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Addressing high levels of sexual violence in Papua New Guinea

* Warning this story contains distressing content. The names of the people involved have been changed to protect their identities.

Regina was 14 years old when she was sexually abused by a man in his 50s. He lured her with an equivalent of $215 to a hotel room in Port Moresby.

She left the room, distraught and alone, and feeling helpless. She needed the money to make ends meet and desperately wanted to finish school. When both her parents passed away, her older sister had neglected her.

The abuse continued on the weekends for three years. Each time, Regina was given money and made to promise she would not tell anyone.

Her school grades dropped, and she lost her appetite and her confidence. Eventually, she lost hope.

When Regina has flashbacks, she thinks of taking her own life. She had felt like there was no reason for living anymore.

It was only when staff from ChildFund’s 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain and Rights Respect and Resilience project visited her school that things changed.

The staff encouraged students to call the helpline if they encountered any violence, negligence or any form of abuse in their life.

For the first time in a long time, Regina felt a glimmer of hope. After the visit she called the hotline.

A counsellor named Joe answered, and Regina found herself in tears. It had been three years and it was only now that she finally felt safe to tell someone about all the pain she was carrying.

Joe affirmed her confidentiality and provided crisis counselling.

“I realised I had to help Regina externalise the problem and value her life and education,” Joe said.

“We discussed the importance of her health and I told her about her legal rights and provided information on referral pathways that were available to her.”

Counsellors at ChildFund’s 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain have been helping thousands of survivors of abuse, violence and neglect, like Regina, for three years. The 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain is Papua New Guinea’s first free national counselling helpline.

After Regina’s initial call, Joe checked on Regina every week and provided more counselling. He encouraged her to report the matter to police and to change her sim card so the perpetrator could no longer reach her.

Today, Regina is focused on finishing her studies and hopeful about her future.

The counselling helped her escape the abuse and recover emotionally, and is grateful for the hotline’s service and Joe’s commitment to helping turn her life around.

If you are in Papua New Guinea and need to talk to someone, call:

  • 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain (toll-free) 7150 8000

If you are in Australia:

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