Currently, there is no legitimate national response regulated and governed by the local Government or authorities for juvenile or child victims of sexual abuse or related violence. The public are unaware of the response to follow for litigation. As such, the Voice-line is an initiative by the VOICE Foundation to provide information, counselling and guidance to victims and affected families in an attempt to help them find access to protection, legal mitigation, counselling and wellness.
The VOICE-line will operate on a 24×7 mornings and night “shift basis”, in Sinhala, Tamil and English language mediums, handled by trained operators who will provide necessary information with regards to the situation and guide the caller towards a structured approach to seek medical assistance, protection and legal action. The primary function of the VOICE-line will be to play the role of a mediator to provide necessary information and guide the person to relevant Authorities. The VOICE-line is equipped with a complete database of all Police station numbers, Government authorities such as Women and Child Care units and Counselling persons and the VOICE volunteering team.
The VOICE-line will be working in cooperation with selected children related organizations and other External professionals including doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, teachers and counsellors; to ensure that the best care and support is provided to the victim and affected families.
Today we witness many children being abused and neglected emotionally, physically, mentally and sexually due to poverty, abandonment and helplessness. It is reported that children who originate from broken families are the most susceptible for child abuse crimes. In marginalized communities, elders, parents and victims have insufficient and obscure information with limited or no access to a relief helpline to enable action or justice for the crime and/or situation. This being the case, several cases are not reported due to this. The VOICE-line will also serve as a support to the National CPA helpline 1929, undertaking calls.
The VOICE-line will serve as a helpline that the parents, children or anyone could call to ensure they are assisted, encouraged and supported.
Facilities and services
Operational strategy of the VOICE-line
The VOICE-line is a 24 hours telephone helpline outreach programme for abused children and juvenile victims in distress. A call coming into Helpline centre is attended to by one of the team members who work in shifts. This ensures that the calls coming in are attended to, all 24 hours at the VOICE-line centre.
Every call is important. Every caller dialling the VOICE-line number wants to say something and would like Voice-line to do something concrete. Voice-line in turn needs to respect that trust by effectively responding to the calls.
Depending on the nature of the call, is it by the victim, guardian or any concerned person(s) the team member responds to it. This involves referral and networking with other organizations providing specialized services.
In this process from “Response to Rehabilitation” the victim’s participation is an integral component.
Children in any abusive condition or threatened will be rescued immediately. The child and guardian will then be either repatriated or referred to the women and child care unit.
THE TARGET CALLER PROFILE:
Abused victims below 18 years, and affected families in the following condition;
- Distressed condition, abandoned and without any support system
- Stigmatized in the local community / village
VOICE-LINE PHILOSOPHY & BEST PRACTICES:
- Every caller is equally important
- A victim is a victim, and should not be given preferential treatment based on claimed case severity unless proven
- Each call is to be attended with an initial response within the first 15 minutes
- No caller is to be kept on hold for more than 60 seconds
- Caller identification, confidentiality and safety is top priority in each situation
The VOICE-line awareness will be generated through community outreach projects conducted by the allied network (Bethany CLC, Touch Community & Little Heaven Kids Ministry) and the general public as well using word-of-mouth. The aim of creating awareness about VOICE-line is to ensure that the service is accessible across the country.
Following strategies would be followed for awareness:
- Awareness through press and electronic media
- Awareness in shanty towns thorough individual discussions, community meetings, posters
- Distribution of leaflets, pasting of posters, stickers in the exhibitions and public places
- Film slides run at the Bethany CLC services
- Seminars, workshops and meetings
Guardian to child, teacher to community, community to community, child to community approach will be followed in order to spread the awareness in public.
We at VOICE-line want to invest in the future, to be the VOICE for the VOICELESS. This is our drive and we believe change is possible one child at a time, and this is why we are passionate about helping the underprivileged children in our communities.
VOICE-line believes in the partnership approach to work. Presently it has an effective partnership with several authorities and professionals for outreach work. This is to work together with the allied systems to create a child–friendly society in Sri Lanka.
We have a vision to establish the VOICE-line to an extent where it is accessible to children and affected families calling from any geographic location within the country. In the future we desire to raise our own funds to better our services and impact more communities.
In an ideal situation, each caller to the VOICE-line need not feel voiceless, helpless or kept in the dark any further. It is the human right of every child to find access to relief and security away from any form of violence. This situation is not impossible. It will be challenging but it is possible to help a child become a better citizen, free from slavery, violence and fear.