New Campaign Encourages Bystanders to Report Family Violence
Where’s The Line?
Starting today, Kiersten Curtis will spend eight hours every day, Monday through Friday, answering some difficult phone calls. She’s familiarized herself with the call-in system at the Center for Family Safety and Healing, and she’s been through “tons of training,” but today is the day it all comes together.
“About an hour and a half and that line will be active,” says Curtis. “I’m super excited. I’m nervous for instances that maybe I haven’t been familiarized with, but I think that’s expected. But overall I feel really ready to help people.”
Curtis is the Information Coordinator at the Center for Family Safety and Healing’s “Where’s The Line” campaign, designed to encourage bystanders and observers of family violence and abuse to call an anonymous, confidential resource line. Curtis will answer their calls and direct them to whichever resource in the area will best serve their needs and help victims out of dangerous situations.
“We have lots of information that we can offer people to get them to the appropriate service agency,” says Curtis. “So we’re just the bridge to put them with the people that they can actually get hands-on help with.”
“60 percent of people in this country have been a bystander witness to some type of abuse,” said Abigail Wexner, chair of the Center for Family Safety and Healing, as she announced the launch of Where’s The Line Thursday morning. “By focusing on the bystander, by empowering people to be able to recognize family violence, to recognize child abuse, we hope to encourage reporting.”
Wexner said that too often, bystanders and witnesses to abuse do not feel empowered to report what they are seeing, often because they aren’t sure if what they’re seeing constitutes abuse, or because they worry they may put someone in danger.
“Where is that line between what is child abuse, what is domestic violence and what is not?” said Wexner.
As well as being completely anonymous, the resource line is available in “the right kind of media that is appropriate” for the person reporting. Bystanders can tell an information coordinator what they’ve seen, ask whether what they’ve seen is abusive and then be directed to an agency that can best help the victim.
“We’re really looking to the entire community to say ‘You have a role in family violence, you have a role in child abuse there is something you can do to save lives and literally save lives,’” said Wexner.
In addition to the resource line, Where’s The Line will be promoting bystander intervention with a television commercial set to air beginning January 12. The commercial focuses on child abuse, but the campaign itself will combat all types of family violence, including teen dating abuse and domestic violence.
Not A Private Matter
“It is your business,” said Karen Days, president of the Center for Family Safety and Healing. “It’s not a private matter.”
Witnesses, said Days, often don’t report abuse because they fear retribution. Others worry that they might be wrong, or that it’s none of their business.
“We want to change that, because that is not the case,” said Days. “Victims tell us, from their own mouths, that once they find out that somebody else cares, it gives them hope. So bystanders are critical, we’re not going to do anything to eliminate this issue from our communities without bystanders.”
The awareness campaign also aims to educate people on how to spot signs of family violence and will target bystanders from all walks of life. One area Days said the campaign will concentrate on is the rise of same-sex domestic violence, as well as abuse of men, which Days said often goes unrecognized.
In order to combat abuse between teenagers, Days said the Where’s The Line campaign will educate parents on what an abusive teen relationship looks like and help them take notice if their child appears to stop socializing with their friends and only spends time with a boyfriend or girlfriend. The campaign will also educate teenagers on how to tell if they themselves are in an unhealthy relationship.
Days stressed that the resource line is not intended to supersede 911 and is not meant for emergency situations. The line is only intended to provide information to bystanders who often fail to report what they see because they don’t know what to do. The reporting system is anonymous and highly confidential, but some voluntary information may be asked of callers, Days said, “because at some point, we need to celebrate these heroes.”
If you are a witness to family violence, you can call 844-234-LINE to report what you’ve seen. If you would prefer not to speak over the phone, you are also able to text 87028 or send an instant message at www.familysafetyandhealing.org.
All photos by Jesse Bethea.