The Department of Defense (DoD) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) enacts policies and creates programs to provide high-quality services and support to members of the DoD community who have been sexually assaulted. The policy governing the provision of advocacy services in the DoD is DoD Instruction 6495.02. The policy and programs are intended to strengthen resiliency of sexual assault survivors and instill confidence and trust in the reporting process. DoD’s approach ensures that service members receive the protections to which they are entitled, and support through an integrated victim services network of care.
One program established to assist sexual assault victims is the DoD Safe Helpline. The Safe Helpline was established in 2011 and is the sole hotline for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. The 24/7 Safe Helpline is a completely anonymous, confidential, and specialized service to provide help and information to members of the military community anytime, anywhere. In addition to providing support and resources to survivors of sexual assault, the Safe Helpline serves friends and family members, intimate partners, and supports the work of military stakeholders.
The following are ways stakeholders and clinicians can leverage the Safe Helpline when working with military survivors of sexual assault:
Responders Near Me
Responders Near Me is Safe Helpline’s comprehensive database of military and civilian sexual assault service providers. The database includes contact information for Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs), SAPR Victim Advocates (VAs), medical and behavioral health care providers, Special Victims’ Counsel, Victims’ Legal Counsel, chaplains, military police, and civilian sexual assault service providers. The Responders Near Me database is a quick and easy way to help get survivors in contact with the appropriate and desired resources on base or in their local area. The Safe Helpline continuously checks the contact information to ensure it is up-to-date.
Clinicians may want to refer survivors who are interested in peer-to-peer support to Safe HelpRoom. Safe HelpRoom is an online group chat service that allows survivors of sexual assault in the military to connect with and support one another in a moderated and secure online environment. Safe HelpRoom discussions are moderated by Safe Helpline staff members who can provide referrals and help keep the conversation focused on survivors' needs. They also ensure all participants adhere to the HelpRoom ground rules to protect the anonymity, confidentiality, and safety of each survivor.
Safe Helpline App
The Safe Helpline app, available through the App Store and Google Play is a free mobile resource created to meet the unique needs of members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. By downloading the app, survivors can access 24/7 support through the Safe Helpline phone and online helplines, and get information and resources to help address the short-and long-term effects of sexual assault, as well as practical exercises to help survivors manage their self-care. We also recognize that for many survivors stationed outside of the United States (OCONUS), additional limitations may arise when accessing resources. The Safe Helpline app was designed to give survivors access to a variety of support services and self-care exercises in a free and convenient way. Clinicians can download the app and use it to show survivors Safe Helpline resources that are available for free on their phone.
Safe Helpline has a variety of free printed materials including brochures, magnets, posters, and keycards that may be useful to have on hand for survivors to take with them after visiting a clinician’s office.
Ms. Blanc was the senior victim assistance advisor at DoD SAPRO. She recently passed away after a battle with cancer. She provided subject matter expertise in victim advocacy and response, to include development of policy regarding intervention and care programs for sexual assault victims within the DoD. Prior to coming to SAPRO, she served as a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the U.S. Navy. She is survived by family, friends, and co-workers who miss her deeply.
The views expressed in Clinician's Corner blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Psychological Health Center of Excellence or Department of Defense.