Victims of family violence often fear they will put themselves at greater risk of harm by making a phone call and verbally communicating with 9-1-1. It has become clear that the majority of victims will opt to communicate silently with authorities via text message if the option is available.
Community leaders can and should be doing more to educate, support, and protect their people from family violence. Technology like 9-1-1 SMS texting is one method of protection worth considering. There have been dozens of cases where 9-1-1 texting has proved life-saving in domestic violence situations. The following stories form a small sample of these instances.
Women Protects Her Kids against Intruder
Grove City, Ohio
A 9-1-1 call came into Grove City Division of Police that was immediately disconnected. When the 911 dispatcher called the resident back, a distressed female could be heard asking an unknown male in the room where her keys were before the call disconnected again. Unsure if this was a true emergency, the dispatcher decided to send a SMS text asking the female caller if she was in danger. The female responded there was a dangerous man in her house who was refusing to return her keys and leave the property.
The female said the male subject was breaking a legal protection order she had filed against him with the help of the man’s parole officer. The women’s four children, who were all present in the home during the incident, were also included in the protection order. The man was threatening to beat the woman up and refused to leave the property. The woman was able to text 911 her address and police were dispatched to the scene immediately. The male subject was taken into custody and the woman and children were recovered safely.
Drunken Brother Attacks Sister in Dispute
Grand Rapids, Michigan
In Ottawa County, a 9-1-1 call came in from a local resident where someone could be heard screaming and crying in the background. Before the caller was able to speak to 911 dispatchers, the call was immediately disconnected. The dispatcher who received the call attempted to reconnect with the resident but the call went directly to voicemail. Concerned about the caller’s safety, the dispatcher tried to reconnect by initiating a SMS texting conversation. Thankfully, the caller saw the text message and told the dispatcher she was being attacked and needed help right away.
The woman was being assaulted by her brother who was drunk and on a rampage. She told the dispatcher he was threatening to harm her if she tried to call 911 and didn’t feel safe calling back. The dispatcher told her they could continue texting if that was safer and asked the caller for her address so she could send police. The dispatcher urged the woman to separate herself from her brother and hide somewhere in the house until police arrived. When officers arrived the male subject was taken into custody and the woman was given necessary medical attention.
Women Held Against Her Will Inside Home
In Kern County, a 9-1-1 call came in from a resident who reported her friend was being held against her will inside her home. The female victim felt too unsafe to call 911 so she asked her friend to call on her behalf. While gathering information on the emergency from the reporting party, the 911 dispatcher asked if she could text the female directly. The dispatcher hoped to open a direct line of communication with the female but wanted their conversation to stay discreet from the male subject holding her captive.
The dispatcher was then able to initiate a SMS texting conversation with the female and obtained first-hand information on the situation. The male subject was wanted on a felony warrant and had priors for domestic violence. The female was not alone and informed 911 of possible weapons present in the home. Local law enforcement was able to arrive on scene quickly and take the male suspect into custody. Thankfully, the female victim and all other occupants inside the home were recovered safely.
Mother Protects Children from Raging Husband
West Olive, Michigan
In Ottawa County, a 9-1-1 dispatcher received an incoming call from a local resident who immediately hung up the phone. The dispatcher decided to cross reference the dropped phone number with their call records to try and determine an address. The dispatcher assumed the call was likely an accidental dial, but past experiences taught her that something more serious could be happening. The dispatcher initiated a Chat session, an SMS texting conversation available through the Rave 911 Suite, to determine if an emergency was occurring and if help was needed by the dropped caller.
The reply text message from the caller informed 9-1-1 there was an emergency and help was needed immediately. The woman said her husband was “on drugs and raging”, threatening the safety of their entire family. She continued to inform dispatch that her children were also inside the home, frightened by their father’s mental and physical state. The dispatcher continued to communicate with the woman via text message and informed her responding officers were on their way and to stay safe until they arrived. When officers arrived at the scene, the woman and children were found safe hiding inside the home. The husband had no knowledge that 9-1-1 had been contacted, which likely ensured the family’s safety. Had the husband known that his wife had called for help and was communicating with emergency responders, this family violence situation may not have ended on a fortunate note.
Father Saves Daughter From Abusive Boyfriend
Grand Rapids, Michigan
In Michigan, a 9-1-1 call came in from a distressed father to report his daughter’s boyfriend was becoming violent and threatening to kill her. Unfortunately, this was not the first time this woman’s life had been in danger - she'd been a victim of domestic assault many times in the past. The father advised 9-1-1 that his daughter was currently with her belligerent boyfriend and feared he would follow through with his threats. She felt too unsafe to call 9-1-1 herself but was able to text her father that she was in danger. Kent County 9-1-1 dispatchers decided to initiate a texting conversation with the daughter and hoped she would be able to provide them with the necessary information to send help as quickly as possible.
The daughter was unable to respond to 9-1-1 dispatchers for an unknown reason but likely feared her boyfriend seeing the texting conversation. She was able to continue texting her dad critical information that he was able to relay back to Kent County 9-1-1 dispatch through SMS. The situation continued to escalate when the boyfriend threatened to slit the daughter’s throat and throw her down the stairs. The daughter told her father she feared there wasn't much time and she needed help right away. To make matters worse, there were children in the home as well and the daughter feared for their safety too.
Fortunately, the information exchanged between the family violence victim and her father allowed police officers and first responders to locate and rescue the woman along with the other children in the home. Responding officers immediately arrested the assaulter and took him into custody.
Woman Assaulted by Husband Unable to Speak to 911
Hot Springs, Arkansas
An incoming 9-1-1 call was transferred to Garland County 911 late one night that detailed a woman was being actively assaulted by her husband. The assaulting husband was so violent against his wife that her injuries disabled her ability to speak verbally to 9-1-1 dispatchers. The husband was reportedly coming in and out of the room, continuing to verbally and physically assault his wife. During one of his short absences, the woman was able to come on the phone and in an inaudible whisper say her husband had left the room. Unsure of when he would return, the woman agreed that she would be able to communicate via text message. The responding dispatchers then advised the woman to hang up for her own safety and immediately initiated an SMS texting conversation with the assault victim using the Rave 911 Suite Chat feature.
The woman was able to safely provide important information to 9-1-1 through text, including her current location, her name, and the name of her attacker. Responding officers arrived on the scene with the information they needed to rescue the woman safely and take her husband into custody.
What You Can Do
More than 10 million Americans are victims of domestic and family violence annually. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is the leading cause of female homicides and injury-related deaths during pregnancy. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be victims of some form of physical abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Here are 4 ways you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and the people in your community from family violence.
Spot the Warning Signs Early: If you suspect someone you know is being abused, speak up! Expressing concern and offering support may be what they need to seek help. If you are not sure what to look for, or if you are unsure whether or not you might be in an abusive situation, start by recognizing the signs.
Educate the Public: Make sure your community is aware of various resources that are available to victims of domestic abuse. Where can victims go if they are seeking safe shelter? What are some discreet ways victims can report abuse? Programs such as Green Dot work to educate school-aged children, young adults, and various communities about bystander training and violence prevention. Continue to build awareness campaigns in your local communities and work together with community advocacy groups.
Protect Your Victims: Many domestic violence victims feel alone and confused. Victims feel as though they have nowhere to turn for help. Start by recognizing their courage when they confide in you. Be patient and comforting. Victims may be hesitant to come forward because they may fear retaliation from their abuser. Believe their story and protect them.
Empower 9-1-1 Dispatchers and First Responders: Individuals seeking help during a domestic violence incident often feel verbal communication with 9-1-1 can escalate an assault. Many victims say they feel more comfortable communicating silently via text message. 9-1-1 call takers can use the Chat feature of the Rave 911 Suite to initiate a two-way conversation via text message to collect information and dispatch units to send help. First responders can also be trained to spot the signs of physical violence while on standard medical calls and provide help before another assault occurs.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Contact: 1-800-799-7233 or visit www.thehotline.org
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