Topic: Health

"Safe to talk will support anyone affected by sexual harm" -Minister

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A new helpline is now available for victims of sexual harm. "Safe to talk - He pai ki te kōrero" provides nationwide 24/7 access to free confidential information and support to people affected by sexual harm in any way.

Safe to Talk deals with all aspects relating to sexual harm including violence, abuse, and harassment.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says, “Safe to talk will support anyone affected by sexual harm including people of all genders and ethnicities who have experienced sexual abuse or harm, those who have committed, or concerned friends and whānau.”

Associate Minister for Social Development Peeni Henare says, “The main thing is that families are able to call in here and speak about their issues, and also we want to expand the services to help them along this journey.”

The operators here are all experienced sexual trauma professionals and are available at any time, day or night, to listen and provide support as well as help callers reach further support services.

All calls are strictly anonymous and confidential.

Clinical lead at ‘Safe to talk’, Dr. Siale Foliaki says, “I think people who may not have the courage to step forward and ask for help in a face to face setting, the many channels that we operate allows people to have contact it's fantastic.”

1 in 3 Māori females under 16 are subject to an unwanted sexual experience. 

Safe to Talk is operated by government-funded social enterprise Homecare Medical and went live nationally on 16 April 2018 after a successful initial test run in Canterbury, with more than 700 people making contact since.

Dr. Foliaki says, “We know that anonymity could provide a way for all New Zealanders including Māori and the Pacific community to access a service that they feel would be safe for them to access and so far the numbers represent the numbers that are in the community.”

Those who experience abuse can be affected by fear, anxiety, depression, anger, a loss of self-esteem and confidence, alcohol and drug dependency, and increased vulnerability to subsequent sexual and physical assault.

While helping victims of abuse is the main focus, the service also aims to help those who are considering harm, with around 8% of contact so far from those making inquiries about their own behavior.

CEO at Homecare Medical, Andrew Slater says, “What we really want to do is to make sure that we can encourage those people to reach out before they commit harm and connect them with the specialist services that can help them and that will build far more resilient communities as well.”

Slater says they're making the services more accessible through web chats and other digital platforms to get a wider reach.

Safe to talk is available free and 24/7 by calling 0800 044 334, texting 4334, emailing support@safetotalk.nz Resources and webchat: www.safetotalk.nz