YWCA Yakima hotline calls increased 30% during the pandemic

'We help anyone in the community who needs help — and there is no cost to that'

YAKIMA, Wash. — Every year, more than 6,000 people call YWCA Yakima’s 24-hour hotline to ask questions of and receive help from domestic violence victim advocates — a number that’s increased by 30% during the pandemic.

YWCA Yakima Executive Director Cheri Kilty said while some people know they need help and call in to ask for services, others are looking for answers about their situation and aren’t sure whether they are in an abusive relationship.

“There are just a whole variety of ways — emotionally and mentally — that abusers use to try to keep the person under control,” Kilty said.

Kilty said the abuse can be yelling, screaming or physical assault, but it can also manifest in ways that make it difficult to recognize as abuse.

“Sometimes it might be that you work and you come home and you give your paycheck to your partner and they control all the finances,” Kilty said. “Sometimes it is controlling what you wear or who you can talk to.”

Kilty said anyone considering whether they may be in an abusive relationship should pay attention to how much of the issues stem from one partner exerting control over another.

“You just feel like you’re always in trouble; the person’s always blaming you for everything and it’s like you just can’t get it right,” Kilty said.  “There’s a problem with that and it’s not about you —  as the person on the receiving end of that — it’s about the abusive person.”

YWCA Yakima Helpline

Source: YWCA Yakima

Kilty said if someone is worried their abuser might find out they called the hotline, she suggests deleting the number from the phone after making the call.

“They’re not going to find out about it from us,” Kilty said. “Everything we do is confidential and certainly not shared with anyone outside of the YWCA.”

That includes the police, who will not be notified if someone calls the YWCA to talk about an abusive situation at home. Kilty said they only contact the police if their client specifically requests they make contact with them.

The YWCA can help connect clients with health care resources, support groups, advice on legal options like protection orders and advice on how to safely leave an abusive relationship. There are no eligibility requirements for someone to receive help from the YWCA.

“We help anyone in the community who needs help and there is no cost to that,” Kilty said.

Kilty said they can also provide survivors and their children with a safe place to stay at their domestic violence emergency shelter, which is available 24/7 to anyone fleeing from an abusive situation. She said they shelter about 400 people a year, which works out to about 45 to 50 people a month.

“Our shelter is a temporary place where people can come and sometimes they stay one or two days or they may stay two or three months,” Kilty said.

Kilty said people often show up with nothing more than the clothes and personal items they carried there with them, but victim advocates will ensure they have everything they need while they’re trying to put their lives back together.

“The YWCA does provide basically whatever somebody needs when they come, so if they need food, we provide food,” Kilty said.

Kilty said they can help with clothing, school supplies, job interview clothes and other essentials. They can help survivors find housing, a job or further educational opportunities, depending on what they want to do moving forward

“One of our most important roles is to listen — to believe what’s being told to us, because so often victims are not believed,” Kilty said. “And to make sure they understand that there are a lot of community resources, including the YWCA, that will be ready to help them.”

A full list of resources and services provided by YWCA Yakima can be found here.

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