Women who have been sexual assaulted will no longer be able to instantly access highly trained therapists over the phone.
From July 1, women who call 1800 RESPECT – Australia’s primary domestic violence and sexual assault hotline – will not be connected to psychologists who have a tertiary degree and at least three years working in trauma services.
Instead they will speak to someone who is less experienced and less qualified and put on hold before being transferred to another area.
The change comes soon after the news that sexual assaults are on the rise in NSW.
The funding cut to 1800 RESPECT was highlighted on The Project last night.
Host Carrie Bickmore pointed out that entrusting less experienced staff to field calls from traumatised women could be dangerous. “A lot of experts have said today that you can do more harm in inappropriately answering than not answering at all.
She added “If a woman has got the guts to finally call and then she gets sent somewhere else or has to tell her story again or gets sent a fact sheet then that might be it. She may never call again. She may never speak up again.”
As co-host Waleed Aly pointed out: “We found $6 million to fund [steam train] Puffing Billy, why wouldn't we find that money and fund this properly?"