While it might seem that online chats would be more “scalable” than phone hotlines, this is not the case, at least not yet.
You have to focus completely on and respond to what the visitor has felt comfortable sharing.“Our entire approach was phone-based and we had to change our advocacy style, because in chats you don’t have the ability to hear environmental things,” Pinero said. With chats, you need to follow up, clarify you understand what is going on, and check in.
“On chat, people reveal way more than they do on the phone, and that is a huge opportunity for us to start exploring topics surrounding assault and coercion without making the visitor feel completely vulnerable.”Conversely, the greater anonymity of the chat system makes it more difficult to gather information that can help provide the best support.
Volunteers have far fewer contextual clues about the visitor’s gender, age, or current state of mind, and you cannot make assumptions.
The Hotline now sees 1,000 to 1,500 chats a month, half of which come from mobile devices.
Pinero said the ability to communicate silently is key, since visitors often cannot discuss sexual coercion and assault on the phone when their husband or kids are in the house, or in public.“It is hard to have a discussion about how your husband makes you have sex in ways you don’t want to,” he said.