The first changes in Victim Support Finland’s (RIKU) activities were made on 12 March when our biannual RIKU Seminar planned for 27.-28.3.20 was cancelled due to the Government’s decisions on restrictions in contacts between people and group events. After that, many new decisions were rapidly made and the staff and volunteers started receiving instructions on how to function in the new situation in order to safeguard both health aspects and services to crime victims.
The main change was to limit face-to-face meetings into situations were clients had very serious needs and remote assistance was not an option. In practice, almost all contacts with clients have been impelented by remote systems since mid-March. Luckily, RIKU has had in place an online chat service and our 116 006 helpline was moving to a new call centre system. Thus, the planned widening of opening hours of the helpline was implemented in the middle of the crisis on 30 March. 116 006 is now open Monday to Friday at 9–20 in Finnish language and 12–14 in Swedish language.
The overall number of clients in RIKU has been quite stable during the corona pandemic with a slight rise. However, in the 116 006 helpline we are seeing a clear rise in the number of contacts. This is probably due to the new wider opening hours and not due to the pandemic.
It has been almost surprising that crimes directly related to the corona crisis, such as domestic violence, have not played a bigger role in our services. Also many other services in Finland directly related to domestic violence are not reporting of growing numbers of clients. We do see many alarming signals of difficult situations in families and it is often more difficult to get into contact with the clients but there does not seem to be many more people seeking for help due to crimes related to the pandemic. Some RIKU districts report of growing numbers of cyber crime and crimes related to drug abuse (e.g. robberies) but not in very large numbers.
RIKU and many other victim services estimate, that the need for support will rise at a later stage. There is a fear that many victims are afraid of seeking for help or do not want to burden the services. Thus, it is very important to advertise the services. In RIKU we are about to start a social media campaign on our 116 006 helpline.