“I don’t even know anyone who talks on the phone anymore,” a friend told me recently. We are the internet generation. On average, teen girls send 123 text messages a day, and young people—ages 13-24—spend an average of 16.7 hours a week online. As texting and online chatting have become the main way that teens and young adults communicate, the resources available for those seeking help must match the methods by which we actually communicate with each other.
Vice President Biden recognized this need and called upon federal agencies to develop new resources to fill this gap. As a result, the National Dating Abuse Helpline was upgraded to use the latest technology and is now available by phone, text and online chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This innovation allows teens and young adults to reach out for help in the way they feel most comfortable.
In addition, the Vice President sent the first text to the Helpline in September 2011. Between September 2011 and June 2012, the Helpline has received nearly 27,000 chats and texts, and Helpline advocates responded to over 2,200 texts in January alone.
Background on the National Dating Abuse Helpline
The Helpline was created in 2007 by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, in response to the growing need for a youth-focused response to dating violence. The phones, chat and text features are all staffed by peer advocates, age 16-26, who work under the guidance of an adult supervisor. These young leaders are trained to offer support, information, and advocacy to those involved in abusive dating relationships, as well as to concerned friends, parents, clergy, law enforcement, and service providers.
How the Helpline Works
If you or a friend has been abused or needs help, you can reach the Dating Abuse Helpline by phone (1 (866) 331-9474), text (text “loveis” to 22522) or online chat (visit the Helpline website to access the chat function).
When you reach the helpline, a peer advocate can connect you to resources in your area, provide you with helpful websites, help you create a plan to stay safe, or just listen. The peer advocate will work with you to come up with solutions that best meet your needs. Whether you are trying to end an abusive relationship, worried that a friend might be in an abusive relationship, or are not sure if your relationship is unhealthy, the peer advocates offer support and information to help you work through the situation.
Emily Rock is a summer intern working with Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.