AUSTIN (KXAN) — Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. It affects men and women, children and adults. In September, video leaked of NFL player Ray Rice punching his then-fiance in an elevator. It sparked a nationwide discussion on domestic violence, and forced the league to help create change.
Several weeks after the video leaked, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited the Austin-based National Domestic Violence Hotline and the league committed to a multiyear, multimillion dollar partnership with the organization. The goal is to make sure the voice of every victim is heard. This week, KXAN got a rare look inside a training session with the Hotline’s newest call-takers, which was made possible by funds from the new partnership.
For victims, help is just a call or click away. The Hotline is training new call-takers, known as advocates, to answer calls and online chats. Hotline officials say it takes a special person to fill this role.
“The things we are really looking for in an interview is their ability to be empathetic,” explained Volunteer and Training Manager Nadia Feltes. “To be willing to learn our ways of doing things, how we handle calls.”
“How do you advocate if your caller is pregnant?” Feltes asked. “Because we know that when you’re pregnant it is one of the most dangerous times.”
More staffing was critical, and the Hotline still seeks advocates. After the Ray Rice video leaked, call volume spiked by 84 percent.
“We actually were able to increase staff by 21 percent since the NFL support has come in, which has been immense,” explained Cameka Crawford, Chief Communications Officer for the Hotline.
“When something happens in the media like that and you see an increase in calls, it doesn’t ever go back down to the levels that were before that incident happened,” Crawford said.
Answering all of the calls isn’t easy. Before the video was released, the Hotline only had resources to answer 50 to 60 percent of incoming calls. Although volumes spiked in September, increased staffing allows advocates to now answer 80 percent of calls. The goal — 100 percent.
“That video helped give people the vocabulary to talk about what’s happening,” Crawford said. “It also helped some victims that thought this ‘was just happening to me and I’m alone.’ It showed them that maybe they’re not alone.”
In 2013, the Hotline received 70 percent of its budget from the federal government, which totaled more than $3 million. Due to a lack of resources, 77,484 calls, chats and texts went unanswered in 2013, but the goal is for that number to be zero.
If you are a domestic violence victim seeking help, click here for resources.