Emergency Hotlines provide lifelines for domestic violence and abuse survivors during the pandemic.

By Aisling Ayers, Photos from Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any form of domestic violence, assault or abuse, please call the SAFEline at 512-267-7233 or The Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you are unable to speak safely, visit the SAFEline chat, thehotline.org, text 737-888-7233 or text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474. 

When the city of Austin enforced a stay-at-home order in March, some utilized the time indoors to learn a new hobby or catch up on sleep. For others, closed doors and minimal social interactions escalated abusive situations.

Some 24/7 emergency hotlines exist to help victims of abuse and assault at a moment’s notice. The SAFE Alliance, an Austin agency dedicated to serving survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation and domestic violence, operates the SAFEline that people can reach by calling, texting or live-chatting.

Coni Stogner,  vice president of SAFE community services, says the agency receives over 10,000 calls every year. Their average daily call rate of 45 calls has seen a 25% increase since March. It now sits at around 55 daily calls. Some days, the agency receives as many as 80 calls. 

Home isn’t always a safe place.

“The sort of scary part is that people are staying home from work or school. They’re not just out and about. So home isn’t always a safe place for lots of people,” Stogner says. “It makes it harder if you’re there [and]stuck with your person that’s abusing you.”

“There is help out there. There is  someone you can talk to. You’re not alone.”

Coni Stogner

Additional time spent at home with an abuser can prevent victims from finding safe times and places to reach out for help. This is why people are reporting higher levels of danger—sometimes involving weapons or strangulation—than before the pandemic, Stronger says. 

“We are privileged and honored that people actually come and share their stories with us,” Stogner reflects. “People aren’t putting on these masks and hiding what’s going on, and there’s this sort of openness and authenticity.”

Here to Help

The agency offers free resources such as emergency shelter, counseling services, support housing and legal services. Stogner says the agency has adjusted to serve every client safely through both virtual means and safety measures at their on-site facilities. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, or The Hotline, is another Austin-based nonprofit dedicated to serving domestic violence survivors. 

“The issue of domestic violence continues to be a public health epidemic. We need to view it as such,” Crystal Justice, The Hotline’s chief development and marketing officer, says. “1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will have been the victim of severe violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. That is unacceptable.”

Call, chat or text the SAFEline or The Hotline, even if they just have questions or want to talk through a situation.

Justice is a survivor of domestic violence herself. Many question survivors about why they didn’t leave abusive relationships sooner. Justice insists the act of leaving itself is often dangerous. 

“This is an extremely complex issue. Sometimes what you or I may think is the right thing for the person to do, in fact might be the most harmful,” Justice says.  


According to data collected by The Hotline, more than 16,000 people have mentioned COVID-19 as a factor in their abusive experience since March 15. Contact rates have fluctuated but are currently 9% higher than before the pandemic. 

“Any situation that adds stress, financial strain and increased isolation can create circumstances where a survivor is less safe and more at risk,” Justice says. “This pandemic is unfortunately a combination of all three.”

Abusive partners are spreading misinformation about the pandemic, Justice says. The Hotline has helped victims who were told it was illegal to go outside. These same victims were prevented from accessing medical care or sanitizing products. 

Some 24/7 emergency hotlines exist to help victims of abuse and assault at a moment’s notice.

The Hotline’s crisis intervention work provides survivors with resources, validation and personalized safety plans. But Justice says distributing information, building a support network and reducing stigma are key to preventing domestic violence in the first place. 

Bumble, an Austin-based women-owned dating and social app where women make the first move, donated $100,000 to The Hotline’s COVID-19 support fund. Bumble became the official sponsor of The Hotline’s “love is respect” campaign. 

“Love is respect” provides resources about healthy relationships and intimate partner violence. The campaign was created in 2007 to prevent dating violence and abuse among teenagers and people in their early 20s. 

You are not alone

Bumble entered into a multi-year partnership with the campaign because of its similarities to its own vision. A world where every relationship is healthy, equitable and empowering. 

Both Stogner and Justice advise people to check up on those around them. To call, chat or text the SAFEline or The Hotline, even if they just have questions or want to talk through a situation. 

“There is help out there. There is  someone you can talk to,” Stogner says. “You’re not alone.”



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