A counselling service set up for victims of abuse is expecting to see the number of calls to its helpline surpass 8,000 this year.

With less than three weeks to go until the end of 2016, Connect Counselling predicts it will receive 8,078 calls for the year, 4% more than the 7,798 it received in 2015.

The volume of calls is in spite of the fact the service is only open for 20 hours per week between Wednesday and Sunday.

It said that, of the total number of calls in 2016, 4,264 are forecast to be answered, 3,074 to be received out of hours, and 739 will be lost. Those who call out of hours are directed on the answering service to call again within hours.

Connect provides out of hours telephone based professional counselling and support for abuse survivors. It was established in 2006 at the request of survivor groups and is funded by the HSE.

The organisation is publicising its service because Christmas is a particularly sensitive period in terms of public need for the counselling.

It expects to announce additional opening times during the Christmas period.

Connect manager Theresa Merrigan said the high volume of calls received out of hours is a challenge faced by the service, but that it was managing to meet a specific demand of “some” people.

“Connect is a necessary and niche service that meets the needs of people who choose anonymous telephone based counselling as a first step towards and face-to-face therapy, or as a preferred longer term approach,” she said.

Statistics from Connect show the most common overall setting for abuse is in the family (48%), followed by the community (34%), and 18% institutional.

Ms Merrigan said an important message is for people to understand is that the majority of abuse occurs within the family.

“There is an over-emphasised public perception of institutional abuse, compared to in family and community settings, where our service records in excess of 80% of cases,” she said.

“Connect is available for people who have experienced abuse in any setting, not just in institutions.”

Connect said the gender of callers in 2016 was two thirds female and one third male, similar to previous years.

Connect is available at freephone 1800 477 477. Opening times are 6pm-10pm Wednesday to Sunday, with additional hours at times of high service demand.


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