Back in March, as the reality of the lockdown set in, a caller to the Shalom Task Force (STF) hotline shared her fears about being trapped with her husband. After safety planning with her, they encouraged her to call back. She explained that she didn’t know if she could in the presence of her abusive partner.

Throughout the past several months, the increase of family abuse has surfaced as the pandemic within the pandemic, leaving some more vulnerable than ever, and those who were unsafe calling a hotline were finding alternate ways to reach out for help. “I was presenting on a webinar with a panel of other professionals when one participant used the private chat feature to reach out to me for help,” recounts Dr. Shoshannah Frydman, executive director of Shalom Task Force. “This highlighted the need to offer expanded means to reach out.”

Shalom Task Force has announced a new expansion to its national domestic abuse hotline. You can now live chat, text, or WhatsApp Shalom Task Force for support Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight, and Fridays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can live-chat by visiting ShalomTaskForce.org or send a text/WhatsApp message to 888-883-2323. This new service complements Shalom Task Force’s traditional telephone call-in service at 888-883-2323 or 718-337-3700, which continues to operate at the following times: Monday and Wednesday 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; and Friday and Sunday 9 a.m.–noon.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shalom Task Force’s call volume doubled. “Once states began to lift stay-at-home orders, we saw a huge surge in calls,” said Meira Zack Gorbaty, director of Hotline Services. “Not only did our call volume increase, but we have seen an increase in the severity of abuse experienced by callers. Additionally, more survivors have reached out directly seeking support and guidance, as opposed to friends and family calling on their behalf.”

This service expands community members’ options. Each survivor’s story is unique. One person may find it easier and safer to connect by telephone if they suspect their abuser is monitoring their text messages. For another, using live chat may be safer because their abuser is in proximity, or simply because it feels too scary to share what they are experiencing out loud. To learn more about safely reaching out using different forms of technology, please visit TechSafetyApp.org.

In addition to expanding safe ways to connect with the Shalom Task Force hotline, survivors can now connect in new ways with Shalom Task Force’s legal department, Sarah’s Voice. To reach Sarah’s Voice you can call/text 347-592-2124 or email legalintake@shalomtaskforce.org. You can expect to be connected with a paralegal victim-advocate within 24 business hours (9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday). The paralegal victim advocate can answer basic questions, complete safety planning, and schedule a safe time for you to speak with an attorney from the project.

Shalom Task Force has been offering support and education to the Jewish community for the past 27 years. If you or your loved one has questions or concerns about relationships, or are currently in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, STF is here for you. Please call, text, or WhatsApp the confidential Shalom Task Force Hotline at 888-883-2323 or chat with a live advocate at ShalomTaskForce.org.

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