I felt in my gut that her case would be­come vi­o­lent

Sunday Mail (UK) - - Opinion -

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

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