16 Apr 2018

National sexual harm helpline goes live

From Nine To Noon, 9:09 am on 16 April 2018

A new sexual harm helpline is now live nation-wide, but some in the sector say it might not have enough resources to manage demand.

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Photo: Creative Commons

Safe to Talk, developed by the Ministry of Social Development, aims to provide professional specialist support to sexual abuse and assault survivors.

The government expected about 10,000 people a year to use the service, which is accessible by phone, text, email, and web chat.

Twenty-two sexual harm specialists are employed on the service, which runs day and night.

A Ministry of Social Development spokesperson, Marama Edwards, told Nine to Noon Safe to Talk aimed to make professional support more accessible.

"We know that sexual harm is under-reported so we really want people to have a safe place they can go to, and they can know that an experienced person is on the other end of the phone...or email," she said.

But Maggy Tai Rakena, the manager of Christchurch-based social service START, said the service's specialists might not be able to keep up with demand long term.

She said more specialists needed to be trained.

"We've been an impoverished sector for so long," she said.

"We are an ageing workforce so we need to develop people who can come into this from a younger generation."

Ms Tai Rakena said more funding, and more training options, could be the answer.

Wellington GP, Cathy Stephenson, said she welcomed the service, but she agreed it could suffer from a lack of counsellors working in the sector.

"I think a lot of that 10,000 won't necessary be looking for counselling," she said.

"But I think it may highlight that in some areas of the country there is a massive demand for counselling and not enough counsellors."