By: Sarah Schlenker
Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence has started offering a unique service that many other domestic violence nonprofits typically don’t. They have started a survivor helpline (855-287-1777).
BTS used to offer a hotline for survivors, however, it was decided recently to provide survivors with different kinds of assistance that other organizations don’t offer.
“We transitioned the hotline into a helpline with the idea that we want to continue filling that gap of what other organizations don’t do,” Kristen Paruginog, founder of BTS, said. “We [BTS] are known to fill in the gap and provide unconventional services that other organizations don’t.” While most organizations offer a hotline where callers can get resources or get help in an emergency, BTS’ helpline allows people experiencing domestic violence to talk to a survivor.
“We wanted to give survivors a chance to talk with those who made it to the other side,” Paruginog said.
Deanna Ward, head of the BTS helpline, said the helpline is all about “giving support, validating what they are feeling, and helping them anyway we can.”
While this can include providing resources to survivors, it’s also about giving survivors a chance to talk to other survivors and provide them with a sounding board.
“A rational voice can help you look at your situation and come up with a plan,” Midori Davidson, a helpline advocate, said.
Ward said the only requirement to become an advocate for the helpline is “be a survivor, that’s it.”
“Recall what it was like for you. Confirm they are not the only ones,” she said. “Validate what they are feeling. Let them know what helped you and see if it works for them.”
While there is no official training to be an advocate, many workers of the helpline do have training in counseling and mental health care, including Ward, who is a licensed therapist, and Davidson, who is a former rape crisis advocate. But the most important thing about being an advocate is being there for survivors.
“It entails having empathy and being able to listen and engage and being able to assess what exactly it is they are needing,” Ward said.
All of the helpline advocates are passionate about their work and helping others who are going through similar experiences.
“I work the helpline because I love helping people,” Megan Ultimo, a helpline advocate, said. “Every call is different but at the end of the day, I know I have helped those people in some way, shape, or form, and how can we not feel good about that?”
If you are a person who feels like you may be dealing with domestic violence in your life, you may be wondering if the helpline is right for you.
“My advice is to trust your instincts,” Davidson said. “Your perpetrator will make you feel that all is lost. That no one gives a damn about you. That’s all psychological trickery.”
“If someone is hesitant to call, I would ask them, ‘Would you hesitate to call your sister or best friend in times of need?’ A lot of people would say no. We are like a friend to our clients and we don’t want anyone to hesitate to call us,” Ultimo said. “We are here for anyone and everyone who would like to reach out to us. Everything is confidential and we do not judge anyone.”
She said the helpline is a good resource to call when you feel like you need someone to talk to but you aren’t sure who to turn to of your friends or family.
“We are all survivors on the team,” Ultimo said. “When you think no one in the world could possibly understand or relate, we are here to tell you that we actually get it.”
If you wish to talk to one of our advocates, please call: 855-287-1777 during one of the times listed below. Ward said to ensure when you call that your abuser cannot hear you.
Survivor Helpline Hours
- Megan Ultimo – Monday – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST
- Midori Davidson – Tuesday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST
- Erin Beirne – Wednesday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST
- Adrianna Maslin – Thursday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST
- Kyra Burke – Friday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST