The 016 line is not supposed to show on a bill, since victims who call it for help could face serious violent and possibly fatal reprisals from their abusers if it is found they had called it.
Thanks to the cooperation of mobile and landline telephone operators, a call to 016 does not show up on itemised bills, but ombudsman Sonsoles Becerril warns that it shows on a mobile phone handset as an outgoing call.
It is not technically possible for the number to delete itself automatically, so callers have been warned to do so manually on their mobiles if they can.
Sra Becerril warns the most at-risk callers are older women, since they are not so familiar with new technology.
Helpline staff always warn callers to delete the number from their phones once they hang up.
It has not been confirmed whether landline phones hold a record of the number having been called – although it does not show on an itemised bill on these, either – nor whether hitting an automatic ‘redial’ button on a main house telephone would result in 016 being called again.
A controlling partner may check a victim’s phone use by pressing ‘redial’ on a landline, so victims who are in any doubt should simply call a random number after speaking to 016, and then hang up.
In the meantime, health minister Dolors Montserrat and Sonsoles Becerril will meet with phone company representatives this week to find out how the problem can be solved.
For technical reasons, operators say they have no way of ensuring the number does not show up on individual mobile handsets.
Calling 016 is free of charge from any mobile or landline phone, and operators are trained to set the wheels in motion to provide practical and legal assistance to ensure victims’ safety.
With over 85,300 callers a year in 2015 and 2016, the helpline has broken records and last year saw the most victims ever attended to as a result of ringing 016.
Run by the ministry of health, the line is called almost exclusively by women, although a certain stigma and shame still exists for male victims of domestic violence which leads to many not reporting their ordeal, so the true number of men suffering relationship abuse is not known.