Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline
Zara has been a victim of domestic abuse. She is also a volunteer call-taker for Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline, a free, confidential and anonymous signposting service which takes calls from anyone affected by the issue.
“I know how much strength it takes for a victim of domestic abuse to ask for help for the first time. I’ve had calls from people who have been enduring abuse for more than ten years, and I am the first person they have told about what’s happening to them.”
Since Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline began in 2010 Hertfordshire Community Foundation has awarded them nine grants. Essential funding accessed through Hertfordshire Community Foundation has meant that the Helpline can coordinate and support an increasing number of volunteer call takers, so they can reach more people and offer longer hours.
Christine Roach, Chair of Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline, explains that the volunteer call-takers “listen carefully and non-judgementally and then suggest services that might be appropriate. The decision as to what to do next lies with the caller – the action is never taken out of their hands.”
Estimates show that around four out of every five victims don’t report domestic abuse to the police, and those affected don’t always fit the stereotype you might first expect. Christine describes the range of calls they take, saying “female victims make up the majority of our calls, but we are getting an increasing number from male victims.”
All this work relies on volunteers who support people at all stages of their experience with domestic abuse, as Zara describes.
“Some people are just starting to recognise that they are in an abusive relationship; others have already been able to leave the relationship. Recently I had a call from a lady who had been able to leave her abusive partner, with help from the Helpline. She was calling to say thank you – and ask for help with the next steps, gaining financial independence and getting counselling.”
It is, as she says, “a huge responsibility, but also a privilege.”