'Where's the Line?' program launches

Jane Hawes

The statistics were depressing: Sixty percent of people polled in a national survey said they know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, yet most have done nothing to help. Fear and a feeling of powerlessness were cited most often as the reasons.

So here in Columbus, the team at The Center for Family Safety and Healing, a nonprofit group that addresses all aspects of domestic violence, decided to launch the first resource line of its kind in the U.S. to engage the bystanders and observers of child abuse and other forms of domestic violence.

Of particular interest are mandated reporters like school teachers.

"If you're a mandated reporter and you get it wrong, that's not good," said Karen S. Days, the Center's president.

State law spells out that professionals in a variety of education and healthcare fields must make a report to a children services agency or law-enforcement officer if abuse has occurred. But what can these people do if they're not sure? That's where the new resource line comes in.

As framed by the "Where's the Line?" media campaign, which launched last month, central Ohioans are finding out about a phone number (844-234-LINE), a text number (87028) and an instant-messaging address through which they can have a confidential, anonymous dialogue about what they've observed. The phone line will be staffed live Mondays through Fridays, between 12 noon and 8 p.m.

"I anticipate a lot of the questions will be about what is it like to make a report for a first-time mandated reporter," said Kiersten Curtis, the information coordinator who will manage the resource line for the Center.

"Being a mandated reporter can be intimidating," Curtis said. "I will help talk them through the issue and get comfortable with making a report."

But anyone can call the line, whether or not they are a mandated reporter - parents who observe something in another family, kids who are concerned about a classmate.

"This does not supercede (calling) 911," Days said, when someone is unquestionably a witness to violence, but this is the place to call, she said, when you don't know "where is the line between what is child abuse, what is domestic violence and what is not?"