DVAM Blog Series: Touching One MIllion Lives
It is difficult to conceive of what one million people really means. How many nights looking at the sky would it take to see a million stars? How many flowers would it take to behold a million petals?
One million is the average number of people who visit WomensLaw.org each year. Most of them are women in violent relationships looking for legal information: how to file a restraining order, get custody of their children, find a lawyer, or report abuse to the police.
One million people. I am happy yet simultaneously dismayed at such a large number. On one hand, I am thrilled to see WomensLaw.org doing what it was meant to do. This number shows that not only is WomensLaw.org a needed service, it is also serving its purpose: leveraging the power of the internet to help and support victims of domestic violence navigate the legal system, stay safe and leave abusive situations. On the other hand, I am saddened to know that so many people are experiencing domestic violence and need this information.
One component of WomensLaw.org is the Email Hotline, which was created in 2002 to provide individual help and support. Each month, our staff responds to approximately 350 questions from victims, their friends and families, and advocates asking for help. Unfortunately, our staff does not have the capacity to respond to every inquiry that comes in, so we often have to close it. If the Email Hotline were open 24/7, we would easily receive around 1,000 requests a month. Striving to do as best as we can with what we have is what motivates me every morning when I go into work. I wish we could do more.
Despite the lack of resources and staff, what we can do is gratifying. What keeps me going are the testimonials from the people who use WomensLaw.org. Through our correspondence, it's clear that the legal information we provide empowers women with the knowledge to take action against the abuse. With every horrific story we hear from the victims of domestic violence who write to us, we also get the gift of being there, just when someone is ready to ask for help. I want to share some of these testimonials below. If you are experiencing abuse, know that you are not alone and there is a safe way forward. If you are an advocate, social worker or lawyer working in the field, know that we are making a difference in the lives of millions. Below are just from a few of those millions of stars...
"I can't begin to thank you enough for all the help you've been giving us. It truly is beautiful to know that there are people out there who still care. It's so nice to know that we aren't alone."
"Many thanks for your assistance. Gosh, I wish I could say more but I am slightly overwhelmed by the whole situation at the moment. I just saw my children at the agency and each time I see them it strengthens my will to fight for them, despite the bad trauma."
"Thank you so much for your note and your assistance. You have given me some wonderful leads to go on and there is a ray of hope for me. I am not a fighter by default, but I know that I cannot lie down and continue to be a victim any longer. Your encouragement and kind wishes are deeply appreciated and I will "pay it forward" to someone else in the future."
"Thank you for the information! So far just your e-mail alone has already helped me to not feel powerless. I will search the contacts that you provided for me and continue to educate myself on this. The most important piece of information that you gave me so far has been to make sure she doesn't feel isolated and to find a way to be there for her if she stays in the current situation. Thank you for doing what you do!"
"Thank God women have you to talk to. You have helped my family in such an enormous way. I wouldn't have known what I was doing if it wasn't for your kind, generous heart. Knowledge is so important."
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, there are state and federal laws intended to stop the abuse and keep you safe. Read about the laws in your state on WomensLaw.org, or write to our Email Hotline.
There are people out there who can help, and we are some of them. You don't have to do it alone.
- Written by Nina Gilbert, WomensLaw Outreach Coordinator