The Free Hotline That’s Saving Women’s Lives by Disarming Dangerous Men
The new public resource seeks to reduce domestic violence in Bogotá by eradicating machismo and providing a safe space for callers
In Bogotá, Colombia, a phone operator listens intently to the man on the other end of the phone. The caller, 23, is reeling from his girlfriend’s decision to leave him. It’s a development that’s devastating, but not completely unexpected; after all, he regularly accused his partner of infidelity without justification, often questioning the nature of her male friendships. Despite knowing he was in the wrong, he also felt he had nowhere to turn to deal with the insecurities that had a toxic — and ultimately terminal — effect on his relationship.
Luz Fedra Rua, the psychologist facilitating the conversation, is all ears and enlightenment. It’s not the first time she’s received a call of this nature. On an average day, the Calm Hotline, the men’s listening line where she works, fields up to 25 calls from men in the Colombian capital. Since the free service’s December 2020 launch, around 700 men have called to seek help for an emotional crisis.
The hotline, which focuses on men’s mental health, is expected to help reduce rates of violence against women. It functions on the belief that machismo, an exaggerated pride in masculinity, lies at the root of male emotional crises and gender-based violence — but also on the hope that sexist attitudes and behaviors can be transformed for the better.
On the first day of operation, an operator saved a male caller on the verge of jumping into a 400-foot waterfall; another day, a caller cried for 45 minutes without saying a word.
During their call, Rua asks questions intended to provoke reflection. She points out that the heartbroken man’s suspicions and mistrust are a symptom of deep-seated insecurity. By the end of the call, he decides to move forward with a program that will help him deconstruct…