“The idea of taking up a phone and speaking to a complete stranger about things I wasn’t even entirely sure of myself seemed daunting.
The online chat helped me express what I wasn’t able to vocalize with my therapist or family and friends.
Which means, with every passing year and new messaging app, the telephone becomes more irrelevant. Meanwhile, telephone conversation is in the midst of a “serious decline.” People (especially Millennials) just don’t call each other like they used to, and this has serious implications for the institutions designed to help them through crises.
The telephone hotline has dominated crisis support for over 40 years, and now the tide is slowly turning.
I ask if they are safe and if they have any privacy or safety concerns. Sometimes, visitors share what is on their mind right away, while others take longer to open up. RAINN was one of the first victim-support organizations to launch an online hotline back in 2007.
“On chat, people reveal way more than they do on the phone, and that is a huge opportunity for us to start exploring topics surrounding assault and coercion without making the visitor feel completely vulnerable.”Conversely, the greater anonymity of the chat system makes it more difficult to gather information that can help provide the best support.
Volunteers have far fewer contextual clues about the visitor’s gender, age, or current state of mind, and you cannot make assumptions.
However, as with businesses across all sectors, nonprofits are not impervious to shifts in the way people communicate.
In order to “stay relevant,” they have to modernize.“We get people who are talking about what happened to them for the first time, and if it wasn't for an online service like this, they wouldn't have reached out in another way,” said Jennifer Marsh, RAINN’s vice president of victims services.