28 November 2019

The national domestic violence hotline 8-801-100-8-801 launches a new service - a chat bot for survivors of domestic violence and possible witnesses of abuse. The service is an option to receive vital information on access to mental health, legal and social services.

Chat bot will provide the addresses and telephone numbers for both state-run and civil society organizations working with survivors of domestic violence, guide through various options for assistance, including emergency help with looking for shelters or crisis centers,” says the manager of the national domestic violence hotline, Ms. Anna Korshun.

“I think it will be helpful for both survivors and specialists working on domestic violence prevention. The new service is certainly not meant to substitute a real-time personal consulting on the hotline, but is more of a useful and convenient option complementary to our primary service. The chat will run according to certain algorithms, it is therefore unrealistic to expect it to be “humane”, but it can efficiently assist survivors with looking for help in domestic violence situations in certain regions of Belarus.”
“After pressing the “start” button, the chat bot will suggest types of assistance, and then it will request to identify the geographic region to be able to provide relevant addresses and phone numbers. The chat bot is integrated with a Yandex map. If you wish to find out how to reach the local territorial center for social assistance, the chat bot will identify the location on the map. This option is only available when viewing the address through a mobile device for now. That said, we have not disclosed the location of all the centers. The chat bot is not helpful to identify the exact location of the crisis center or a shelter for domestic violence survivors. These places are meant to provide safety and confidentiality for women and children. But the online service will provide with the contacts of specialists who are in charge of assisting the vulnerable,” points Ms. Anna Korshun.
Both chatbot as well as real time consultations with the hotline assistants are completely anonymous. At the moment the service is available on the website of the international public association “Gender Perspectives”, which runs the domestic violence hotline, www.genderperspectives.by and on the Telegram messenger. It is called “Help for domestic violence survivors” (@HelpHotlineBot). There are plans to improve the work of the online service. New options are supposed to be added, and the option to look for the location on the map will be expanded.
During the seven years of its operation, the national domestic violence hotline 8-801-100-8-801 accepted more than 13 000 phone calls (13 222 calls by November 1, 2019, to be exact). Most of the phone calls come from survivors (78%), followed by those from their concerned relatives and friends (19%). The hotline has also received 30 phone calls from the perpetrators so far. The hotline data shows that 94% of the domestic violence survivors are women, and only 6% are men.
So far the hotline consultants have provided legal assistance to 34% of the callers, and mental health counseling to 58%. One of the main objectives of the hotline is a highly professional social referral mechanism. Altogether around 28% of all callers were advised to pursue their case by turning to police, 15% of all callers were directed to the local territorial centers for social assistance, and 6% - to the crisis centers and shelters, 4% of the callers were referred to the organizations providing help with alcohol addiction.
The national domestic violence hotline 8-801-100-8-801 operates daily from 8 am to 8 pm, all calls are anonymous and confidential. Last Thursday of each month from 14:00 to 18:00, a representative of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Belarus consults on the hotline together with a mental health specialist. All calls to the hotline are free from landlines. The hotline is accessible from a cell phone too. The fees for calling a landline from a cell phone will be applied.
The domestic violence chatbot development was made possible thanks to the generous support of the US Embassy Small Grant Program “Promoting increased access of domestic violence survivors to help services provided by the national domestic violence hotline targeting regional components.”