I felt in my gut that her case would become violent
Erica was working as a call handler w i th Scot land ’ s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline when Rachael cal led in distress from Italy saying she felt under threat.
In the three years Erica had Rachael’s call started out like most calls – saying, “I’m not sure if this is the right place to phone.”
As helpline call handlers, we do risk assessments to work out how dangerous a caller’s situation is. Have they been physically abused? How has the abuse escalated?
There is no perfect equation of “this plus this equals your life is in danger”. But even though she was minimising the traumatic experiences she had been through, as Rachael spoke I very much felt her life was at risk.
One of my real fears was that if she didn’t get out, I would end up reading about her in the news. I worked at the helpline, the call from Rachael was one of the most worrying she received.
She feared for Rachael’s life and in the days after the call found herself combing news sites in search of any coverage about a Scottish girl being killed or seriously injured in Italy.
Rachael followed Erica’s safety advice on how to return to Scotland without alerting the remember feeling really worried, especially with Rachael being in a foreign country. We talked through some safety planning.
I remember feeling in my gut her case would become violent and saying, “contact anyone you can trust or even a police officer,” then, “grab anything you can, most importantly your passport, and leave immediately.”
One concern was Rachael getting a ticket out of Italy. I gave her advice about paying cash if she was going to stay in a hotel.
I remember telling her what to do at the airport, that she should let staff there know what was man she felt threatened by. Almost two years on, and in an unusual step for both staf f and users of the helpline, Rachael and Erica have met.
They want to raise awareness of the helpline, which is managed by Scottish Women’s Aid in partnership with Men’s Advice Line. Last year, it received more than 6000 calls.
Here, Erica and Rachael reveal how the call had a huge impact on both of their lives. happening in case he suddenly appeared and was able to convince people that he should get through security.
When we did say goodbye, Rachael’s call really stuck with me. Every day I was thinking, “I hope she is OK.” I even found myself looking at the news, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.
About a week later, I got a message to say Rachael had got in touch with the helpline to let us know she had got safely out of the country. I felt such a huge sense of relief.
To get the chance to meet her now feels very emotional. It’s a gift.
SUPPORT Erica, left, with Rachael Picture Callum Moffat