by Mel Garrick & Serah Aupong – EM TV News, Port Moresby
A new hotline providing much-needed support to those touched by family and sexual violence has got off to an encouraging start in its first month of operation.
The 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim lain, a helpline manned by nine trained counselors, offers free support services to those suffering violence in all provinces of Papua New Guinea.
Set up by ChildFund PNG and funded by several overseas donors, the helpline launched on 20 August and has since received over 250 calls nationwide. Surprisingly, half of those have been from men.
“Almost everyday we are receiving calls, so far in the first month we have received nearly 250 calls, 50/50 split males and females,” said Margaret Gebai, operations coordinator for the service.
“We would really appreciate if more [people] can call. Most men they call based on marriage problems, relationship issues and sexual health,” she said.
Detective Sergeant Michelle Harris from the Australian Federal Police, an advisor with the Family and Sexual Violence Unit of the Royal PNG Constabulary in Port Moresby, said the hotline is a much-needed initiative, particularly for women and families living in isolated areas who may not know what services exist within PNG to help them.
“If they call the hotline, they can get immediate counselling support and find out what options they have,” said Det Sgt Harris.
“Just talking to somebody about these problems can give you some courage to take the next step that might be necessary to make life safer for you and your family.”
One of the main advantages of the hotline is it enables callers to seek advice whilst remaining anonymous. This is particularly important in a nation like Papua New Guinea where family violence can carry stigma in many communities and is often not reported to authorities.
“The fact that you can make a free call and remain totally anonymous makes it a very appealing option for women and men who want to seek help in private with no risk of being identified.
“We’ve had calls from both survivors and perpetrators of violence – we’ve also had a number of people reporting child abuse cases,” Ms Gebai added.
Anyone touched by violence in Papua New Guinea can contact the 1-TOK KAUNSELIN HELPIM LAIN free of charge on 7150 8000.
Operating hours: weekdays from 8am to 5pm, and everyday 7am-7pm from 20 October.