New hotline adds ‘vital’ piece to services for Chatham domestic violence victims

Posted 8/9/19

PITTSBORO — Survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, advocates say, usually face barriers in getting out of dangerous situations, ranging from stigma to financial difficulties.

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New hotline adds ‘vital’ piece to services for Chatham domestic violence victims

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Posted

PITTSBORO — Survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, advocates say, usually face barriers in getting out of dangerous situations, ranging from stigma to financial difficulties.

Chatham Family Violence Prevention Services and Second Bloom of Chatham have teamed up to kickstart what one person called a “vital” service for those victims.

The Chatham Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Help Line is a new 24/7 service set-up for people to call and receive anything from a kind ear to next steps in escaping bad situations. Now in place for just more than a month, the line — (919) 545-STOP, or (919) 545-7867 — is part of CFVPS and Second Bloom’s efforts to re-establish a presence for domestic violence and sexual assault services in the county.

Both Renita Foxx, director of Chatham County Court Programs, and Tamsey Hill, who works with Second Bloom, said helplines like this new one are among the first ways nonprofits and other organizations can be available to victims in need.

“This is something that is vital to most communities,” Foxx said. “You cannot provide domestic violence and sexual assault services and not have a hotline for crisis or some way for survivors or people that are currently in a crisis to reach out for resources and assistance.”

Organizations in surrounding counties serving victims — HAVEN in Lee County, InterAct of Wake County and Family Services of the Piedmont in Guilford County among them — all have crisis lines, and Chatham is joining their ranks. Second Bloom has picked up the mantle left by the Family Violence Rape Crisis Center, which closed last October, and this is the first of what they hope are more services to come.

Hill said the helpline is the “first service that comes to mind” for victims, and oftentimes the person on the other end can be a voice of relief or even an ear to listen in difficult situations.

“For many and most, finally they’re talking to someone who hears them, believes them and sees them as a person of value and worth,” she said. “Sometimes the connection may just be the fact that there’s somebody willing to listen on the other end of the phone. In the best of worlds, we’re helping everybody get to a safe place. But the reality of it is that sometimes it’s about being that listening ear.”

Statistics on domestic violence and sexual assault in Chatham County are spotty at best. The 2018 Chatham County Community Assessment stated the latest available data is from 2015. In that year, according to the report, 427 domestic violence clients and 45 sexual violence clients received services in the county, and the shelter that served clients was full 317 days, or about 87 percent of the year.

Foxx said the need for services can be best illustrated by the District Attorney’s office recently instituting two days a month for domestic violence court, where DV-related cases are the only items on the docket.

Beyond being there to listen to callers, trained volunteers help victims make a safety plan or point them to resources available in the community for financial help, lodging and transportation.

“We try our best to meet the survivor where they are,” Foxx said. “Sometimes people want to leave their situation immediately. Sometimes they just want to talk. Sometimes they just need for us to help them think out loud as to what things they need to put in a bag beside a door that if trouble arises or something occurs.”

Since putting out a call for volunteers to man the line earlier this year, the organizations have recruited 15 and have already scheduled another training session for September.

If you’re interested in being a volunteer, you can call Second Bloom at (919) 545-0055 or CFVPS at (919) 542-1792. Both organizations also have Facebook pages where updates are posted regularly.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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