Helplines: Reaching out to victims of violence, sexual abuse

A number of helplines for senior citizens, women, children, accident victims, students and health workers are operational in the city. Do they work? A reality check.

By: Express News Service | Pune | Published: November 22, 2015 2:03:34 am
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In 2012, when the horrific Delhi gangrape case shocked the nation, city-based mother-daughter duo Neerja and Barkha Bajaj decided to do something more than raising slogans and participating in protests, and launched a helpline named Aks Foundation that caters to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

The helpline — 8793088814 /15/16 — was jointly launched on August 15, 2013, by Aks Foundation and Neo-Gandhian Aid Organisations India (NGAOI).

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“Most helplines, who work for such victims, work only from 9 am to 5 pm. The person who is in pain and is a victim of such crime can need help at any odd hour. Hence, I thought a 24×7 helpline will have a better reach,” said Barkha, who worked with a crisis helpline in the US for five years before moving to India in 2008. Barkha is an educationist, counsellor and psychologist.

Neerja, Director, Communications, said though initially the helpline, manned by trained volunteers, received just two-three calls a month, now it gets seven-10 calls a month. “Apart from counselling, we provide support to victims with regards to contacting lawyers, gynaecologists, police and so on,” said Neerja. About the initial response to the helpline, Neerja said, “Most were exploratory calls. People would hesitate in the beginning and didn’t open up immediately with volunteers. In such cases, we gave the caller a follow-up call and checked if they still required our assistance,” she added.

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