Domestic violence survivor (file image)
A domestic violence hotline is now available by text message to aid access. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Domestic violence hotline expands to text services

December 8, 2023

Domestic violence victims will be able to access specialist counselling and support by text message under an initiative designed to make seeking help more accessible. 

The domestic violence helpline 1800RESPECT has expanded its services to texts to allow people in unsafe situations, who can’t access a telephone or web chat, to get help.

The hotline provided more than 268,629 responses in the 2022/23 financial year.

Expansion to text services is expected to particularly help people living in rural and remote communities and those with limited access to technology or the internet.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth
 Amanda Rishworth says the text service will offer a more discreet way to get help. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Like the phone and online service, text support will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The number victims can text to seek help is 0458 737 732. 

The program was soft-launched two weeks ago and has already helped multiple victim-survivors. 

In one case, a user had lost her voice due to strangulation the night before and was unable to speak the next day. 

She was able to seek and secure emergency accommodation through the SMS service. 

Another user was able to send a text about the behaviour of their partner to understand if it was coercive control and verbal abuse. 

Once their partner was no longer with them, they contacted the service by phone for a safe and in-depth discussion.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said it was vital to provide easy access for people experiencing or at risk of family, domestic and sexual violence.

“This is a very important new channel to ensure that people experiencing gender-based violence get the support that they need,” she said.

If a person doesn’t respond to the text message chain within six minutes it would stop, as a safety measure.

While the text service will provide a more discreet and flexible way to reach out for help, it is currently only available in English.

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety acting chief Jane Lloyd said support services need to keep up with technology to improve access.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Dr Lloyd said.

“It takes great courage and enormous support to be able to seek help when your self-esteem is low … the more options the better.”

Dr Lloyd said it was important the service’s use was monitored to gauge who was accessing it, including people from migrant and non-English speaking backgrounds and those with disabilities.

Federal Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said the expansion aimed to make it quicker and easier for victim-survivors to seek help.

“The expansion of 1800RESPECT to include a text service will make a difference to the lives of women seeking help,” she said.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

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