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Last edited: September 14, 2012

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Help lines, which also may be known as crisis lines or hotlines, are a basic service which should be available to women and girls in all communities. Although the terms may be used interchangeably, the scope of services offered by such telephone lines may vary greatly depending on the context and organization(s) providing the service. They are particularly important given the reluctance of many survivors to seek help or inability to physically access support facilities. Confidentiality is also easier to assure through anonymous lines, especially telephone communication, compared with visiting a facility or community office (Kelly, 2008).

Ideally, there should be at least “one 24-hour national emergency telephone line providing information, advocacy, support and crisis counseling" (UN Secretary-General, 2006a,b).

Help lines may be hosted by women’s shelters, or, depending on shelter resource constraints, they may be provided by other community based organizations supporting women.

Help lines operated by shelters are made available in order to:

  • Assist women and girls with information and support to reflect upon and better understand their situation and opportunities for help.
  • Respond to the needs of women experiencing crisis or seeking help (on a 24 hours per day basis).
  • Support women who have resided in the shelter to access ongoing support and information when they are no longer at the facility.

These services may be provided by telephone, sms text or through the internet.

Information on country-level hotlines can be found on the Help! Page of the Virtual Knowledge Centre, through the Hot Peach Pages and the Secretary- General’s Database.