Photo © Unsplash/Reign Abarintos
On November 4th, 1985, the Assaulted Women’s Helpline answered its first call. In their first year, they answered an incredible 5,000 calls from across the GTA. Over one million calls later, AWHL has grown to serve women across the province and beyond.
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, AWHL provides telephone and TTY crisis line counselling, online counselling, safety planning, emotional support, information, and referrals in over 200 languages. The Helpline is often the first point of contact for abused women, especially for those whose vulnerability is exacerbated by isolation, language barriers, or disability.
Women call the Helpline for many reasons, including information, emotional or psychological support, referrals, safety planning, or for emergency crisis help. They vary in age, ethnicity, education, and income. They are urban, suburban, and rural. They are students, mothers, and grandmothers. Simply put, they are women.
Are you in a safe location to speak?
When a woman calls the Helpline, her call will be answered by a professional counsellor. Although each call is unique, AWHL counsellors will ask questions to understand her situation better. Questions such as, are you in a safe location to speak? Can you tell me a little about your situation? What concerns do you have about your relationship? What have you considered at this point? Whatever the case, our counsellors are there to listen and support.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, calls to the Helpline have exploded, with more than 93,000 calls answered, nearly double the normal annual call volume. Isolation, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing requirements put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have contributed to exceptional demand for our services, as more women have found themselves isolated with an abusive partner.
“Thank you so much for what you do. You have helped me immeasurably, from when I was in the midst of my abusive relationship to the extremely difficult time I faced after leaving, including connecting with me a counsellor and helping me work through PTSD attacks. You are lifesavers.”
As the crisis continues, so too do the challenges facing our callers and the Helpline. We continue to provide a lifeline to thousands of women when they need it most. In many instances, a call to the Helpline can and does save a woman’s life and that of her children’s.
For over 30 years, the Assaulted Women’s Helpline has served as a free, anonymous and confidential 24-hour telephone and TTY crisis telephone line to all women in the province of Ontario who have experienced any form of abuse.