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Help is only one text away for abuse victims in Schuylkill County

An advocate is available to text Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — Last year, Schuylkill Women in Crisis, or SWiC, in Pottsville screened over 1,500 hotline calls serving over 1,200 victims of abuse.

But this year, they are hoping to help even more victims of domestic violence with the launch of their new text hotline.

"Victims that are trapped at home with their perpetrators can't pick up the telephone and call because the offender would hear them calling a hotline, so the text hotline is designed so that they can reach out for help," said Amy Newton, Communications Director at Schuylkill Women in Crisis.

For a safer way to reach out for help, all you have to do is text HOPELINE to 20121, and you'll receive a message saying an advocate will respond shortly.

SWiC employees say the idea for the text line stemmed from more people staying at home because of the coronavirus.

"Lives of victims under normal circumstances are filled with fear because they're isolated with their perpetrator, but during COVID, there's increased risk for fear, isolation, and violence in the home," said Newton. "That's what made us want to start this new service."

On average, the Pottsville Police Department deals with 35 to 40 domestic violence arrests each year. Chief Richard Wojciechowsky hopes that the new text service will help victims deescalate situations that may arise.

"I think it's a great idea because it's another tool for people to acquire services. But we do want to stress that 911, it's still the number one option when there's an active ongoing incident," said Chief Wojciechowsky.

An advocate is available to text Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional hours will be added eventually to meet the needs of victims.

SWiC wants to remind everyone that its services are free, confidential, and open to all genders.