Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) has been taking calls from victims and survivors at their most vulnerable times for the past four decades. As of March 2020, BWSS expanded their community-based crisis line to support 24/7, and added a texting service in addition to communicating by email. BWSS’s crisis lines rely on dedicated, trained volunteers to support, educate, and empower callers to a life free from violence. More volunteers are needed and BWSS’s world-renowned Violence Prevention and Intervention Training Program is now accepting applications to join the fall cohort starting on September 18, 2020.
Participants of the free training program are provided skills-based knowledge grounded in a strong theoretical framework for understanding violence against women and girls in relationships and systemic oppression. The training program covers crisis intervention, peer counselling, safety assessment, safety planning, advocacy, referrals, group facilitation, and public education.
The crisis line typically gets 18,000 calls annually. However, this year, calls have increased by 300 per cent as the crisis line is now open 24/7 and as COVID-19 exposes more victims to danger and lethality for having to stay at home. Most calls from the crisis line are from victims and survivors, family members, children and youth, and coworkers. Forty per cent of callers are calling for the first time.
“The crisis line is where we learn of the unique and changing needs of survivors and victims across various demographics and we build our systemic advocacy based on the calls we receive,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of BWSS. “Volunteering with us is a way of giving back to the community for those who deeply care about ending gender-based violence. Our volunteers make a difference in the lives of thousands of victims and survivors as they are the first point of contact, becoming a gateway to accessing services including counselling, legal advocacy, and our various specialty programs that centre the needs of our callers.”
The training is now mostly virtual, which creates more options for participants who need the flexibility. Many of BWSS’s services are also offered virtually and in person. There are many shifts that need to be filled as the line is always open, and the crisis line offers shifts online and from home. Volunteers are supported and supervised by experienced and trained BWSS staff while on shift.
“Our goal is for victims to become survivors, and to live free from violence,” said Elza Horta, Crisis Line and Intake Coordinator at BWSS. “We also receive calls from people who want to help survivors and want to be active in the community especially during the increased rates of domestic violence during COVID-19. There are lots of education, life-changing and life-saving conversations happening over the phone.”
For more information about the Violence Prevention and Intervention Program and to apply for the fall training now, visit bwss.org/volunteer.
The BWSS Crisis Line is available 24/7 and can be reached by phone at 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868; by texting 604-652-1867 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.