Medibank says contacts to the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service – 1800RESPECT – increased 30 per cent on the days immediately following the guilty verdict against George Pell.
“People in Australia were calling us to say they’d read about the verdict and they wanted to discuss their own experiences, or they were calling because they were worried about the impact of sexual assault on family or friends,” said an unnamed 1800RESPECT counsellor.
The organisation said more than 50 per cent of people who disclose an incident of sexual assault to its counsellors refer to an incident that occurred more than 12 months ago.
"Media reporting around sexual assault can often prompt painful memories of peoples’ own experiences of abuse or that of a loved one, which is why we do see more people contacting 1800RESPECT in the days after high profile cases," it said.
According to general manager Nicole McMahon, it can take time for people to want to reach out for support. “The majority of people who reach out for support for sexual assault are talking to the service about an incident that happened more than a year ago,” said Ms McMahon.
“You can contact 1800RESPECT at any time of the day or night if you have been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence or if you are worried about someone you care about.
"You will be answered by a qualified counsellor who will listen to you and believe you. They will work with you to understand your needs, put your safety first, and provide you with counselling, information or details of a support service in your area, depending on what you want.”
Medibank has delivered the 1800RESPECT service since it began in 2010 with funding from the federal government.
The national service is delivered with not-for-profit specialist counselling partners, safe steps, Women’s Safety Services SA and DV Connect, in support of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.
Ms McMahon said all people have a role to play in supporting people impacted by domestic and family violence.
“Community organisations, businesses, the media, government and individuals can all respond to this issue, and raise awareness of support services like 1800RESPECT so that people can feel confident that when they reach out for support that someone will be there for them,” she said.