When outreach programs don't get it or don't help you

So, when I read abuse prevention and recovery things, something that’s almost always recommended is “call a hotline”.

That’s good advice, as far as it goes. Hotlines help a lot of people, a lot. I don’t want to downplay that.

But I also know this: a year ago, I was afraid that someone in my life would become physically violent towards me, and a trained mental health professional close to the situation told me that I really needed to take that fear seriously. I called a domestic violence hotline looking for help figuring out how to assess risk and make a safety plan. They didn’t help me. The general attitude I got was “well, what do you want us to do about it?”

I had friends in my life who understood the situation. I had a certain amount of mental health support. I had access to validation and perspective and support from other sources. I was ok. But it hurt. And if I had been alone, if I hadn’t had other support, I think it would have been devastating.

I know that many other people don’t have the kind of support I did, particularly if the abuse they’re facing doesn’t fit stereotypical patterns. Some people are isolated and have no one in their life who gets it. And sometimes they call hotlines for help and the hotlines help them. But sometimes the hotlines don’t help either. Sometimes the hotlines are just another person who doesn’t understand. And that’s a horrible thing to go through, particularly if you fought through fear and feeling unworthy to find the courage to make the call.

So, if that’s happened to you, I want to tell you that you’re not alone. Hotlines don’t always understand abuse, they don’t always understand other problems, and they don’t always help. If they didn’t help you, you’re still worthy of help. It’s a reflection on them, not you or the problems you’re facing. If they didn’t understand, it doesn’t mean that you are wrong, and it doesn’t mean that no one will ever understand or help you.

If a hotline didn’t help you, all it means is that they didn’t help you.