The STOP-IT Hotline: Providing Immediate Support to Survivors
Low barrier and consistent access to services are crucial to people in crisis. As a result, many organizations have staff and volunteers provide 24-hour support through hotline phone services. Hotlines exist for people with suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and cancer, and for youth or people in crisis or in situations of domestic violence, to name a few. Generally, hotline calls are for someone to reach support and assistance from an actual person in real time. Hotline numbers can route directly to a specific agency serving a population in crisis or to a national hotline that will direct a caller to an organization in their specific area. National hotlines are often helpful because one hotline number is easier to remember than multiple agencies, especially when someone finds themselves in a crisis situation.
The hope is that folks will be directed to the most fitting service for their needs and within a close distance to where they are located. In the anti-trafficking world, the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) serves as that central place for folks to reach out. Once NHTH receives a call, they work to determine the most appropriate service near the caller and them to the individual agency so they can further help or assist them utilizing their own resources and services. NHTH regularly connects with STOP-IT to assist survivors in the Chicagoland area when it is appropriate.
The STOP-IT Hotline
In addition to working with NHTH, the STOP-IT hotline is used for immediate crisis response, referrals from service providers, emotional support, inquiry on services, tips to law enforcement and interests in trainings or technical assistance.
The STOP-IT hotline has been in operation for many years. The hotline is staffed by STOP-IT staff on weekdays and by extensively trained volunteers on weeknights and weekends. Between 2014 and 2018, the hotline received 2,016 calls, 52% of which were from potential survivors. 17% of the calls related to finding folks in crisis housing in order to leave trafficking situations, and 18% of calls were from professional partners. In 2018, staff supported about 100 survivors of human trafficking through the hotline in getting their immediate needs met.
Hotline staff has supported existing clients who needed help with grounding when triggered, walked new potential survivors through the process of calling the DV hotline to find safe and confidential shelters away from their trafficking situations, provided support to hospital staff who were unsure about whether patients in their ED had lived experiences of trafficking, taken information about potential trafficking venues or sites from concerned community members, and received calls from partners about clients in need of STOP-IT case management services.
We break down what each of these components looks like so you know what to expect if you reach out to our hotline yourself.
Referrals from Service Providers
Attorneys, social service agencies, hospitals, law enforcement, community establishments and anyone who comes into contact with vulnerable populations can call the hotline at any time to make referrals to the program. These providers inform the hotline that they know of someone who has experienced trafficking and would like to connect them to the STOP-IT services. Following that call, the STOP-IT worker on the hotline will write up a log and one of the outreach specialists will schedule an initial contact meeting to do a needs assessment. It is important to note that STOP-IT staff prefer to talk to the individual the provider is referring so that the potential survivor can define what services they are in need of and interested in for themselves, if they are comfortable doing so.
Immediate Assistance/Emotional Support
Some folks in crisis call the hotline to receive immediate support and access to connections to housing. The hotline worker will evaluate the situation and identify if there are any safety concerns, then take measures accordingly. If the person is experiencing an emergency, we encourage them to hang up and dial 911 or can call 911 for them with permission and information from the caller. When someone is not in immediate danger and able to safely leave a situation without calling 911, staff may be able to help them find shelter through the Domestic Violence hotline, 311, or CCBYS. In situations like these, a hotline caller will have to speak to those resources directly to go through further intake. Hotline staff will guide them through that process and get all the pertinent information from them so that an outreach worker can follow up with them once they have safely been situated in the shelter and had time to rest.
At times, existing participants in the program also call in need of emotional support, when they need to debrief on a situation or just talk to someone after regular business hours. The goal is for participants to know there is always assistance available.
Inquiries on Services
Sometimes the program receives calls from people who would like to know what STOP-IT can offer. In instances like these, the hotline worker will give that person an overview of the types of support the program can provide in the short and long term. On other occasions, folks call who do not know that the STOP-IT program is specifically for human trafficking survivors and who are instead looking for a connection to general Salvation Army services. The volunteers and staff work to understand what the caller is looking for and what they are interested in and respond with a detailed overview on case management and drop-in services when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
Tips to Law Enforcement
On some occasions, concerned community members, parents, or family members may call the hotline looking to provide a tip to law enforcement. In these instances, the hotline worker will take down relevant information, ask the caller if they are willing to be contacted by law enforcement, or if they’d like to submit a tip anonymously. The tip is then logged and will be passed along to our law enforcement partners who work on human trafficking cases. It is important to note that STOP-IT will not have any further information about the status of the tip once it has been submitted. Law enforcement may choose to investigate further, but that information is not provided to the hotline or to anyone within the program.
Training and Technical Assistance Interests
Those who are interested in learning about human trafficking may also call into the hotline requesting a training in the community. The request will be transferred to the outreach specialists for further support. In addition, providers or community members might call regarding information on trafficking because they may know someone in a situation but are unsure and would like to troubleshoot with staff to better identify what is actually going on. Hotline staff have received such calls for technical assistance from schools, hospitals, shelter staff and mental health providers.
Hotlines are an essential connection to helping survivors. If you know of someone in need of assistance, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or The Salvation Army STOP-IT Program Hotline at 1-877-606-3158.