SINGAPORE - Faced with more appeals for help from rape and molest victims, the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) now has a social worker on hand to counsel victims immediately.
From Monday, women can drop in at the gender equality advocacy group's office from 10am to 7pm on weekdays, without calling first.
"Having to wait for an appointment can be very discouraging for women who have gone through a traumatic experience," explained Aware support services manager Sheena Kanwar.
"It may delay their getting the help they need, and sometimes discourage them from seeking help altogether."
The organisation has, since 2011, run a befrienders' service, which provides counselling and legal advice to victims of sexual assault. But appointments were needed.
The service will now be replaced by the new Sexual Assault Care Centre at the association's Dover Crescent headquarters. The centre is the first of its kind here.
To extend its help further, Aware is also lengthening the operating hours for its helpline for sexually assaulted women, who can call on 6779-0282.
Starting on Monday, it will run from 10am to midnight, instead of closing at 9.30pm.
More help is sorely needed for sexual assault victims, said Aware.
The group's sexual assault befrienders' service received 192 calls and e-mails last year, up from 132 in 2012.
Outrage of modesty cases here have also been on the rise, from 1,273 in 2009 to 1,420 in 2012. And while rape figures have fallen in recent years - from 202 five years ago to 132 in 2012 - help agencies say this is just the tip of the iceberg because many cases go unreported.
Aware's executive director Corinna Lim said: "Victims often find it hard to speak up even to friends and family, let alone report to police.
"They fear blame, disbelief or lengthy and complicated legal procedures. It is crucial for their recovery that they have access to the informed and non-judgmental support which a specialised service can provide."
Ms Agnes Chia, centre director of Care Corner Project StART, which deals with family violence and sometimes sexual assault, welcomed the new effort.
"Having such a centre would make help more accessible for victims, as they can speak to someone there and then as the first point of contact," she said.
Those who need help can also send an e-mail to Aware at email@example.com
To spread awareness, Artistry cafe in Kampong Glam and Brewerkz restaurant in Clarke Quay will also place stickers which have the helpline and e-mail address in toilets at their premises so women can take down these details in a "safe space".
This article was first published on May 23, 2014.
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