“1800RESPECT saved my life” – increasing demand for the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service
Contacts to the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service – 1800RESPECT – increased 30% on the days following the George Pell guilty verdict.
“People in Australia were calling us to say they’d read about the verdict and they wanted to discuss their own experiences, or they were calling because they were worried about the impact of sexual assault on family or friends,” said 1800RESPECT counsellor Clare*.
More than 50% of people who disclose an incident of sexual assault to 1800RESPECT counsellors refer to an incident that occurred more than 12 months ago.
Media reporting around sexual assault can often prompt painful memories of peoples’ own experiences of abuse or that of a loved one, which is why we do see more people contacting 1800RESPECT in the days after high profile cases.
For many people who have experienced sexual assault it can take time for them to want to reach out for support and that’s okay, said 1800RESPECT General Manager Nicole McMahon.
“The majority of people who reach out for support for sexual assault are talking to the service about an incident that happened more than a year ago,” Ms McMahon said.
“You can contact 1800RESPECT at any time of the day or night if you have been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence or if you are worried about someone you care about. You will be answered by a qualified counsellor who will listen to you and believe you. They will work with you to understand your needs, put your safety first, and provide you with counselling, information or details of a support service in your area, depending on what you want.”
Medibank has delivered 1800RESPECT since the service began in 2010, with funding from the Australian Government. The national service is delivered with not-for-profit specialist counselling partners, safe steps, Women’s Safety Services SA and DV Connect, in support of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre CEO, and member of the 1800RESPECT National Sector Advisory Group, Chrystina Stanford said she had watched this vital support service, 1800RESPECT, go from strength to strength.
“When you consider that in 2010 the service was receiving 20,000 calls a year and now they are receiving 20,000 a month, and meeting significant increases in demand on any particular day, as with the Pell case, it is a clear demonstration that 1800RESPECT’s world-leading public/private delivery model is working. People are confident to reach out for support when they need it,” Ms Stanford said.
“We know that when people are aware that support is available and they feel confident that they will be listened to and believed, they are more likely to reach out for support. And this is so important for people who are experiencing the impacts of trauma.”
1800RESPECT General Manager Nicole McMahon said we all have a role to play in supporting people impacted by domestic and family violence.
“Community organisations, businesses, the media, government and individuals can all respond to this issue, and raise awareness of support services like 1800RESPECT so that people can feel confident that when they reach out for support that someone will be there for them,” said Ms McMahon.
The wider team ensures that when someone calls, there is someone there to respond, and it is the quality of the counselling that is central to the support service. 1800RESPECT counsellors say that while work is complex, they find it incredibly rewarding.
“We hear a lot of wonderful feedback including ‘1800RESPECT saved my life’ and ‘you’ve helped me to become the person I am now’. The feeling of knowing a caller has felt heard, understood and once again hopeful far outweighs challenges that come with this role,” said 1800RESPECT counsellor Clare.
*Counsellor’s name has been changed for privacy and confidentiality.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.