Safe Helpline provides resources, support to victims of sexual harassment and assault

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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“There’s an app for that!”  The resources of Safe Helpline are now available at the touch of a finger through your iPhone or Android device. Whether it’s making contact with a Safe Helpline staff member or accessing a self-care exercise, you can do it anonymously and in confidence 24/7.

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Kinjal Dalal and Lindsey Gundram explain the features of Safe Helplineto to Kentucky National Guard sexual assault response coordinators. (Photo by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — When the United State military calls up troops for battle, two things happen: men and women alike are trained and equipped for the mission before putting boots on the ground.  It doesn’t matter if they’re heading out for the mountains of Afghanistan or a recovery duty following a tornado on the homefront; Soldiers and Airmen have to know what to do when facing a threat and they must have the resources to get the job done.  It’s all part of maintaining an effective force and accomplishing the mission.

The same goes for the less glamorous but no less important assignment of protecting victims of sexual assault and harassment.  The good news is that training and gear are being made available through the Kentucky Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program/Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Prevention.

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Kinjal Dalal and Lindsey Gundram of Safe Helpline talk with Charles Lay, Kentucky National Guard Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. (Photo by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

One of the most important and innovative tools in dealing with sexual assault and harassment has been the Department of Defense Safe Helpline and its staff of trained and passionate professionals.

Click here to access Safehelpline.org.

“The DOD Safe Helpline staff are there to provide confidential, anonymous support to the DOD community no matter where they are in the world,” said Lindsey Gundram, Safehelpline senior manager.  “And we are there twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to help.”

Since its beginning in 2011 Safe Helpline has helped over 22,000 people and over 319,000 people received information from SafeHelpline.org.

NEED HELP?  CALL 877-995-5247

Through their telephone helpline alone, Safe Helpline has help almost 11,000 callers since launching, providing over 9,500 service referrals (SARCs, Veterans Affairs, local rape crisis centers, etc.)

“The DOD Safe Helpline is a tremendous resource for folks in need,” said Charles Lay, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the Kentucky National Guard.  “I’m impressed by the passion and dedication of the staff.  They come from a variety of backgrounds, all coming together to help our military members in their time of need.”

A key tool offered by Safe Helpline is their website.  Safehelpline.org offers a variety of resources to survivors of sexual assault and harassment, including crisis support and intervention services, emotional support, and information/referrals.  Best of all, this is all done in a confidential, anonymous and secure environment.

“Safety and security for the victims of sexual assault is foremost on our minds,” said Lay.  “When a person has been violated, trust is usually the first thing to go.  It’s essential that we do everything we can to reassure them that they do not have to go through this experience alone, and that we can be trusted to see this through with them.”

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The newest crop of trained sexual assault response coordinators. If you or someone you know needs help, seek it out. You are not in this alone. (Photo by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

The website is easily accessed by government computers as well as mobile devices to include Blackberries, iPhones and Android.

There’s even an app to access the Safe Helpine resources, available for both iPhone and Android devices.  The app contains allows sexual assault survivors in the military to create a self care plan and access resources from anywhere in the world.

The app also has self-care exercises to help victims deal with stress and panic attacks at the touch of a finger.

An important feature of the app is that, like the website, everything is anonymous and confidential.  Once you download the app you don’t need an internet connection to use it.  And when deleted, everything disappears; its as if it never existed on your device.

“From the soldier perspective, this is a complicated issue,” said Maj. Bobbie Mayes, who took part in the sexual assault response training.  “Both males and females are expected to be tough in the face of adversity.  But you’re sexually assaulted, especially by a fellow soldier, and trying to report the incident, that’s an extremely difficult thing to do.”

Mayes thinks the anonymous features of Safe Helpline and its website and apps can give victims the boost in confidence necessary to survive and deal with the aftermath of a sexual assault.

“Giving someone a tool like Safe Helpline, either online or through the apps, where they are safe and secure and can discuss their options with someone who is trained to understand the issues at hand, this the first step in preparing to take your case to leadership,” she said.  “It’s a process that everyone goes through differently, but you have to begin somewhere.  And this gives you that place to begin.”

For more information on how to combat sexual harassment and assault, call 502-607-1276/1384/1249.

You can email Charles Lay at: charles.r.lay.ctr@mail.mil

 

 

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