COVID-19: AWARE launches online text chat service after record number of helpline calls

AWARE's online text chat service (PHOTO: AWARE)
AWARE's online text chat service (PHOTO: AWARE)

SINGAPORE — Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) has launched a new online text chat service as an additional avenue for women in abusive relationships or violent situations to turn to.

In a media release on Friday (8 May), AWARE said that the service was launched after its existing helpline received record-breaking numbers of calls since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak at the start of this year.

The AWARE Women’s Helpline received 619 calls (including messages, emails, walk-ins and referrals) in March, the most recorded in a month in the helpline’s 29-year history. April saw 596 calls and, with 43 calls on 14 April, the most calls received in a single day.

Many callers have sought support for situations of family violence. In April, 125 calls pertained to family violence, a 112 per cent increase over family violence calls received in April last year (59 calls).

“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,” AWARE said in its media release.

How to access online text chat service

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 to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays except public holidays).

During the chat, AWARE representatives can provide emotional support and 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.

Individuals whose situations prevent them from calling helpline

AWARE hopes the text chat service can reach survivors of abuse and violence whose circumstances prevent them from calling its helpline.

These individuals may not have sufficient privacy to make a phone call in the same space as their family members or housemates. Helpline representatives 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, AWARE executive director. “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.”

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