News : NFL to Fund Austin-based Domestic Violence Hotline
Sept 19, 2014 -- In the days and weeks after the video of the Baltimore Raven's Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in an elevator went public, the Austin-based National Domestic Violence Hotline saw caller activity jump to levels rarely seen before. The calls swamped the nonprofit's call center staff who were already overwhelmed by the normal volume of calls prior to the video's release.
Now, the National Football League, in the center of a controversy over how it disciplined Rice once it learned of the abuse allegations, has made a "long-term commitment" that hotline officials hope will be able to provide more resources to handle the calls for help it receives around-the-clock.
Maury Lane, who chairs the nonprofit, said in a statement that the partnership "will help us immediately increase our ability to hire additional advocates, improve our infrastructure and provide more education about domestic violence that affects one in four women and one in seven men in their lifetimes."
In an interview with the Austin Business Journal, Katie Ray-Jones, the recently installed CEO at the hotline, said that the new commitment includes financial and operational support, but she did not provide a specific dollar amount.
"It's hard to put a value on those pieces of a partnership like this," said Ray-Jones. "We do know this morning we have brought on six full-time advocates. Over the next few weeks we will be bringing on 20 more advocates to assist in the call volume."
Until now, the call center typically had between 15-20 advocates working the phones during the day and 4-7 in the evenings. According to Ray-Jones, the new-and-planned hires are the direct result of the NFL's new partnership. The full advocate expansion will take some time to complete, as each one has to go through 40 hours of training before they can field calls from the public.
"We wouldn't be able to do this without this contribution," said Ray-Jones.
For the hotline, the resources are much needed. The hotline has previously said that a lack of resources meant that 77,000 calls received went unanswered in 2013.
In the wake of the Rice video, hotline officials said that call volume increased by 84 percent, but that roughly 50 percent of calls, chats and texts made to the hotline since then have gone unanswered.
Lane said that volume of unanswered calls takes on a chilling context, considers that 95 percent of callers report experiencing emotional and verbal abuse, 70 percent report experiencing severe physical violence, and 10 percent report experiencing sexual violence at the hands of their abusers.
"It's important that we answer their calls," said Lane.
According to Ray-Jones, the NFL first approached the hotline with a partnership after league officials learned of the sharp uptick in calls received since the Ray Rice video became public.
She also said that the hotline, which is located in Westlake off of Bee Cave Road, is on the hunt for 30,000 square feet of new office space in the Austin area. The organization is scheduled to move out of its current location in December. Ray-Jones said that the organization would prefer to have a location accessible for public transit. The organization is also in need of other basic infrastructure like computers, desks, phones and other office supplies as it begins expanding to deal with the increased call volume.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About National Football League:
The National Football League is a professional American football league that constitutes one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America.
About National Domestic Violence Hotline:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a 24-hour, confidential, toll-free hotline created through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the United States.
Published: Monday, September 22, 2014