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'Think of all those voices desperate for help': Women's Aid helpline receives 41 calls a day

The service is now 24/7, due to increased demand.

WOMEN’S AID ANSWERS 41 calls every day via its helpline.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone will officially launch the organisation’s 24/7 phone service today.

Women’s Aid, the national domestic violence support service, has answered an additional 1,957 calls since launching a night-time service in January. The service previously operated for 12 hours a day since its inception in 1992.

The free 24/7 service – which can be contacted on 1800 341 900 – will cost about €75,000 to run this year.

Women’s Aid’s state funding was cut by 20% last year, and the organisation called on the Government to fully resource the helpline.

Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, said the demand of the extended service has been “phenomenal”.

“In the first six months of going 24/7, we have answered 1,957 calls in our out-of-hours night service.

Think of all those voices, desperate for help in the middle of the night and the early morning. Women who needed someone to answer the phone to them. Someone to listen, believe and support. We know there will be many more.

“Our resources were overstretched before we suffered funding cuts. However, we are determined to keep going, to keep answering the phone day and night.”

Martin added that Ireland “has an obligation to provide 24-hour specialist support to victims of domestic violence under the EU Victims Directive”.

The Violence Doesn’t Stop, We Won’t Stop 

The organisation will also launch its redesigned website and The Violence Doesn’t Stop, We Won’t Stop public awareness campaign today.

Martin said Women’s Aid’s website is visited an average of 460 times a day.

“We know that it is, for many women, a lifeline … We hope to extend that lifeline next year as we explore options of providing support online, via text or instant messaging.

Our staff and volunteers on the 24-hour helpline are supporting women who are afraid of their partners who have threatened to kill them, the kids or themselves. And their fears are founded on reality.

“In 2015, women disclosed to us on 970 occasions that their abusive partners threatened to kill them, their children and their families. There were 579 additional disclosures of assaults with weapons, threats with weapons and being strangled and smothered.”

Speaking ahead of the launch, Zappone said “We understand how difficult it is for women experiencing domestic abuse to talk about what is happening.

Many women are afraid that they will not be believed or that they will blamed for the abuse. Others struggle to find the words to describe their situation.

“All too often, women feel alone and isolated, unaware that help is available or unable to make sense of what is being done to them. Our campaign speaks directly to women in the hope they will call us.”

More information about the services offered by Women’s Aid can be read here.

Read: Victim-blaming culture makes it more difficult for women to get help

Opinion: ‘My partner was lovely at first, but things changed after we moved in together’

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Órla Ryan

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