Meet the phone counsellors on the front line of Australia's battle against domestic violence.
By Paul Donoughue
"Has he hit you?" the woman asks down the phone.
It's just after 10:00am in an open-plan office in inner-city Brisbane. It's a busy street full of cafes and high-rise apartment complexes but the building is non-descript: there is no signage on the front and the ABC has been asked not to reveal anything about the location. Inside, four wall-mounted television screens display CCTV footage from the front and back doors and the car park.
"So, he has hit you in the past?" the woman says. "There is a [domestic violence order]. Okay..."
On the phone, a staff member from DV Connect — the Queensland-wide crisis counselling and emergency accommodation service for people experiencing domestic violence — tries to ascertain just how much danger the caller on the other end of the line is in.
Demand out of control
By this point in 2015, six women, two unborn babies, one child and one man have died in Queensland as a result of domestic violence.
On this call, one of more than 200 the service will receive over the course of the day, the woman's answers will help determine a threat level. Provided her life is not in immediate danger, the worker will start ticking boxes on a form: 'client fears for own safety'; 'client fears for children's safety'; 'client is pregnant'. What has the client experienced? Threats to kill? Attempted strangulation? Every detail is recorded.
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