The telephone helpline 1800RESPECT has expanded its services to provide support for victims of family, domestic and sexual violence via SMS text message.
The Albanese Government announced the expansion on Friday morning, as the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence draws to a close this Sunday 10 December, Human Rights day.
With the new service launching today after successful soft testing over the past fortnight, people who experience family, domestic or sexual violence can contact 1800RESPECT via SMS, increasing accessibility to counselling and support services.
Minister for Social Service Amanda Rishworth said 1800RESPECT’s new SMS service meets the standards outlined in the government’s National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032.
“This new SMS service channel will provide greater choice for people to seek support when they need it most, and empower users to reach out via a channel that best suits their circumstances,” she said.
“The option to text provides a more discreet and flexible way to contact the service for people who are unable to or are not safe to speak directly on the phone.”
1800RESPECT provided more than 286,000 support responses across the country through their telephone and online services during the 2020-21 financial year.
Minister for Women Katie Gallagher said support services must “keep pace with technology”, and 1800RESPECT’s SMS service does just that.
“The expansion of 1800RESPECT to include a text service will make a difference to the lives of women seeking help,” she said.
Family and domestic violence is an epidemic gripping the nation and the globe. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH) estimates one in six women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former partner since the age of 15.
What’s more, according to the AIHW, one in four women have experienced emotional abuse since the age of 15, while one in six have experienced economic abuse. The rate of abuse for women is much higher than for men.
Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Justine Elliot said victim-survivors all have varying experiences, which must be catered for with the appropriate support.
“Our support services must reflect the diverse needs of victim-survivors of family, domestic, and sexual violence,” she said.
“We know that it can be difficult for people to talk about their experiences of violence, and for some people, this can be confronting to share over a phone call.
“The SMS service channel provides more options for users to contact the service in a way they feel most comfortable, and we hope this encourages more people to seek support.”
There were several instances during the soft testing of the service where the SMS option was the best option for victims of family, domestic and sexual violence.
One user of the service had lost their voice due to strangulation and was unable to speak. The SMS service allowed them to find emergency accommodation without having to use their voice.
Another had texted the 1800RESPECT helpline to determine whether their partner’s behaviour was verbal abuse and coercive control. The SMS helpline allowed them to understand the dangerous behaviour and then organise a telephone call to speak with a counsellor and access greater support services.
If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, chat online via 1800RESPECT.org.au or text 0458 737 732.
If you are concerned about your behaviour or use of violence, you can contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or visit www.ntv.org.au.
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