A Safe Space to Speak: Life-Saving Support for Survivors


005 Assaulted Women's Helpline

Photo © Courtesy of Assaulted Women’s Helpline

On November 4th, 1985, the Assaulted Women’s Helpline answered its first call. In that first year, 5,000 calls from across the GTA were answered. Thirty-seven years later and over one million calls later, AWHL now answers more than 90,000 calls annually from women across the province and beyond.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven 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.

assaulted womens helpline
Photo © Courtesy of Assaulted Women's Helpline

Home is supposed to be a safe space, but for victims of domestic abuse, it’s the most terrifying place to be. In Canada alone, one in four women has experienced domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a complex issue with no easy solution; when people hear about cases of intimate partner violence, they ask the same question: “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t as simple as ‘just leaving.’ There are very often children in the home, financial repercussions to think about, or other barriers to support. Many women are also too scared to flee for fear of what their partners might do. Some women do not want to leave; they just want the abuse to stop.

COVID-19 dramatically impacted the Helpline, with call volumes nearly doubling. That impact continues to be felt as rates of domestic violence and intimate partner violence (IPV) continue to rise. AWHL continues to adapt our policies and procedures to ensure we are helping all the women we can.

“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,” said an AWHL caller.

Every day we continue to assist with the challenges facing our callers. 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. Learn more at awhl.org

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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.


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