Chennai helplines for women suffering abuse, gender violence or mental health issues


Representational image. Pic: Liz West/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This article is part of a special series: Safety of women in Indian cities

An alarming number of women have been subjected to violence and abuse in the private and public sphere over the ages, and the incidents reported are on the rise. Survivors of such trauma often require assistance on multiple fronts,  seeking medical, legal and emotional support. 

State-operated emergency helplines that women can dial in times of crisis have been set up at various levels over the years, providing emergency services, police intervention, medical and legal assistance. 

In addition to this, Chennai is home to various non-profit organisations that help women victims of gender-based violence and/or harassment.

There are also organisations in the city working on mental health, with a focus on women.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of resources that women may use to seek support and help in times of need.

Dial 181

The women’s helpline number 181 was launched in December 2018, with the necessary infrastructure established at the cost of Rs 62 lakhs. The helpline is available 24 x 7 and can be used by women who face domestic violence or sexual harassment. The helpline will provide police assistance, legal aid and medical help including ambulance services. The helpline will also disseminate information on the government schemes that benefit women. 

Dial 1091

The women’s helpline 1091 was launched in 2004 to help women report crimes. The lines are manned by trained police personnel. The helpline was launched as a mode of easing access to police and removing any stigma or fear that women may have of approaching the police. The calls will be dealt with in the same manner and urgency as calls placed on the general police helpline, 100. 

Distress hotline

A dedicated helpline for women in distress was introduced by the Chennai Police in December 2019. The helpline number is 8300304207 and is functional at all hours. This number will operate in addition to the other helplines that are available at present.

Dial 112

A single emergency helpline for all emergency services was launched across 16 states including Tamil Nadu by the Union Government. This includes access to the services of the women’s helpline. The helpline will provide emergency assistance and appropriate legal, medical or police help. This number was launched to function similar to the integrated national helplines found in UK and USA.

In  addition to the above state helplines, the following not-for-profit organisations also provide help to women in vulnerable situations:

The International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC)

PCVC was founded in Chennai in 2001 and works to create a “support network for women and queer individuals facing domestic and interpersonal violence”. The organisation provides both emergency and rehabilitation. Crisis intervention help offered includes dealing with the police, creating an exit plan from abusive relationships and households, as well as medical and legal help and counselling. The organisation also helps with skill-building and employment opportunities for women. 

Dhwani 24*7 toll free helpline by PCVC: 044-43111143

Whatsapp chat support: 9840888882

The Banyan

The Banyan is one of the most well-known NGOs in the city, providing mental health services for the homeless. Many women who have been abandoned by their families due to poor mental health have benefitted from interventions by The Banyan. The NGO runs a hospital and shelter service which helps women, providing necessary mental health care to set them on the path to recovery. Efforts are made to reunite them with family, failing which women are accommodated in group homes and living options available at the Banyan. They also provide training in vocational skills that will enable the women under their care to be able to earn.

Emergency Care Whatsapp : 9840888882

Nakshatra NGO

Nakshatra is a non-profit organisation established in 2012 that works in areas of sexual violence and trafficking. The organisation provides legal, medical and counselling assistance. The NGO also works in prevention of sexual violence with education and awareness sessions across the city. The organisation set-up a dedicated rape crisis center to help survivors of sexual violence. The crisis center is operational 24*7, with assistance for survivors in filing complaints and medical examination.

Contact: 9003058479 / 7845629339


AWARE works on areas of gender-based violence through sensitisation and provides help for women affected by violence. The organisation conducts safety audits of various spots in the city and has made efforts to push authorities to increase safety for women in public transport. Holistic community development, with women’s safety as a key driver, is a project undertaken by the NGO in Semmenchery. 

Contact: 8122241688

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About Aruna Natarajan 183 Articles
Aruna is an Associate Editor at Citizen Matters. She has a BA in Economics and a PG Diploma in Journalism. She has also worked in a think-tank on waste management policy and with a non-profit in sport for development. She writes on civic issues, governance, waste, commute and urban policy. She tweets at @aruna_n29.