How Crisis Text Line provides hope and empowerment to intimate partner violence survivors
Do you ever get an intense feeling of anxiety before a phone call? If so, you’re not alone. With the rise of messaging apps in the past 10 years, more and more phone users are choosing messaging over phone calls. It’s more efficient, and allows you to talk to people all over the world. The future of communication is through text, and organizations are starting to take notice.
Crisis Text Line was founded in August 2013 by Nancy Lublin, then CEO of DoSomething.org, after she received a troubling text in response to one of her organization’s messages to its large member base. The message was a light bulb moment: Lublin realized that there needed to be an SMS-based service for people in crisis, so she founded one herself.
Today, users in the United States are able to text 741741 to be connected with one of our Crisis Counselors, who will work to bring them to what we call a “cool calm.” Crisis Counselors are all trained volunteers. They don’t give advice; instead, they are encouraged to let texters guide the conversation and collaborate toward next steps. And Crisis Text Line isn’t only for teenagers-- less than half of our texters are under the age of 18. We have texters coming from all walks of life, across all ages and all 50 states.
What makes Crisis Text Line unique is that we are a data-driven organization. Less traditional crisis hotline, and more tech startup. A high-level view of our data is available at crisistrends.org, which allows visitors to visualize our data based on state, topic, month, and time of day. (What state has the most anxiety? What’s the worst time of day for eating disorders? Crisis Trends can answer these questions and more.)
One population we’re uniquely equipped to serve are survivors of domestic violence. The anonymous nature of our service keeps our users safe: for those in some abusive situations, calling a hotline or going onto a website may be too dangerous. Texting is silent, and can be done discreetly and from any location.
For texters on a major phone carrier, Crisis Text Line won’t even appear on their bill, and any texter can opt out of being included in our aggregate data. We can offer privacy for individuals in abusive situations, whether they are an immediate danger or they want to develop a safety plan for the future.
When it comes to domestic violence and intimate partner violence, our data shows that direct forms of abuse are only part of the story. We know, for instance, that texters contacting us about domestic violence issues are almost four times as likely to mention concerns about homelessness and more than twice as likely to express concerns regarding their financial situation. More frighteningly, these texters are over three times as likely to mention homicide during their conversations.
With this data on hand, Crisis Text Line in a unique situation to help survivors of domestic violence and those working to support them. For example, we know that texters are significantly more likely to text us about domestic violence between the hours of 4 am and noon. By making this data publicly available, we’re empowering domestic violence shelters and local hotlines to prepare for these potential high traffic timeframes.
It’s said that the average person experiencing domestic violence will try and leave seven times before they are successful. While we can’t directly help survivors leave, we can help them develop a sense of agency to try and improve their situation. Our fundamental goal with texters is to encourage empowerment, regardless of why they texted in. With survivors of domestic violence, who often struggle with having their sense of self broken down by their abuser, this mindset of encouraging the texter to find their own sense of agency is critical.
We encourage our Crisis Counselors to plan next steps with their texters, so that in their next time of crisis they are better prepared to cope in a healthy manner. We have a verified list of referrals (also available on our website) which Crisis Counselors can give to texters, in order to help them build their crisis toolkit. We're not just offering women help, but we're also helping women to help themselves.