For more than 30 years, Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS) has served adult and child victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse who live in Loudoun County. In 2016 alone, LAWS served more than 6,000 individuals through its shelter, crisis hotline, counseling services, support groups, case management services, advocacy programs, its Loudoun Parent-Child Nurturing Program and educational outreach efforts.
In recent years, it had become clear to the staff at LAWS that it was past time to purchase and install a complete phone system that would allow them to serve those individuals more effectively. Using funds supplied through a 100WomenStrong grant, LAWS recently replaced a 16-year-old system that not only was deteriorating and working improperly, but also was inefficient, outdated and missing important functions that the 24-hour hotline staff needed to serve callers safely and effectively.
“We desperately needed a better way take calls and serve our clients,” said Judy Hanley, LAWS’ interim executive director. “Beyond the fact that the system was so old, we couldn’t transfer calls or connect people between our Emergency Shelter and the Community Services Center. That meant that a caller couldn’t easily be patched to an advocate or a counselor, which didn’t always work well.”
As Hanley, explained, making the first call to a crisis hotline is not done easily. Asking callers to disconnect and make additional calls was a problem.
“Making that first call to our hotline to ask for help can be a daunting task for a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, who is uncertain as to what the future holds. We must remove any potential barriers that may make seeking services more difficult for survivors,” Hanley explained. “Reducing the number of calls needed to access services is important to ensuring that a survivor is safe, feels reassured and has a seamless and coordinated experience with us.”
Last year, LAWS answered 886 hotline calls through its 24-hour hotline, and most of the victims who called the 24-hour hotline needed to be connected to services provided through the crisis center. In addition to the inability to connect calls between locations, outdated technology kept staff from conducting conference calls or using the speaker function, both of which are critical for language interpretation services.
“Most people take caller ID for granted, but we didn’t have it,” she explained. “and that presented safety challenges to the staff. The ability to identify a caller’s number allows staff to monitor potential safety issues, as well as ensure that we have a client’s contact information in the event a call is dropped or there is an emergency.
“Over the years, grants from 100WomenStrong have made it possible for us to improve our services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse in so many ways,” Hanley said. “with this grant, we can monitor the safety of our callers and we have both speaker phone and conference call capabilities. This upgrade makes it easier for us to serve survivors without requiring him or her to make additional calls.
“That is essential to our mission, and we are very grateful for 100WomenStrong’s support of LAWS and other nonprofits in Loudoun.”