A domestic violence crisis hotline is a phone number which is local to a region, or toll-free to cover a large region. Staff are constantly available so that victims of domestic violence can call the domestic violence crisis hotline at any time, not just an emergency situation, and receive assistance. In addition to victims, a domestic violence crisis hotline can also assist people who suspect that someone they know is a victim, and the hotline frequently maintains physical offices which offer drop in counseling and other services.
The primary form of assistance offered by a domestic violence crisis hotline is a person to listen to the victim with empathy and compassion, and to offer advice and counseling if it is requested. For panicked victims, the knowledge that they can call just to talk to someone is very important. Staff train as crisis counselors with a certifying organization, and they usually also have a large binder of information ready to hand so that they can assist callers. These counselors can make referrals for in person counseling as well, if the caller requests it.
If a caller wants help getting out of his or her situation, the hotline worker can also assist with this. Assistance usually starts with getting the caller to a temporary safe place, which may involve coaching, or a request for law enforcement to go to the victim and offer assistance. The counselor on the domestic violence crisis hotline can help to arrange for temporary housing, childcare, and monetary assistance which will allow the victim to escape from the violent situation.
For victims interested in prosecuting as well, a domestic violence crisis hotline can provide legal assistance, including obtaining a temporary restraining order and dealing with child custody issues. In some cases, a domestic violence crisis hotline has a staff of lawyers or people with legal training to offer legal counseling. Staff will also accompany the victim to court to offer assistance as needed, and will help coach the victim for success in court.
In addition, many communities offer continuing education and life skills classes in combination with a domestic violence crisis hotline. These services are offered at a shelter or domestic violence awareness center, and might include coaching to complete school, assistance with applying to jobs and college programs, or classes designed to help victims manage their daily lives. All of these services are intended to empower victims of domestic violence, allowing them to ultimately make their own choices about their lives.