Singapore's gender equality advocacy group Association of Women for Action & Research (AWARE) recorded a 32 percent increase in calls to its Women’s Helpline service in 2018.
The group expanded its operation timings yesterday, from the previous 3-9.30pm to new hours of 10am-6pm on weekdays.
Last year, the Women’s Helpline experienced an increase from 3,071 calls in 2017 to 4,062 calls in 2018, AWARE said in a press statement on Wednesday, March 20.
Launched in 1991, the helpline was Singapore’s first contact group for women in crisis. Run by women, for women, the Helpline provides help for women through emotional support, psychoeducation, referrals for assistance and legal information.
Today, the Helpline team consists of more than 70 staff members and trained volunteers with varied backgrounds. In March 2018, AWARE revamped its Women’s Helpline service to provide support to women at no cost in four languages (English, Mandarin, Tamil and Malay).
The top presenting issues reported by callers throughout 2018 related to abuse and violence, marital issues and psychological distress. 23 percent of callers received support for and information about marital issues: divorce, maintenance, separation, and so on. The second biggest issue reported by callers was abuse and violence, accounting for 19 percent of calls. This included, but was not limited to, physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and financial abuse.
Women were also assisted in coping with emotional and psychological distress faced in various settings, such as family, workplace and intimate relationships (17 percent).
This increase in calls also corresponds with a 48% increase on the previous year in callers seeking counselling for the first time from AWARE’s Women’s Care Centre.
“We’re proud to extend our Women’s Helpline timings this month, following International Women’s Day,” said Anisha Joseph, Head of CARE Services for AWARE. “Women disproportionately face unfair treatment, barriers to opportunities and violence, leaving them disempowered and unsupported. Many women are made to believe that they are alone in these situations, or to be blamed for them–and asking for help can be intimidating. But the increase in calls over the last year shows that more women are feeling safe to do so.”