After receiving record-breaking numbers of calls since the outbreak of COVID-19, gender-equality organisation AWARE today (8 May) launched a new online text chat service.
This chat service is an extension of AWARE’s long-running Women’s Helpline and related services, and part of the organisation’s efforts to meet the ongoing surge in demand.
As people are required to stay at home during Singapore’s circuit breaker, women in abusive relationships are more likely to experience violence at the hands of their spouses, partners and/or relatives, without the respite previously afforded by work, school, or other daily activities.
In March, AWARE’s Helpline received 619 calls (including messages, emails, walk-ins, and referrals), the most recorded in one month in the Helpline’s 29 year history.
Meanwhile, April saw 596 calls and, with 43 calls on 14 April, the most calls ever received on a single day. Many callers have sought support for situations of family violence.
In April, 125 calls pertained to family violence were recorded – a 112 per cent increase over family violence calls received in April 2019 (59).
Women in distress can visit AWARE’s website and schedule a 30-minute appointment to chat with a trained staff member or volunteer.
Appointments can be made during Women’s Helpline hours (10am – 6pm, Mon – Fri, except public holidays).
During the chat, AWARE representatives perform the same support functions as on the Helpline. They can provide emotional support, practical information, make referrals to AWARE counsellors and legal clinic, and advise on other helpful resources from crisis shelters to Family Service Centres, Family Violence Specialist Centres, and Family Justice Court.
With the chat, AWARE particularly hopes to reach survivors of abuse and violence whose circumstances prevent them from calling the Helpline at all.
These individuals may not have sufficient privacy to make a phone call in the same space as their family members or housemates. Helpliners have already noted a number of callers hanging up mid-call when abusers enter the room.
“We recognise that being able to make a phone call is a freedom that many individuals are not
afforded right now,” said Corinna Lim, Executive Director at AWARE.
“We hope therefore that our new chat can provide more focused and direct assistance to survivors of violence who do not feel safe speaking on a call,” she added.
Other recent steps AWARE has taken to meet caller demand include growing staff strength and expanding its Women’s Helpline to three phone lines – up from two previously.