New 24/7 text support line launched for domestic abuse victims: 608-420-4638

MADISON, Wis. — Victims of abuse in Dane County have a new, confidential way to get help immediately through text messages.

DAIS (Domestic Abuse Intervention Services) and Dane County officials announced Thursday the immediate launch of a new 24/7 text helpline for those experiencing abuse: 608-420-4638.

DAIS Executive Director Shannon Barry says the idea came after calls to their help center drastically declined during the coronavirus pandemic due to victims having to shelter at home with their abusers and not being able to get away to make a phone call.

The hope is a text line will allow victims to contact DAIS for help in a discreet and confidential way while also providing another avenue for services for younger people who may prefer to text instead of call.

“We know that intimate partner violence is highest in terms of the demographic of women between the ages of 16 to 24, they’re at the most risk of intimate partner violence,” Barry said during an event announcing the new text line on Thursday. “This program is a game changer for DAIS and our community. It will save lives and we are so grateful for Dane County’s support of this critical addition to our programming.”

DAIS says when a text comes into 608-420-4638, it will show up on a screen in their support center, allowing staff to respond as soon as a message comes in. The messages will also be deleted from DAIS’ system after the interaction is over to protect the confidentiality of the victim.

Barry says DAIS staff have already had a chance to get training for the new service, which is already up and running.

“We want to ensure that wherever someone reaches out to us that they’re getting that compassionate, immediate response that our advocates are so incredibly skilled at,” Barry said.

The text line is a collaboration between DAIS and Dane County and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi says recent events show the issue of domestic partner violence is as prevalent as ever, and the pandemic may have increased tension in some households.

“With domestic violence, the ability to move quickly and get support to individuals in a timely fashion can be the difference between a close call and a tragic outcome,” Parisi said.

Parisi says he intends to include a $1 million grant to DAIS in his upcoming 2023 budget proposal, which he says will help the organization expand its outreach work in the county, including additional staffing and resources.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, there are resources available to help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is open 24/7 at 800-799-7233. DAIS — Domestic Abuse Intervention Services — can also be reached at 608-251-4445 or abuseintervention.org.