Aware extends operating hours after spike in helpline calls

Aware's Women's Helpline now operates from 10am to 6pm on weekdays. The helpline's operating hours used to be from 3pm to 9.30pm.
Aware's Women's Helpline now operates from 10am to 6pm on weekdays. The helpline's operating hours used to be from 3pm to 9.30pm.ST FILE PHOTO

32% increase in calls from women seeking help for issues such as marital woes, abuse and psychological distress

A 32 per cent jump in calls from women facing issues such as marital problems, abuse or psychological distress in the past year has led the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) to expand operations to cope with the increase.

As of yesterday, its Women's Helpline operates from 10am to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays, the group said. Its operating hours used to be from 3pm to 9.30pm.

Ms Anisha Joseph, Aware's head of care services, said that women are left disempowered or unsupported because they face unfair treatment, violence and barriers to opportunities.

"Many women are made to believe that they are alone in these situations, or will be blamed for them - and asking for help can be intimidating. But the increase in calls over the last year shows that more women are feeling safe to do so," she said.

Of the 4,062 calls made to the Women's Helpline (1800-777-555) last year, 23 per cent were from callers seeking help for marital issues such as divorce, maintenance or separation; 19 per cent had to do with abuse and violence; and 17 per cent were concerned with emotional or psychological distress.

Marital issues, abuse and violence, and emotional or psychological distress remain the top three issues cited by callers, according to previous statistics.

In 2017, women with marital problems made 32 per cent of all calls, according to Aware's data.

Another 13 per cent of the calls came from those suffering emotional or psychological distress, while 12 per cent dealt with abuse and violence.

FEELING SAFE TO ASK FOR HELP

Many women are made to believe that they are alone in these situations, or will be blamed for them - and asking for help can be intimidating. But the increase in calls over the last year shows that more women are feeling safe to do so.

MS ANISHA JOSEPH, Aware's head of care services.

Last year also saw a 48 per cent increase in the number of callers seeking counselling from the group for the first time.

Set up in 1991, the Women's Helpline is now manned by more than 70 female staff and trained volunteers. They provide information and support to callers or refer the callers to Aware's counsellors or legal clinic.

 

In its statement yesterday, Aware said its Sexual Assault Care Centre helpline (6779-0282), which provides support for victims of sexual assault or rape, will operate from 10am to 10pm instead of from 10am to midnight. This is to "reflect (a) more efficient utilisation of the centre's resources".

Like the Women's Helpline, the centre saw a 57 per cent spike in the number of cases handled last year to 807, Aware said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2019, with the headline 'Aware extends operating hours after spike in helpline calls'. Print Edition | Subscribe