how I go about answering this kind of call:
1. Assess immediate safety. I need to find out if the caller is safe right now or if the person threatening them is there with them.
2. Safety plan. If their partner is there, I ask if the caller can safely contact the police or if I can call the police for them. I will not call the police without the caller’s consent because I know that might make the situation worse for the caller and it may not be what the caller wants. I always have to respect the caller’s choices. I then talk about how to be safe right now. We talk about ways to get out of the home, unsafe rooms in the home such as kitchens and bathrooms, and the possibility of finding a way to get out of that location.
If their partner is not there, I find out how much time they have to leave, if that is what they wish to do, and then we discuss items they should take with them. These items include identification for themselves and their children, prescriptions, important documents such as banking information, leases, etc., and clothing. If the caller does not want to leave, we discuss options such as restraining orders, support groups and other services.
3. Find transportation. Access to transportation is a huge barrier for many victims of domestic violence, particularly when they have been isolated from family and friends. Arranging for transportation requires researching if other agencies can help, or using a Door to Door or Door-Tran Services. Advocates will also provide transportation when it’s appropriate.
4. Provide shelter. If the caller is looking for a safe place to go to, we discuss where that may be. Safe places are different for everyone. It may be with their family or friends, a safe home, or leaving Door County and going to a domestic violence shelter in another community. Whether they choose to stay in the area or relocate, I assist in making arrangements for them.
Taking crisis calls such as these can be difficult for even the most experienced advocate. Resources are scarce and domestic violence situations are complex. HELP of Door County, Inc. is here to assist community members to stay safe and feel supported. For more information about HELP of Door County visit helpofdoorcounty.org, or for 24-hour crisis line call 920.743.8818.
This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.