Women’s Aid launched a new web chat service today for women suffering domestic and sexual abuse.
The web chat will allow women to access immediate support and referral to lifesaving, crisis accommodation and outreach services, without having to pick up the phone.
Initiated by Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid along with Foyle Women’s Aid, the service comes in anticipation of an increase in service demand as the current lockdown restrictions are eased.
Kelly Andrews, CEO of Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, said: “The lockdown period has meant that many women have been trapped at home with their abusers, many of whom face barriers to accessing the information and help they need.”
The organisation has campaigned throughout the lockdown period with their “At Home Should Not Mean At Risk” initiative. Adapting to new and innovative ways to reach out is crucial and using technology including web chat will allow more women to reach out than ever before.
Kelly added: “It is anticipated that, as we continue to emerge from lockdown restrictions, referrals in to our service will rise. We must ensure that support is accessible and this new service provides another route to that specialist, life-saving support.”
With the PSNI reporting further increases in domestic abuse incidents, Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid has recorded a noticeable increase in traffic to their website during the lockdown period. It is hoped the new facility will help women reach out where a phone call is not a safe or viable option.
Foyle Women’s Aid Director Marie Brown welcomed the new live chat service and said that it will provide a vital lifeline for women who are experiencing domestic and sexual abuse.
“Women who are not ready to make the call or talk face to face will be able to chat directly to a Women’s Aid support worker safely and confidentially,” she said. “They will have immediate access to the information and support they need to help them to make decisions to escape that abuse.
‘This a new, safe way to access support and essential services for women who are isolated and particularly vulnerable’
“Even before the COVID 19 restrictions, we were aware of the difficulties faced by women living with abusers when looking for help. This a new, safe way to access support and essential services for women who are isolated and particularly vulnerable.
“We look forward to being part of this new initiative and the development of other services which will allow the Women’s Aid groups in Northern Ireland to reach more women affected by abuse,” she said.