In Lisa’s podcast, Hope Beyond Abuse, she sat down and chatted to Karen from the 1800 RESPECT helpline – a national counselling helpline for people who are experience sexual assault, family violence, or for people who are seeking to support someone who is.
Lisa asked Karen “What can people expect when they call 1800 RESPECT?” and here’s what she said:
“It is incredibly difficult and horrendous to experience domestic violence and often sexual assault with that to then make that choice to take that first step towards talking to somebody else about what’s going on and perhaps what options are and what can happen next is a really difficult and scary thing to do. And most people who contact our service will put it off and put it off and put it off for quite some time before they get to a place where they make a decision to ring.
“When someone makes that difficult decision to ring 1800 RESPECT the call will be answered by a qualified and experienced counsellor. So someone who’s got at least four years’ tertiary experience and then has done a whole stack of other work and training with us.
On whether 1800 RESPECT counsellors advise people to leave:
“We don’t provide advice. We never tell people what to do. Our very first issue is to understand from the caller’s perspective what the concerns are, what the problem is, what they want to achieve, and how they want to do that. And then our job is to work with them to help them get to that place.
“We don’t tell people: ‘leave them’, ‘stay’, ‘do this’, ‘do that’, ‘change this’, ‘change that’. That’s not our job at all. It’s about understanding what the caller wants to do and assisting them to get to the place they want to be.
“And sometimes that can take a while. It’s not uncommon for people to ring us on and off over a six month period while they’re just talking through what happens, trying to make sense of it, and trying to understand why things are going the way they are and thinking about what sort of relationship they might really like, and what this relationship is currently like, and what the differences are, whether that’s okay or not okay. And sometimes countering some of the things they’ve been told, or yelled at, or abused around, and really starting to reflect on where they are, where they want to be and how they want to do it. The counsellors are happy whether that’s a five minute conversation or a six month conversation to sit with people while they work through that and get to a point where they want to take the next step.”