Guest post by: Jocelyn Clarke, Crisis Line Supervisor and Counselor, HAVEN
We always tell new staff and volunteers who are training to answer our 24-hour Crisis and Support Line (CSL) is that you never know what scenario you will encounter when you answer the phone. Working on the CSL can be frustrating, scary, and rewarding all at once. Our calls are as different as the individual people who call—survivors of intimate partner violence, mothers, best friends, dads, social workers, therapists, nurses, and more—all in one day!
The majority of calls we take are focused on domestic violence. We talk with women who are in relationships with an abusive partner and help them understand that what they are dealing with is not normal and that they are not doing anything to cause his behavior. We talk with survivors who want counseling or an advocate to go to court with them as a support person. We receive requests for information about obtaining a personal protection order or shelter.
If a caller needs shelter we discuss what HAVEN’s Residential Program is like, what to expect while staying there and other safety options. We talk with people about anything they’d like to discuss including:
- The effects of domestic violence on their children
- How to keep themselves safe
- The pros and cons of leaving
- How to tell if they are in an abusive relationship
The CSL staff can also help callers find other community resources if we can’t help them directly (e.g. hiring an attorney, help with rent payments, new housing, utility payments, eviction notices, etc.). Sometimes callers just want to talk to us about what triggered them and that’s okay too.
An example call we might receive could include a woman calling because she thinks her boyfriend might be abusive, but she isn’t sure. We ask her to share more about what’s going on that makes her think or feel this way. She tells us that she has been with him for about 5-years. Everything was okay in the beginning, he was really sweet, but now it seems like she can’t do anything right. He has started to push her around, always wants to know where she is, who she is with and when she will be home. He is always texting her. After she shares her concerns, we may talk to her about how she feels about his behavior, some safety options, and/or any of our services that she might find helpful.
Another type of call we may receive could be from the mother of a woman who is being abused by her husband. Mom wants to know how she can help her daughter and her grandchildren. We would talk with her about some of the ways she can support her daughter during this time. We might talk about what it’s like for her daughter to be with an abusive man, and some of the barriers that she might be facing when she tries to leave the situation.
Whatever the questions or concerns HAVEN is here to help. If you decide to contact our 24-hour Crisis and Support Line, at 877-922-1274, for yourself, for a friend, for a loved one or anyone who needs help, you can speak with a trained specialist. Our staff completes more than 40 hours of training before they respond to calls and 24 hours of continuing education per year. Our volunteer staff completes a minimum of 48 hours of training before they answer phone calls.
Our staff and volunteers bring a variety of life experiences; we have graduate students, stay-at-home moms, retired IT professionals, and nursing students, among others who answer the lines. What they all have in common is that they believe that everyone deserves to live without fear. For more information please visit www.haven-oakland.org.