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Hotline provides life-saving service for women in PNG

To mark International Day of Non-Violence, ChildFund has released a new report highlighting the vital support that its gender-based violence hotline is providing to women and families in Papua New Guinea.

PNG experiences some of the worst statistics for violence against women in the world. While reliable data is scarce, it is estimated that more than two thirds of women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Human Rights Watch estimates that 70 percent of women experience rape or assault in their lifetime, and in research carried out with men in PNG’s Bougainville, 62 percent of men reported having perpetrated rape against a female.

In 2015, ChildFund PNG and its partners established the country’s first ever Family and Sexual Violence Counselling Hotline – 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain. As well as telephone counselling and safety planning, counsellors provide information and referrals to a wide range of gender-based violence (GBV) service providers and face-to-face counselling services including police, medical services, safe houses and legal support.

In emergency cases, counsellors can talk to the police on the client’s behalf, then call the survivor back to assure her that help is on the way. The hotline is available nationally and offers callers three languages – English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu.

In PNG, where services are scarce (87 percent of the population of PNG live in rural and remote areas) but where mobile phone ownership is high, a telephone counselling service is critical. In fact, for survivors and perpetrators living in remote areas, telephone counselling is the only accessible intervention.

In the two years since its launch, the hotline has received calls from around 8,000 women, men and children. Analysis of call data in 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain: A report on the first two years of operation has found that:

  • family and sexual violence, followed by relationship issues and child welfare concerns are the top presenting issues for callers;
  • in more than half of the calls relating to incidents of GBV, the perpetrator was an intimate partner; and
  • one-quarter of all callers were provided with crisis counselling and safety planning.

Interestingly, almost half (48%) of the calls to the hotline are from males. This is because men in PNG are typically less likely than women to seek help, reflecting stereotypical gender roles. As such, the hotline provides an anonymous service to men seeking help.

In Maryanne’s case, the hotline provided a life-saving service when she was threatened with violence by her partner. Counsellor Grace used the 1-Tok Helpim Lain’s service provider database to find the number of the nearest Police Station. The police arrived within 15 minutes, escorted Maryanne to safety and apprehend her husband. In the days following the event, Grace provided ongoing counselling, helping Maryanne with a range of options to improve the situation for her and her children.

With increased promotion of the service across the country, calls to the 1-Tok Helpim Lain are increasing and the helpline will continue to play a critical role in answering calls for help, providing counselling and making referrals to a range of services.

The 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain – 7150 8000 – provides toll-free confidential telephone counselling, information and support for anyone experiencing gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. ChildFund PNG is the lead implementing partner of the service, working in close partnership with the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee and FHI 360. The service is funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), with contributions from ChildFund Australia and ChildFund New Zealand.

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