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A Conversation with a Hotline Advocate: Josephine

“My hope is that one day our phones will stop ringing, and we will all live in a nonviolent world where everyone is treated with respect.” – Josephine S., Hotline advocate since 1996

Josephine has been answering the phones as an advocate at The Hotline for 20 years. This holiday season, she is sharing thoughts about her work and why she’s thankful for those who support The Hotline.

I’ve been answering calls at the National Domestic Violence Hotline since day one when the phones began ringing in 1996. As a survivor myself, I know what it’s like to be in a shelter with your kids. I understand why people stay or go back to abusive relationships. I also know there’s help and no one has to suffer alone.

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A Conversation with a Hotline Advocate: Paula

“Knowing that there’s someone on the other end of the phone, I think that makes a big difference in a lot of survivors’ lives.” – Paula M.

Paula has been answering the phones as an advocate at The Hotline for 18 years. This holiday season, she is sharing thoughts about her work and why she’s thankful for those who support The Hotline.

In 1998, when I came to the National Domestic Violence Hotline as an Americorps volunteer, I had no idea that I was a survivor, too. The father of my children was a wonderful provider, but I still knew something wasn’t right when the emotional abuse periodically escalated to physical violence.

Growing up, I would see members of my family being abused. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do. No one talked about it, so I thought it was normal, but it still didn’t feel good.

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Beverly Gooden Supports The Hotline and loveisrespect

“No one stepped in because no one knew. I kept everything a secret; the control, the abuse. I believed that if I even gave a hint something was wrong, he’d beat me. If I tried to leave or if I told anyone, he might kill me. There was nowhere to run. So I stayed right where I was.” — Beverly Gooden, activist, writer and survivor

Relationship abuse affects people of all ages, including teens and young adults. In fact, one in three adolescents in the U.S. experiences violence from a dating partner.

Beverly Gooden knows this firsthand, because as a young adult, she married her abuser.

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Troy Vincent Gives #HotlineThanks

“Domestic violence was a way of life for my home growing up. The fear and complexities accompanying this violence remain very real to me today.” — Troy Vincent, NFL Sr. Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Former NFL Cornerback

As young boys, Troy Vincent and his brother listened helplessly many nights from the closet or under a bed in their small apartment while their stepdad yelled at and beat their mother. Growing up, this was his model for a relationship. He remembers thinking, “Is this the way things are supposed to be?”

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Jane Seymour Gives #HotlineThanks

“There are millions and millions [of people] — probably people you know — who are suffering from abuse, and they’re silent. They need help.”
— Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour, Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress, is joining the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s #HotlineThanks campaign this November.

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Give #HotlineThanks This November

A message from Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of The Hotline

“I really needed to hear these words. Thank you, a thousand times over.”
— Taylor*

Thank you. These are two very powerful words that we often hear from victims, survivors and their loved ones every day. Now, I want to pass these words to you, along with survivors’ stories of triumph and gratitude.

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There is Still Time to Support Survivors with Your Gift

This is a special message from Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of The Hotline

hotlinehope-6For almost 20 years, The Hotline has been dedicated to answering every phone call, chat and text from domestic violence victims and their loved ones. Because of our community of supporters, in 2015 we are closer to making sure no call for help goes unanswered. In fact, we’ve answered 92,355 more contacts in 2015 than 2014. So far this year, we’ve answered 300,655 calls for help, and we’re still counting.

That’s thousands of lives changed, thanks to support from our donors and partners.

These are truly amazing numbers, but this story from our advocate Angela has reminded me of the importance of helping one person, in that one moment in life:

I recently chatted with Samantha*, a young teenager, whose mother had just come into the room crying, because the girl’s father had hit her. Samantha was scared and confused.

Her mom had told her not to call the police or tell anyone what was going on. We talked about situations when she might consider calling the police, and we discussed why her mom might be concerned. We also went through safety planning for future situations where her father becomes violent.

Samantha didn’t understand why her dad hit her mom. So we talked about abuse, how it differs from healthy relationships, and why her mom might not want to leave. We talked about how none of what is happening is her, her siblings’, or her mom’s fault, and about how she can support her mom.

At the end of the conversation, she said, “Thank you so much for all of the help and information. I really appreciate you talking to me about all of this. Thank you so much, again.”

For many of us the holiday season is filled with joy and laughter with family and loved ones. Unfortunately, for victims and survivors of domestic violence, like Samantha, it’s often filled with terror.

Today is the last day to give in 2015, and I hope you will make a meaningful, tax-deductible gift to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Together, we can change the lives of women, men, and children who live in fear every single day.

Thank you for your generous support of our work. I wish you and your loved ones peace and safety in the new year!

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My Story: Jessica W.

hotlinehope-5When asked why my work as an advocate is meaningful to me, my immediate thought is, “Well, how could it be anything but?” It is difficult to now put myself in a position where this work is not meaningful to me, but it wasn’t always this important on a personal level. In college, I interned and worked part-time at a nonprofit that provided healthy communication and conflict resolution courses to families that were going through divorce or separation. At that time, I didn’t put much thought into what led the families there or which factors may have contributed to their need for the courses.

A few years later, I started working for loveisrespect (a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle), taking online chats, text messages and phone calls from young people who were experiencing dating abuse. Similarly, when I started this advocacy, I didn’t really think about why people were contacting us. While I worked part-time for loveisrespect, I also worked for another nonprofit doing violence prevention work in schools. Prevention work helped me understand the reasons why intervention is so important. As a society, we aren’t educating people about healthy relationships and respect, and most of what we see in the media depicts unhealthy/abusive behaviors. People – especially young people – end up absorbing these problematic ideas and behaviors and practicing them in their own lives. This is why intervention has to happen; we get so many inaccurate messages about what is and isn’t okay in relationships and, generally, society is not countering those messages with education on healthy behaviors in relationships.

Loveisrespect and the National Domestic Violence Hotline do just that and more. We provide education on what’s healthy in a relationship and what isn’t, and we provide intervention when needed. I feel extremely honored to be one of the people who provides that education around healthy relationships. I get to do that every day for my job, and that is awesome! I also get to support victims and survivors of abuse every day, which is also amazing. I feel so special that I’m able witness the incredible bravery and strength of the people who contact us. Reaching out when your partner is threatening your life or controlling you in any way is scary. So, just contacting us is a huge step that takes so much courage. I get to experience that and equip callers and chatters with education, support and validation.

Often when I tell people what I do for my job, they feel a bit bad for me because of how traumatic this work can be. But really, what I do is beautiful, and I feel proud to advocate for victims and survivors of dating abuse and domestic violence every day. All of this and more has made what I do extremely important to me on every level, and I really can’t imagine a world where I am not devoting my time to this work.

Advocates like Jessica are the passionate and dedicated people who provide support and resources to victims, survivors and their families 24/7/365.

Please support this work by making a donation today.

Your gift helps ensure that when a survivor is ready to speak, someone is there to listen.

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My Story: Kimberly Claborn

hotline-hope-4My mother was in an abusive relationship with my father since before I was born. They met when she was 18, and even then he had a tight hold on her. When I was a child, my grandparents gained custody of me because of my father’s abusive and controlling behavior. A few years later, my mother gave birth to twin girls, and my father’s desire for control intensified. He worked to isolate my mother and my younger sisters from the rest of my mother’s family. He controlled where they went and who they could see, as well as all of their finances. After he lost his job, the financial abuse got worse. He took my mother’s paychecks so that she had no money for herself, my sisters or even basic necessities.

Growing up, I never knew what a holiday was like with my mom and sisters. My father ultimately got the final say in where they spent holidays and who could be there. My mother would often work on holidays to earn overtime pay, which my father would then take from her. This went on for years, and in my early 20s I decided that I had to help my mother and sisters get away from my father.  

I started researching resources for women living with domestic violence. I came across the National Domestic Violence Hotline late one night and saw they were a 24-hour hotline. I gave them a call, and that was where I found my saving grace. I didn’t know who else to turn to, but knowing I could call experts who could help me handle my situation, understand my frustrations and let me vent meant so much to me. I would even say the advocate, who I talked to on a nightly basis, became one of my best friends. She listened to me for hours and truly became a friend, someone I could trust.

After a long struggle, and several calls to The Hotline, my mother and sisters are finally free. To be able to call my mother whenever I want, see her whenever I want and have her and my sisters spend holidays with me is an indescribable feeling!

I now donate to The Hotline’s Giving Campaign every December. I feel it’s my duty and my way of saying thank you for what this organization has done for me and so many others who reach out to them for help. The Hotline truly helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel, even when you feel you are crumbling. I can’t explain the love I have for this organization!

Because of my family’s experiences, I have become incredibly passionate about raising awareness about domestic violence and organizations like The Hotline. It’s so important to understand this issue and what so many people are going through. I hope that with my story, I can reach victims and their friends and families worldwide and let them know that it is NEVER too late to escape a life of abuse and control.

Your gift to The Hotline helps ensure that when a survivor is ready to speak, someone is there to listen.

Click here to give today.

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My Story: Lauren C.

hotlinehope-3When I tell people I work at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, many of them respond with their support of the work to end domestic abuse. Often I am asked about the emotional toll it takes to be an advocate. Although listening to stories about trauma every day can be very rough, The Hotline remains the most inspiring and powerful place I have ever worked.

Domestic abuse survivors are incredibly strong. They face terrifying and heart-wrenching situations with a will to fight for a better life. Whether they are trying to leave an abusive relationship or just make it to another day, they are all warriors. I love my job and feel it is a privilege to hear so many stories of strength everyday.

One conversation I carry close to my heart was with a very young person who reminded me of this strength. She was in a very intense and difficult situation that no one, especially someone so young, should ever have to face. After spending time helping her think through her situation and locating local resources for her, I felt completely drained. When the conversation started coming to a close, she didn’t want it to end without sharing with me the one thing she was taking joy in at that moment, despite so much pain in her life. With that small comment, she reminded me of the resilience of all survivors.

Every person who contacts The Hotline gives us a small glimpse of their unshakeable strength, because simply contacting us is an act of bravery. Being able to come into work and hear so many stories is a gift that has and continues to change my life for the better.

Advocates like Lauren are the passionate and dedicated people who provide support and resources to victims, survivors and their families 24/7/365.

Please support this work by making a donation today.

Your gift helps ensure that when a survivor is ready to speak, someone is there to listen.

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My Story: Deborah Petersen

hotlinehope-2My name is Deborah Petersen, and I was in an abusive relationship for three years. Things were going along fine for about a year and a half, but then the abuse started. It was mental and verbal at first before progressing to controlling behavior and physical abuse. Over time the abuse grew in both frequency and severity.

In the beginning, I didn’t know exactly what was wrong. I blamed myself. I turned to online resources for help and found The Hotline’s website. I made numerous visits to the site, at first reading the section defining abuse, and soon I realized and accepted that I was being abused.

I learned how abuse often increases over time. I recognized the signs of escalating danger in my own relationship and used the website’s information on safety planning, including keeping a packed bag hidden in my car in case I needed to make a quick escape. When the violence finally did escalate, I called the police and had my partner arrested.

I found myself in the car, leaving town to stay with family, and I picked up the phone and called The Hotline. I knew they would be there when I needed to talk, and they were. What I got from talking to them on the phone that day was a level of understanding I had never had before, a level that my friends and family couldn’t provide. They understood exactly where I was and what I was going through — as opposed to being on the outside looking in.

This is what The Hotline’s advocates do for thousands of victims and survivors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Just one phone call can change someone’s life. It certainly changed mine.

I am proud to be a regular donor to The Hotline because I want to help make sure someone is always available to answer the phone when a victim needs help. I know firsthand what a world of difference that call can make.

Your gift to The Hotline helps ensure that when a survivor is ready to speak, someone is there to listen.

Click here to give today.

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This Holiday Season, Make a Gift in Support of Survivors

hotlinehope-1The holidays are a time for togetherness. Meeting up with old friends, spending time with family – traditions that many of us enjoy and might even take for granted. But for survivors of domestic violence, the holiday season can mean increased tension over finances, being isolated from family members or worrying about finding a safe place to stay.

At The Hotline, we believe that everyone deserves peace and safety during the holidays and all year-round. Over the past year, thanks to our partners and supporters we’ve been able to get closer to our goal of responding to each and every person who reaches out to us for help. But nearly 25 percent of calls, chats and text messages to The Hotline still go unanswered due to lack of resources.

“There are no words to thank you for helping me…I just can’t live like this and you made it possible to take my first step.” – Hotline caller

“You don’t know how much it means to be able to call and talk to somebody about this.” – Hotline caller

People experiencing abuse rely on our advocates to be here 24/7/365 providing support, compassion and resources to help them find safety. In turn, we rely on our community of supporters to help ensure that when a survivor is ready to speak, someone is here to listen.

“I have felt lost and scared. Thank you for listening and responding with ideas and help for me.” – Hotline chatter

Today is #GivingTuesday, a day dedicated to philanthropy, and we’re kicking off our holiday Giving Campaign. The funds we raise today and during the month of December help us increase our capacity to serve victims, survivors and their families. We are so honored to do this work, and we hope that you will consider making a gift to support The Hotline this holiday season.

“The resources I can find on Google. What I can’t find is a healthy person to talk to. That has been the most help. Just be talked to in a healthy way…I feel so much clarity after talking here.” – Hotline chatter

Please support The Hotline by making a gift today.
And, check back here throughout the month for empowering stories from survivors and advocates at The Hotline!