Volunteer Spotlight: Help keep domestic violence hotline covered

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/24/2022 8:50:40 AM
Modified: 4/24/2022 8:49:14 AM

Safeline, a nonprofit organization that assists survivors of domestic violence in Orange and northern Windsor counties, is looking for volunteers to staff its 24/7 hotline.

While staff cover daytime shifts, volunteers are needed to cover the hours between 4 p.m. and 7 a.m. There are currently four volunteers, and the organization is looking to recruit at least three more, said Linda Ingold, executive director of the Chelsea-based organization. If a volunteer cannot cover the full shift, Ingold said the shifts can be divided. Volunteers work from their homes and do not need to be awake for the entire shift; they just need to be reachable by phone to respond to calls that come in.

“It really depends. It could be one or two, or nothing,” Ingold said. “It’s hard to know what the requests coming in might be.”

Volunteers receive 20 hours of training that can be completed online or in person, and they are equipped with a binder of area resources to refer callers to. There is also a Safeline staff member on call to assist them. While it’s not a requirement, it is helpful for volunteers to live within Safeline’s 22-town coverage zone.

“We interview a potential volunteer first, so theoretically they’re mature enough to be able to answer and deal with the kinds of calls that we get,” Ingold said. “We oftentimes get referrals from law enforcement and from therapists who will call us and ask how they could handle a situation, and they make referrals to anyone who might need to have a protection order.”

When someone calls Safeline’s hotline, they are connected to an answering service. The answering service then reaches out to the volunteer with the caller’s information. Then, the volunteer reaches out to the caller. Volunteers block their numbers so the call cannot be traced. Callers are not required to give their names.

“What we would like to know is what town they’re from. Then we can tell them what resources they can tap into in their specific town,” Ingold said.

Ingold emphasized that volunteers do not tell the caller what to do in their specific situation: They simply let them know about the options they have.

“Every case is different, so it’s going to be the caller who needs to make a decision, but they’ll be able to do it in a better way, in a more informed way,” Ingold said. “We can let them know what the system is like, what the paperwork is like. We can help them over the phone with paperwork.”

Lynn Rollins, youth advocate at Safeline, answers hotline calls during the day and assists volunteers at night.

“People usually start talking and I usually let them talk for as long as they need and then find an opportune moment to ask questions, mostly about safety,” Rollins said, noting that the top priority is the safety of the caller. “You don’t want to talk to them if the abuser is coming back. One of the questions we ask is, ‘Is it safe to call you back?’ ”

It is important for volunteers to be empathetic.

“Most domestic violence victims don’t have a choice in anything that goes on, and it’s really important not to be judgmental,” Rollins said. “The shame they feel is enough, and you don’t want to make that worse.”

It also helps to be familiar with the resources available for survivors of domestic violence.

“Being able to practice active listening is really important because some people want to call and just talk about it,” Rollins said. “They’re not ready to leave.”

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when stay-at-home orders were in place, the number of calls that Safeline received dropped. Safeline staff didn’t take that as a good sign but that the likely cause was that abusers were home, which made it difficult for people who were being abused to make calls for help.

“Once people started to go back to work and to go back to school, then our calls increased,” Ingold said. “One thing that people did recognize is that, of course, if someone is being abused, they’re not able to call out. What they did not recognize at the time is how this is affecting children.”

When children returned to school, teachers, school officials and other mandated reporters started reaching out again.

Since the start of the pandemic, Rollins has also noticed troubling trends among the calls that are coming in.

“They’ve gotten more violent, more complicated. Housing is really difficult to find,” she said. “Domestic violence victims get preferential treatment for hotel rooms if they’re fleeing a domestic violence situation. Finding a hotel room in Orange County can be very difficult, and a lot of the time they get farmed out to other counties.”

While the work can be difficult, it’s also fulfilling, Rollins said. She encourages volunteers to talk to staff if they need to debrief after a call.

“Have no doubts about calling and debriefing, because that’s just as important,” she said. “Some of the things you hear are tough.”

Editor’s note: For more information about volunteering at Safeline, visit safelinevt.org/volunteer, email safelineinfo@safelinevt.org or call 802-685-7900.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy