While the Delhi gang rape prompted the judiciary to take quick action, there were also a few individuals who were determined to speak through their actions after the incident. Set up by city-based educationist, counselor and psychologist Barkha Bajaj, Aks Foundation’s helpline is one such initiative.
Jointly launched by Aks Foundation and Neo-Gandhian Aid Organisations India (NGAOI) on August 15, the helplines —8793088814 /15 /16 — cater to victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
“Most of the 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 24X7 helpline will have a better reach,” says Barkha, who has worked with a crisis helpline in the US for five years before moving to India n 2008.
Neerja Bajaj, Director, Communications, said the volunteers of the first two batches have already undergone intensive training for crisis intervention and manning the helplines. The group underwent 15 hours of formal training in handling the helplines. The training was provided by Aks Foundation free-of-cost.
“Apart from counselling, we also provide support to victims with regards to assisting them in contacting lawyers, gynaecologist, police official and so on,” says Neerja.
Since the helplines are barely a month old, the number of calls received are relatively low. Of the 30 calls received so far, about eight calls are those of domestic violence. “Most of them are exploratory calls. People hesitate in the beginning and don’t open up immediately with volunteers. In such cases, we give the caller a follow-up call and check if they still need our assistance,” she added.
In one such case, a woman who works as a security guard at a housing society, has been calling up the helpline complaining that her husband beats her up. “We are constantly in touch with her,” she says, adding, volunteers simply counsel and do not persuade people to take decisions.
Presently, there are 22 volunteers and five counsellors associated with the helplines. While 12 volunteers have finished training and have started taking calls, 10 are still undergoing training.
Neerja says that among the calls received till now, some
of the callers include people who were sexually abused in
“These callers bottled up their feelings till now and the helplines help them open up about their dark past. Currently, we are dealing with a middle-aged man who is being counselled for the same,” she says.
Barkha said Aks Foundation is also training young volunteers from colleges and universities to accompany victims to the police station, doctors and lawyers. “The aim is to give victims physical and moral support,” she says.