May 1, 2024

Mission Moment – 24hr Helpline

About

YWCA Spokane’s helpline operates 24/7. Shelter advocates assist over 3,000 individuals annually with safety planning, making referrals for other services, and providing general information about domestic violence. The helpline is available via phone call, text, or email to allow the community to contact us in the safest and most convenient method.

In this Mission Moment, let’s explore the empowerment, validation, and supportive listening that our Shelter Advocates offer when they answer the helpline. We are committed to holding space, listening without judgment, and affirming the inherent worth and agency of every survivor.

Empowerment & Validation

At YWCA Spokane, we have a heightened understanding of the complexities and traumas that survivors of intimate partner violence experience. This allows us to take a nuanced approach and center the survivor’s autonomy. All of our services and programs utilize the empowerment model, which seeks to help survivors reestablish power and control over their lives.

Part of the empowerment process is affirming and acknowledging the survivor’s experiences and decisions. It could sound like reframing statements or offering affirmations, validation helps survivors recognize the legitimacy of their emotions and experiences.

Often the survivors that we work with have had their confidence and esteem worn down and degraded. Roupé,  Shelter Advocate, and Amanda Ramshaw, Shelter Manager, shared how survivors use a lot of self-deprecating humor or make negative statements about themselves. Survivors unduly hold a lot of shame and guilt around their situation.

“Domestic violence is messy and complicated,” reminds Roupé. “And survivors are the expert.”

By utilizing tools like the Power and Control Wheel, advocates educate survivors about the various forms of abuse, enabling them to name and own their experiences. Unfortunately, survivors might not seek support until after their situation has turned physical because of the misconception that domestic violence is only physical abuse.

We operate from an assumption that survivors are trying their best and know their situation the best. By recognizing their expertise in their own situations, advocates can help instill confidence in survivors’ decision-making abilities. Through phrases like “It sounds like you have thought this through,” advocates affirm survivors’ autonomy, reminding them that they possess the knowledge and resilience to navigate their circumstances.

To Amanda, validation can be the difference between saying “I can’t imagine what you are going through” versus claiming to know exactly their situation. Roupé recounted one caller who had been married to their perpetrator for 50 years felt so guilty for going back. “You know what is safest for you,” Roupé assures. “And I want to support you in making the safest decision for you.”

YWCA Spokane also supports men and masculine-identifying survivors too. While domestic violence statistically disproportionately affects women, anyone can be a survivor. Advocates emphasize that support extends to all genders, acknowledging that the steps may vary but the commitment remains unwavering.

“It doesn’t matter what happened,” says Roupé. “Violence will never be the justified result because no one wins.”

Our advocates provide a judgment-free space for survivors of all genders to process while offering validation and empowerment.

Supportive Listening

While survivors of domestic violence are navigating complex and dangerous situations, society and friends or family may not understand all that a survivor is going through. “There is a lot of telling them what to do,” says Amanda Ramshaw, Shelter Manager. “Supportive listening hopefully gives them a little space to process what they are going through without expectations of judgments.”

Supportive listening goes beyond merely hearing words. Advocates hold space for survivors to navigate their thoughts and emotions at their own pace. Roupé sometimes refers to supportive listening as getting an outside perspective. As an advocate answering the helpline, Roupé may ask someone if they are looking for advice or just someone to listen.

“If they’re mad, I know they’re not mad at me,” Roupé says. “They’re frustrated about something else and I can provide a space to get it off their chest. Often they have the solution; they know what they need to do. They just want to talk through it and we can validate them.”

A different survivor wanted to relocate with her kids across the country. Together she and Roupé made a plan so that she and her kids could be safe. “I just want to go home,” Roupé recalls her saying. “I just want to go home and be with my mom.”

These are just a few examples of the calls and stories our helpline receives on a daily basis. Each week, our Safe Shelter receives around 60 calls from survivors, loved ones, and community members, offering each individual empathy and compassion.


Learn More

YWCA Spokane’s Safe Shelter manages our helpline for survivors of intimate partner domestic violence and their allies. It is staffed 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The helpline is also used to access the confidential safe shelter where trained advocates provide a screening to determine if YWCA Spokane’s Safe Shelter is an option.

Contact our helpline by calling, 509-326-2255, texting 509-220-3725, or emailing help@ywcaspokane.org.

Learn more about our shelter services at ywcaspokane.org/shelter-and-housing.

By: Jemma Riedel-Johnson

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