Papua New Guinea’s new family and sexual violence hotline is already having an impact on both sides of the issue, with an even split of male and female callers in the first month.
Counsellors at the 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain received almost 250 calls from 21 out of the 22 provinces since the service was launched on 20 August, with the highest call volumes coming from NCD, Madang and East New Britain. Almost 150 people were helped by the hotline in its first few weeks with some callers requiring multiple follow-up call sessions to complete their cases.
Encouragingly, men made up 50 per cent of callers – not only men who have experienced abuse themselves but men who want to change their violent behaviour.
The top three presenting issues were family violence, sexual violence and child abuse, closely followed by child sexual abuse. The top three outcomes of the calls were crisis counselling by a trained phone counsellor, information provided at the request of the caller, and safety planning to help the caller explore and map out options to increase their safety. Referrals were also made to an extensive range of support services, including the police, medical help, legal assistance, safe houses, counselling services, family support centres and child welfare services.
“We are already seeing some very positive outcomes for individuals and families who are using the hotline,” said Margaret Gebai, operations coordinator for the service, which was developed by ChildFund Papua New Guinea in partnership with CIMC (FSVAC) and FHI 360.
“The fact that you can make a free call and remain totally anonymous makes it a very appealing option for women and men who want to seek help in private with no risk of being identified.
“We’ve had calls from both survivors and perpetrators of violence – we’ve also had a number of people reporting child abuse cases,” Ms Gebai added.
Detective Sergeant Michelle Harris from the Australian Federal Police, an advisor with the Family and Sexual Violence Unit of the Royal PNG Constabulary in Port Moresby, said the hotline is a much-needed initiative, particularly for women and families living in isolated areas who may not know what services exist within PNG to help them.
“If they call the hotline, they can get immediate counselling support and find out what options they have,” said Det Sgt Harris. “Just talking to somebody about these problems can give you some courage to take the next step that might be necessary to make life safer for you and your family.”
Wesh Siku, senior project officer at ChildFund Papua New Guinea, said children can be significantly impacted by violence in the home, whether or not they are being abused themselves.
“Children who witness or experience violence can go on to have many difficulties,”said Mr Siku. “They may start to struggle at school or even become aggressive themselves. It can cause problems into their adult life. We encourage anyone experiencing violence in their homes to call the hotline and ask for help, for the sake of your children.”
The ‘1-TOK KAUNSELIN HELPIM LAIN’ is a partnership between ChildFund Papua New Guinea, CIMC (FSVAC) and FHI 360, supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme, USAID, ChildFund New Zealand and ChildFund Australia.
715-08000 is the FREE number to call (within PNG only) to receive counselling and support for family and sexual violence issues.