Victims of domestic and sexual violence have a new safe alternative for seeking help

A new text line, one of only two in the state, according to Genesis House, is now available for domestic and sexual violence victims, offering a new layer of safety at 573-433-4631, as opposed to the voice crisis line at 774-2628.

Imagine you're a victim of domestic or sexual violence, your abuser keeps tight control over what you do and where you go. You have a cell phone, but the abuser listens in on calls and you're without much privacy.

"You make a phone call in a room, everyone notices," Katy Knoeck, of Genesis House, Pulaski County's battered women's shelter, said in a recent interview with the Daily Guide.

The victim in the scenario now has a new option. She, or even he, can send a text to seek help, advice, and support. Knoeck said the texter will reach an advocate where the process of creating a safety plan can begin. Texts cannot be overheard and can be deleted if necessary.

"This is a safe alternative to calling the crisis line," Knoeck said.

Knoeck said the texts aren't saved and victims do not even have to give the names of their abusers or their own names, if they don't want to. If the text line receives a text asking, "Who is this?", Knoeck said advocates will not respond.

"I don't need your name to be able to help you. I don't need the person who's hurting you's name. I'm just trying to help the person (who texted) get through whatever they are going through at the time," Knoeck said.

A person who uses the text line can expect an advocate to talk with them and help them come up with a plan for their safety and their children's safety, if that's needed, according to Genesis House.

"We're not going to make you feel that we're pushing or forcing," Knoeck said.

Advocates will help the person on the other end of the text figure out what their alternatives are, help them plan, and support them as they "navigate the waters."

The plan can include the figuring out when the best time to leave would be, the gathering of important documents, and figuring out if they need to come to the shelter. Getting a safety plan into place can take a month or more, according to Genesis House.

"The first thing an abuser will try to go for is documents," Tracy Acup, also from Genesis House said. "If they can keep that power and control, it just makes it harder to leave."

Gathering social security cards, birth certificates, shot records, and other important documents together can help navigating the system a lot easier on victims, Acup said. It doesn't make it impossible thanks to some laws in place that will allow children to be registered for school without records, as an example.

Genesis House hopes to have flyers with the text line number in public restrooms all over the county. Restrooms are private, where a victim can go without their abuser present, which is why they're ideal for the placement of the flyers.

Acup told the Daily Guide that Genesis hopes to even do a little training with local bar staff so that "if something happens, they can give someone the information." Acup said they had already talked to four bars in the local area.

In the interest of supporting Genesis House's efforts, the Daily Guide has printed the flyer inside the newspaper so that it can be cut out and hung up in local restrooms.

Additionally, Genesis House is need of a number of items such as 3G track phone cell phones, calling cards, underwear of all sizes for children and women, laundry detergent, diapers, wipes, shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, and other basic needs items.

Acup said that domestic violence victims often have to leave their homes with just the clothes on their backs. The 3G track phone cell phones and calling cards are a necessity because victims often use Safe Link phones (phones provided through Family Services), but if one is destroyed by an abuser, they will not replace it. The phones and calling cards are important so that victims can manage the system of social services, child support recovery, job hunt, provide a phone number for schools, and stay in contact with safe family members.