It’s fall, the leaves are changing colors, and we’re feeling nostalgic at the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline). We just answered our 5 millionth contact earlier this year, and while this number is a bittersweet reminder of how prevalent domestic violence is, we’re thankful to be able to provide resources and support to survivors and their loved ones every single day.
You may not know this, but 35 years ago, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) was passed and implemented, creating what is now the primary federal funding source for domestic violence programs across the country. These programs provide emergency shelter, housing, and other supportive services for survivors and their children.
With thousands of programs funded through FVPSA, this bill has had a significant impact on meeting the critical needs of survivors as they seek a better future. FVPSA also supports our work at The Hotline, enabling us to answer the call to support people affected by relationship abuse for nearly 25 years. As we look forward to the new year and all the challenges and opportunities it brings, we wanted to take some time to pause and reflect on the past 35 years of FVPSA and all that it has done to enhance the experiences of survivors as they reach out to The Hotline for support, resources, and navigate the often complicated systems in place in order to stay safe from continued abuse.
While FVPSA first passed in 1984, The Hotline didn’t actually exist till much later. The passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 led to the creation of The Hotline, and, for the first time ever, survivors from across the country could call our confidential, free, national hotline to get support and resources for the abuse they were experiencing. The incredible impact of this has never been lost on us, and we never take for granted that 24 years ago, calling a free, confidential hotline to get help wasn’t an option for many survivors.
Today, we not only answer phone calls from survivors and their loved ones, but are also able to provide support through digital chat and text. In addition to this, we also have a program focused on prevention called loveisrespect, helping young folks understand the dynamics of healthy relationships and identify what dating violence looks like through resources and language that is palatable to them.
Every year, we’ve seen a steady growth in contact volume by about 10%, which is likely credited to more folks learning about our services and feeling safe to reach out for support. In 2018, we experienced our highest contacts ever received in our history with 573,670 contacts – a 39% increase from the previous year. Most folks that reach out to us identify as female, accounting for 87% of our contact volume.
We’ve seen a significant increase in folks utilizing chat services since it became available in 2013, and in 2018, we experienced the largest growth in our history of offering digital chat with a 147% increase over the previous year. And, in an effort to accurately identify those that reach out to us, we updated our gender data gather in 2015 to include contacts that identify as non-binary, trans female, trans male and others. Individuals that report identifying as non-binary have increased over 220% in the past year, with similar trends for folks identifying as trans male and trans female.
Answering our 5 millionth call was a reminder to us that the work to end domestic violence is nowhere near done, but we’re hopeful that one day we will have a world where all relationships are positive, healthy and free from violence. And, while that end may not be on the immediate horizon, we know that we’ll be able to be there when survivors reach out every single day because of the incredible support of FVPSA. Happy 35th FVPSA!