The fear, shame and social stigma surrounding family violence and sexual assault contributes to up to 80 per cent of cases going unreported.
But what if those affected could talk to a friendly chatbot, rather than a person?
That is the idea behind Hello Cass, a chatbot designed to support people affected by family and sexual violence.
It has been developed by Melbourne-based social enterprise Good Hood, which is currently seeking funding for a pilot of the bot early next year.
Private text message conversation
Good Hood founder Emma Koster said part of the appeal of Hello Cass was that users could talk to it via SMS.
“You don’t need need to download an app, you don’t need to sign up to anything,” Ms Koster said.
The interaction is completely private, as the system does not collect or store any personal data about the user.
Ms Koster said Hello Cass would help take pressure off frontline telephone support services.
“Currently we can’t get enough people on the phones, so the wait times for people calling a crisis line can be up to 20 to 30 minutes.”
Answers from experts
Ms Koster said Hello Cass provided a way for people to ask about issues they may find difficult to talk about on the phone.
“People can go there and find out information about support services, get some high-level legal advice, or start to put together safety planning if they’re needing to leave a violent or potentially violent situation.
“They could have a friend that they are wanting to find advice for, they could have used violence themselves in the past and want to understand their behaviour.”
Good Hood has developed Hello Cass in partnership with some of Victoria’s leading experts in the field, including WIRE, Berry Street and Victoria Legal Aid.
Also involved is the Victorian CASA Forum, which is the peak body for Centres Against Sexual Assault, and No To Violence incorporating men’s referral service.
This was originally published by ABC.net.au.