The launch of the new expanded 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline at Stormont Hotel yesterday sends a clear signal from government that victims’ needs and support are at the heart of the government’s strategy to tackle domestic and sexual violence.
The Helpline has been operating as the 24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline for nineteen years with calls increasing every year. During 2012 – 2013 the 24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline managed 47,597 calls, an increase of 8% on the previous year. These rising numbers are a success story as the crimes of domestic and sexual violence are so often kept hidden.
Wednesday 5th March saw the official launch of the expanded Helpline, which now also reaches out to all victims of sexual violence, women and men, who have suffered in silence with nowhere to turn for support.
The 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline is co-funded by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Social Development through the NI Housing Executive. The Minister for Health Edwin Poots, the Minister for Justice, David Ford and the Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland jointly launched the expanded Helpline, stressing their support for this essential, life-saving service for victims and the fact that the Helpline is open for all women and men.
Annie Campbell, Director of Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland said:
Sexual violence, often of an extremely brutal nature, is an aspect of domestic violence and has always been part of our work on the Helpline. With the official expansion of the Helpline to cover sexual violence a clear message of support is being sent out to all victims of both domestic and sexual violence.
The naming of sexual violence in the Helpline’s official name shows that government cares about these victims and that those most brutalised do not need to suffer in silence; the Helpline is there to support all victims, women and men. Confidential and caring help is a phone call away.
Annie Campbell continued:
We are also delighted that the Helpline is now multi-channel and accessible by text and e-mail. It is a Freephone with all phone calls, including calls from mobiles, free of charge. We also offer a translation service to all callers whose first language is not English.
The Helpline can refer women and their children directly to the safe network of refuges and outreach support services provided by local Women’s Aid groups. Safe temporary accommodation for men and their children can also be arranged.
The Helpline can also arrange immediate practical help for anyone who has been sexually assaulted, including direct referral to the Rowan, the sexual assault referral centre.
The Helpline also welcomes calls from concerned family members, friends and colleagues, youth workers, teachers, professionals, community groups and clergy.
The new 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline contact details are:
Text support to 07797 805 839
Freephone from all landlines and mobiles. Translation service available.