There are many people living in an unstable and tense environment caused by domestic and family violence, and sexual assault. Sometimes these situations are hard to escape from. 1800RESPECT – delivered by Medibank on behalf of the Australian Government – is a national phone and online chat service supporting those in these circumstances and showing them there is a way forward. Erin Neville – Medibank Counsellor and Acting Clinical Lead – works for 1800RESPECT, listening to and helping those who are seeking support.
As a counsellor and a Clinical Lead, Erin spends her days supporting those contacting the service, as well as her fellow counsellors.
“Being given the opportunity to act in a Clinical Lead role has allowed me to guide and support our incredible team of counsellors who take, potentially, life-saving calls.”
According to Erin, each call or online chat is unique, however, there are similar issues that come up on a daily basis.
“Some of the most common issues are sexual acts of violence towards men and women, both young and old; emotional, financial, physical, and legal abuse; stalking via technology; fears around speaking out; and managing long-term impacts of abuse they have suffered,” says Erin.
“And it’s not just those directly experiencing problems – we also speak to their loved ones who may want advice on how to support them.”
Erin with fellow 1800RESPECT Counsellor, Clare.
1800RESPECT allows Erin to be a voice of guidance, support, and safety for those who need it most.
“My role is holistic and varied, but at the end of the day, we are the caring voice for people who are reaching out for help.”
Asked what the most challenging aspect of her role is, Erin says occasionally, the job takes its toll on counsellors.
“We strive to recruit quality health professionals and continue to support them, so they can continue the important work of helping survivors.”
Despite this, knowing she’s been able to help someone overrides everything else.
“After spending significant time working with survivors of violence and abuse, the gravity of this national issue along with its devastating impacts, can feel insurmountable at times.”
“However, the feeling of knowing a caller has felt heard, understood and once again hopeful far outweighs challenges that come with this role.”
Inspirational Domestic Violence & Disability Advocate, Anj Barker at the Sunny app launch.
Recently, an app called ‘Sunny’ was released, giving extra support to women and girls with a disability who are facing domestic violence or abuse. It was designed by a group made up of 1800RESPECT, Women with Disabilities Australia and an expert advisory panel of women with disability.
“The Sunny app is a tool for women with a disability who have experienced violence. It includes easy definitions and pictures with scenarios to help them better recognise forms of abuse. It also assists users in connecting with a 1800RESPECT counsellor, the national relay service, or a translation and interpretation service. If a Sunny user faces an emergency, the app will help the user call 000.” Erin explains.
Sunny app screenshots.
Medibank believes with the increased awareness of domestic and family violence, it’s time more organisations recognise it’s a community problem, with companies having a role to play in supporting their employees going through hard times.
“Medibank continues to work closely with policymakers and research bodies advocating for systematic changes to address these issues,” says Erin.
Asked how her life has been impacted by the work that she does, Erin remains passionate.
“It has had a significant impact on my life. I am often reminded how hard life can be and how resilient people truly are. I am constantly surprised by people’s capacity for change and the reserves of strength they discover,” she says.
“What a privilege to hear someone’s story and how they triumph over such tragedy.”