History And Importance Of The Domestic Violence Hotline

Updated July 12, 2019

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The history and importance of the Domestic Violence Hotline is something that should never be understated. Many people may not understand this importance because they have never experienced domestic violence firsthand, but for those who have, these hotlines can be a real life-saver.

A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that "On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States… Over the course of a year, this equals more than 12 million women and men." When faced with domestic violence people can experience a lot of guilt, shame, and confusion, making it hard to reach out for the help they need.

Many people don't know where to turn when in a domestic violence situation.

Domestic violence refers to criminally violent or aggressive acts committed in the home, usually by a spouse or partner. In an emergency, victims are encouraged to call 911 or get in contact with law enforcement. For non-emergencies, there's the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE).

History Of The Domestic Violence Hotline

In February 2016, the NDVH celebrated 20 years of service and later that year in June, the hotline answered its four-millionth call. Their website states that today, "The Hotline is the only 24/7 center in the nation that has access to service providers and shelters across the US." Their help is free and confidential. Their vision is a world where all relationships are violence-free.

But how did this organization get to where they are today, you ask?

The NVDH was created on September 13, 1994, when President Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act(VAWA). The hotline took its first call two years later, on February 21, 1996. Seven years later, on August 2, 2003, they took their one-millionth call. In October 2005, the hotline ended a campaign that raises $2.7 million to improve their technological capacity. The result of this work meant that more calls could be answered, and more assistanceis given to those in need.

Over the years, the NDVH has received the support of several politicians either directly or indirectly (President Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and President Obama among them). The NDVH has also partnered with many companies and organizations over the years, including Verizon Wireless, Liz Claiborne Inc., Marshalls, Break the Cycle, and the NFL.

Importance Of The Domestic Violence Hotline

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The NDVH plays a crucial role in helping victims of domestic violence access important resources, such as legal resources, children's services/parenting, mental health and counseling, statewide hotlines, and national resources, says their 2016 Impact Report. The report also shows that children were involved in over 64,500 cases of abuse in 2016; one more reason why the NDVH's work is so important.

Resources For Victims Of Domestic Violence

In the past, women and children were not adequately protected from domestic violence. They often lived through their abuse in silence and suffered the consequences, even when people outside the home did find out what was going on. Who would help them? Now things are different. Toleration of domestic violence towards anyone is low now, and there are many places where victims of domestic violence can turn for help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a great place to start.

If you are having trouble locating resources in your area, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health has compiled a useful list of programs and resources organized by state.

Here are some other resources you might want to consider in addition to the domestic violence hotline:

Support Groups

In-person and online support groups can be a great resource for survivors of domestic violence. Healing from abuse can be a long-term process that greatly impacts your ability to trust other people. You may feel like you are alone in what you are going through, or that your family and friends just don't understand because they've never experienced anything like it. This is where support groups can come in handy.

Support groups allow you to connect with other people who have gone through similar situations and escaped from them. A support group gives you a chance to voice your feelings and experiences to people who understand and to hear similar stories from other people. Finding the right support group can give you a network to turn to when things are difficult. It can also connect you with people who know more about resources and can give you advice or ways to cope with the healing process.

If you complete your search and realize that there are no organized domestic violence support groups in your area, you have a few options. You can:

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  • Search for support groups online
  • Start your support group

One helpful resource, if you're looking for setting up a support group in an area that lacks resources for domestic violence victims, is a manual called The Power to Change: How to Set Up and Support Groups for Victims and Survivors of Domestic Violence. This manual covers important topics like facilitating, group development and management, policies and protocols, and more. Creating a safe place where people can open-up and support each other is a big deal and can help a lot of people.

Women's Shelters

One big barrier for people looking to escape from a relationship where domestic violence is involved is not knowing where to go. You might be in a situation where no one can take you (and possibly your children) in, or you have moved away from friends and family and don't know anyone other than your abusive partner. This can be daunting, and make you feel like you have nowhere to go. Luckily, most places do have state-funded women's shelters where you can seek refuge.

These shelters can help women and their children in several ways, by providing them with:

  • Shelter
  • Food and water
  • Access to affordable health care, counseling, legal services, etc.

Unfortunately, women's shelters (as helpful and necessary as they are) are not perfect. These institutions face their fair share of challenges, such as achieving reliable funding and providing access to important services for women that come through their doors. Different shelters operate differently regarding their rules and how long women can stay, but all are responsible for doing their best to ensure that confidentiality and safety are made a priority for those staying there.


Once you are safely out of a relationship that involved domestic violence, your work is not finished. Chances are you are still suffering from emotional wounds, conflicting emotions, and fear that could negatively impact your daily life. As you pick up the pieces and start to re-build your life, having a strong support system can make a huge difference.

Seeking additional support from a trained professional is another way that you can make the healing process go more smoothly.

When it comes to counseling, you can choose from a couple of different options depending on your needs. If you want, you can go with the traditional method of seeing a counselor in-person for regular sessions for as long as you need.This could mean weekly or monthly sessions, for example.

If you're having trouble finding a counselor in your area due to waiting lists, affordability, time constraints, or living in a rural area, there are other options out there that are just as effective. For example, online counseling services like Regain offer cost-effective and secure relationship counseling for couples and individuals. Services like these are cheaper than in-person counselling and more flexible, and you get the same care and confidentiality as you would if you saw a counselor in-person.


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The National Domestic Violence Hotline has done a lot of good over the years, from helping victims of domestic violence find the help they need to spreading awareness about the problem and starting important conversations amongst politicians, companies, and the public.

Despite the large amount of change that has happened since their launch over 20 years ago, the NDVH is still answering millions of calls per year, which means that there is still a lot of work to be done.

By learning about how the NDVH got started and why it's so important, people can start conversations about domestic violence and not be so afraid to speak up when they are experiencing partner violence at home. Also, people who have never experienced domestic violence firsthand can start to understand how devastating these situations can be.

If you are currently experiencing domestic violence at home, know that you are not alone and there are resources available for you to get out of the situation you are in. If you are a domestic violence survivor, be aware that what you have done takes a lot of strength, but the fight isn't over. There is no shame in asking for the help you need to recover both physically and emotionally from the scars of domestic violence.

The NDVH, support groups, women's shelters, and counseling are just a few ways that you can access the support and resources that you need.

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