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Senator Biden's Op-Ed: For ten years, a hotline has given victims  hope


AUSTIN, TX  -  Surrounded by domestic violence advocates, service providers and corporate partners, United States Senator Joseph Biden and The National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) today unveiled innovative new technology systems that will enable more victims to access life-saving services through the Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE).

The new technology includes mapping software, networked computers, flat-screened monitors and telephone air time designed to maximize call volume. The technological improvements will also enable the Hotline to collect, sort and report on national domestic violence patterns.

The Hotline was created by Senator Biden's landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and answered its first call in February of 1996. As part of his continued efforts to prevent and respond to domestic violence nationwide, Senator Biden spearheaded the Connections Campaign, a unique public-private partnership between the federal government and companies like AOL, Microsoft, Dell and IBM to benefit the Hotline.

"Across the country, millions of women take the first step to escape family violence by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline," said Senator Biden. "The new technology made possible by the Connections Campaign will ensure that no battered woman, man or child gets a busy signal and no victim's life is ever put on hold."

Since taking its first call 10 years ago, the Hotline has answered more than 1.6 million calls. Today, Hotline advocates answer as many as 600 calls per day and an average of 16,500 calls per month from women, children and men across the nation. Outdated equipment, coupled with increased usage, was creating long hold times or busy signals for callers.

"Looking back over a decade of providing empowerment-based crisis intervention services, the Hotline has become a victim of its own success. As public awareness grows about domestic violence, the number of calls to the Hotline has increased by an average of 200 percent," said Sheryl Cates, NDVH executive director. "Thanks to Senator Biden and our corporate partners from the Connections Campaign, we now have the technology and training to answer more calls and save more lives."

Through the Connections Campaign, companies including Microsoft, Dell, IBM, AOL and Catapult, have donated time, expertise and technology to the Hotline. In addition to over $2 million in corporate donations, Senator Biden introduced Connections Campaign legislation and secured $840,000 in federal funding.

"Through their actions, their vision and their commitment to change the reality of domestic violence in America, our Connections Campaign partners are shining examples of leadership through advocacy," said Cates. "On behalf of the Hotline and the 1.6 million callers to the Hotline, we extend our heartfelt gratitude."

Experts estimate that between two and four million women in the U.S. are battered each year and more than half of the victims live in households with children under age 12. The Journal of American Medical Associations estimates that one-third of women seen in emergency rooms are victims of domestic violence. Government studies have found that on average more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.

"These statistics are shocking, almost unbelievable," said Biden. "But the people who call the Hotline are not statistics. They are real individuals with real lives. They are women we see every day at work, at the grocery story, in the school parking lot. In many cases, they are people whose lives have been changed, in part, by calling the Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE."

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