SINGAPORE: Women in abusive relationships or violent situations will have an additional avenue of help to turn to, as the Association of Women for Action & Research (AWARE) launched a new online text chat service on Friday (May 8).
An extension of AWARE's long-running Women's Helpline, the new chat service comes as the organisation said it had received “record-breaking numbers of calls” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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 a media release
Women in distress can click on this link on AWARE’s website and schedule a 30-minute appointment with a trained staff member or volunteer between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Friday, except on public holidays.
This chat service will use the text chat function on Zoom, and not its video or audio functions. Those who wish to remain anonymous may use a pseudonym.
For those using the call-back request, AWARE will not leave a voicemail. The call-back will be from an eight-digit number and not the 1800 helpline number.
AWARE's online text chat service will provide the same kind of support as its helpline. Emotional support, practical information, referrals to AWARE counsellors and legal clinics, and advice on other helpful resources from crisis shelters to Family Service Centres, Family Violence Specialist Centres and Family Justice Court.
READ: COVID-19: MSF keeping 'close watch' on domestic abuse cases as more reach out for help over circuit breaker period
The launch comes after AWARE’s helpline received 619 calls for help in March, the highest number recorded in one month in the helpline’s 29-year history. These calls include WhatsApp messages, emails, walk-ins and referrals.
AWARE also received 43 calls on Apr 14, the most calls ever received in a single day.
The chat service is geared towards those in abusive and violent situations who may not have enough privacy to call AWARE’s helpline, with the organisation noting that it has seen a number of callers hanging up mid-call when their 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 AWARE executive director Corinna Lim.
“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.”
AWARE has also recently increased its number of staff members and is expanding the Women’s Helpline from two to three phone lines to meet the larger call volume.