Published: March, 2011| Sharon Chew, Edited by Stephanie Avalon

Since January 2009, the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department in partnership with a collaborative of community-based agencies has operated an innovative toll-free hotline for limited-English proficient (LEP) victims of domestic violence that provides single-line access to domestic violence services and information in 14 languages.

The Peace in the Home Helpline – (888) 847-7205 – is a unique and cost-effective call transfer system that uses existing technology to route LEP callers to community-based programs that can meet their language and service needs. It is the first such service in the country.

The idea for the Peace in the Home Helpline came from a community collaborative called the Multilingual Access Project, or MAP, founded in 2002 in Seattle to increase access to domestic violence and sexual assault services for limited-English speaking women and their families. Modeled after the Multilingual Access Model, or MLAM, at the Asian Women’s Shelter in San Francisco, MAP’s long-standing goal was to create single-line access to DV services in Seattle-King County – a region known for its diverse populations and a social services system that includes a multitude of community agencies capable of providing culturally and linguistically specific services to DV victims. The Seattle Human Services Department worked with MAP to develop a solution for linking community resources together by phone under one number and in 2009, through AT&T’s OneNet Service, created the Helpline and a way to make DV services available in multiple languages through just one call.

How the Peace in the Home Helpline Works

Currently, there are seven community agencies on the Helpline: Asian and Pacific Islander Women and Family Safety Center, Consejo Counseling and Referral Service, Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, Eastside Domestic Violence Program, New Beginnings, Refugee Women’s Alliance, and YWCA of South King County. The agencies provide DV services in 14 languages: Amharic, Chinese, Khmer (Cambodian), Japanese, Lao, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Somali, Tagalog, Thai, Tigrigna, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

Spanish is the largest language group and five of the seven agencies have Spanish-speaking DV Advocates who provide assistance in a range of services including victim advocacy, shelter, housing, civil legal, children, and other supportive services. Because there are multiple Spanish-speaking Advocates callers can choose from a number of agencies, services and locations to fit their needs.

What Happens When Callers Call the Peace in the Home Helpline?

Callers choose from a menu of four language groups - Spanish, Asian languages, African languages, and Eastern European languages – and another menu of 14 languages. The first message heard is in English, subsequent messages and instructions are in the caller’s language choice. The general message for all languages, with some variations is, “If something in your relationship is bothering you and you want to speak or get information in [Spanish] stay on the line and someone will be with you shortly.” Callers are then connected to a community-based DV services agency and a DV Advocate who can provide assistance in the callers’ language.

The Peace in the Home Helpline has a feature that recognizes time-of-day and routes calls to different destination phone numbers at different times of the day. During business hours, the system routes calls from the Helpline to community agencies staffed by DV Advocates who speak the language of choice. After-hours, calls are routed to after-hours cell phones carried by Advocates who are paid a stipend to take calls during evenings, weekends and holidays. After-hours cell phone advocates are available in seven of 14 languages: Romanian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese - making DV information and services available 24/7 for some.

New Component: Access to Advocacy for Spanish-Speaking Victims of Domestic Violence

Because the need for language assistance is highest for Spanish speakers, two additional Spanish-speaking DV advocates were hired through a grant from OVW Community Defined Solutions specifically to answer Helpline calls, live, from Spanish-speaking victims of DV and referring them to appropriate service providers in the community. The Advocates are housed at a DV agency, New Beginnings, and take calls from the Helpline during regular business hours, Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Calls are routed to the after-hours cell phone advocates from Consejo, another partnering DV agency, after hours on weekdays, all day on weekends and holidays.

Clear Benefits for Limited-English Proficient Victims of Domestic Violence

There are several benefits of the Peace in the Home Helpline system that includes the after-hours cell phones, and the Access to Advocacy Spanish-speaking DV Advocates dedicated to answering calls from the Helpline.

  • One toll-free number provides single-line access to DV services in 14 languages. There is no need to call multiple phone numbers and multiple agencies to find the right help.
  • DV victims speak directly to DV Advocates in their language. There is no need to talk through an interpreter to a DV Advocate. This provides greater confidentiality to victims and much shorter wait times to connect to an Advocate trained to handle DV situations.
  • DV assistance is available 24/7 for callers in seven of the 14 languages on the Helpline.
  • It is cost-effective, costing between $9,000 to $10,000 per year to operate.

Outreach

One lesson learned was that targeted outreach to each of the different immigrant and refugee communities was necessary to gain public awareness of Peace in the Home Helpline and the DV services available in multiple languages.

Outreach to the Latino community, in particular, began in May 2010. Through the OVW CDS grant a part-time Spanish-speaking outreach worker was hired. The outreach worker and the DV Advocates from the seven partnering agencies participating in the Peace in the Home Helpline have distributed outreach materials and increased community awareness. The outreach efforts appear to be working. In 2009, when the program was first launched but before much outreach began, calls averaged 22 per month. In 2010, calls have steadily increased over time.

Outreach information about the Peace in the Home Helpline must not only be widely available, it must also be done in ways that keep victims safe from their abusers. In the Women’s Restroom campaign, the phone number and other information about the Peace in the Home Helpline is discreetly made available in women’s restrooms at “natural gathering places” within ethnic communities.

MAP Website

The MAP Website provides extensive DV information in 13 languages: Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Khmer (Cambodian), Korean, Lao, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Information covers what DV is, resources available in Seattle-King County, what happens when police are called, immigration concerns, and information about human trafficking.

For more information please contact: Sharon Chew, Sharon.Chew@seattle.gov.