by Helen Lockwood

How many times have you heard these or similar words: ‘If this program has raised any issues for you, please call 1800RESPECT’? Often it follows a show about domestic and family violence or sexual abuse. This national counselling service is a vital 24-hour helpline, ready to support people going through abuse or whose memories of abuse have resurfaced.

Have you wondered who might ring that number or what would it be like to take the calls of distressed and desperate people?

May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month in Australia and recently I spoke to members of the Lutheran community who work on the 1800RESPECT line about their experiences.

They say it’s a heavy burden hearing the stories of those being abused or who have been abused in the past. Some callers are in crisis, fearing for their lives, and the counsellor works to give them strategies to stay safe and to connect to services. Perhaps the hardest to hear is the impact on children.

Some callers feel that they are going mad as their partner has been using coercive control, ‘gaslighting’ them. Sometimes the callers are experiencing spiritual abuse. Their violent partner is an important person in the church and so she fears she will not be believed. Or she believes her marriage vows mean she has to stay in a violent relationship, or he keeps telling her that this is the cross Jesus expects her to bear.

Both women and men call. Some abuse the counsellors. Some need to talk about their trauma. Some are asking how to help family and friends they suspect are experiencing domestic and family violence.

When COVID-19 restrictions began the lines went quiet. Counsellors were worried because they knew that abuse survivors were locked in at home with perpetrators 24/7. Fear and trauma were magnified by the isolation of COVID lockdowns.

The counsellors face many challenges. They spoke to me about how their understanding of God’s love for everyone helps them to respond positively to those they speak with and how they pray for the right words to say. Domestic and family violence workers are aware of their power with extremely vulnerable people. One worker said: ‘I need that power when I have to advocate for the survivor, but if I am to reach out to that person with compassion, I need to lay aside my power as Jesus did and stand alongside them as they share their pain. The name of Jesus may not be spoken, but Jesus goes along inside me as I work.’

Helen Lockwood is a member of the LCANZ’s Working Group on Domestic and Family Violence.

The Hidden Hurts Healing Hearts campaign website at features stories of survivors, resources and support.

If this article has triggered any concerns for you, you can ring the 1800RESPECT number or log in to the website at

GET HELP – Hidden Hurts Healing Hearts

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic and family violence, visit or call 1800 RESPECT (24-hour National Sexual Assault Family Domestic Violence Counselling Service), or Lifeline Counselling (24 hours) 131 114. In an emergency, call 000.

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