The empathetic face of 181 helpline

The empathetic face of 181 helpline

She was petrified when I received her call. Crying and asking for help constantly. She was trying to keep her voice low so that nobody could hear her, but I could sense the dread in her voice. I pictured her image at once. Eyes wide open in fear, tears flowing down her cheeks and slobbering, as though she was being terrorised by someone.”

“Before my mind could balance my imagination and the distress that I was hearing from the other end of the line, I was chilled to the marrow. She suddenly stopped responding to my questions. She was dead,” Anam, a 24-year-old call receiver working with the Women Helpline Number 181 recalls the frightful incident that continues to haunt her waking moments.

“The call was from West Bengal. The girl was kidnapped by her boyfriend. Before we could help her, she was murdered. Next morning, the local police found her body,” says Anam, whose job is to address calls related to domestic violence, stalking, rape, molestation and child sexual abuse.

Though she doesn’t directly interact with the police, as her supervisor performs that role, Anam still plays an important part in the functioning of the helpline number by receiving the calls of the victims and psychologically calming them with her reassuring words. She has been working with the organisation for more than a year now.

“Women are hyper when they call us. We have to first calm them down so that we can understand their problem and then fill their details. Then as per the urgency of the problem, the supervisor comes into action,” she says.

Thereafter, the details are provided to the nearest police station where the victim lives. In this process, the supervisor handling a particular shift has a crucial part to play. She is the one who gets in touch with ACPs and DCPs and gets the FIR lodged against the culprit.

Anita Daniel, who occasionally handles the supervisor’s job, shares an interesting incident with Metrolife. “A girl was constantly being stalked by a boy for more than two months. When the girl approached, we took the details like the registration of the bike and time when she is stalked. I informed the SHO of that area, who reached the spot next day on the same time the girl gave us. The boy did not dare to approach her,” says Daniel.

There is satisfaction in her voice as she explains how happy the girl was. She called Daniel and told her how relieved she was to be walking freely on her way to home. “It is always a satisfying feeling when we are able to solve problems. Women are going through extreme pain which I experienced deeply when I joined 181 two years ago. Sometimes we fail to help them,  but there is always a challenge ahead of us which we try to tackle.”

Today, the helpline number receives 2,000 calls in a day, out of which the group is able to respond to atleast 1,500 calls. Interestingly, it is an all-women team of 21 members including call receivers and technical experts. Even the cab drivers are women. More power to them!