News : 50,000 Calls to Violence Helpline
March 5, 2014 -- A helpline set up to support victims of domestic violence in Northern Ireland took nearly 50,000 calls last year alone - with its services now being expanded to help victims of sexual violence as well.
The helpline, managed by the Women's Aid Federation NI, was first established back in 2005.
It now provides around-the-clock confidential support via telephone, text or email to anyone - male or female - affected by domestic and/or sexual violence.
The new comprehensive service was launched with the support of the ministers for health, justice and social development.
According to DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots, the helpline can help break the silence of victims.
"It is widely believed that as well as reported cases of domestic and sexual violence, there are many more cases that remain unreported," he said.
"Whether through intimidation, abuse or violence, it is appalling that victims feel unable or unwilling to confide in someone about what they have to endure."
According to the latest PSNI statistics, there were 11,160 recorded crimes where domestic abuse was the motivation in 2012/13 - representing a 7.4% increase on the previous year.
The number of recorded sexual offences also rose over the same period, by 5.7% to 1,932.
"This 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline is a major achievement in our collective response to these terrible crimes," Alliance Justice Minister David Ford said.
"For many, that initial contact with the helpline is the first step on the journey to secure protection and a safe environment free from fear and harm."
During 2012/13, the helpline dealt with 47,597 calls - an increase of 8% on the previous year.
DUP Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, whose responsibilities include the voluntary sector, said: "This 24-hour helpline will be a lifeline to many victims.
"I am pleased that, together with my colleagues in the Executive, funding has been made available to this support network.
"I hope this initiative will help contribute to the decline of domestic and sexual violence in our community."
While the helpline is jointly funded by the three government departments, it is managed by the Women's Aid Federation NI and relies on volunteers who were hailed at the launch for their work.
Women's Aid Director Annie Campbell told UTV that the message to victims is simple, stating: "We care - there are many people who care. It is absolutely not your fault, so please, pick up the phone and call the helpline."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, March 10, 2014