I'm thrilled to learn that RAINN.org (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) just launched their new National Sexual Assault Online Hotline today so sexual assault victims, and their family members or friends, can get live and anonymous help online.
As someone who answered my local rape crisis line for over 9 years I know how important having access to trained advocates really is. When I tried to reach out after my rapes, those I contacted didn't have the training to realize that I was a rape victim because I couldn't put what was done to me in those terms.
One of the problems with a telephone hotline system is that the caller must be in a location where they feel safe talking. Many victims of all ages reach out for help from people they don't know and who are seen as potentially trustworthy before they make the decision to disclose to friends or family. Family or friends may suspect that someone they care about has been a victim of sexual violence and need help in order to effectively help that person. This means that the possibility of an overheard conversation stops some people from calling.
This problem is only one reason for the new online hotline. Many teens are more comfortable reaching out online than through a phone call to a stranger. Sometimes it is easier to type a horrific truth than it is to speak it.
Almost half of all sexual assault victims are under 18 and as I know too well, the offender can be someone who is still close by.
USA Today has a story about this new service. Please, go read it.
Please help spread the word so that all those who need this service know it is there and available for them.
It's important to know that this hotline isn't restricted to those with fresh trauma. Many of us bury our trauma (or try to) for years before we are either unable to bury it or decide that it has been buried long enough.
If you have reached out in the past to someone you thought should be able to help you and found the results disappointing or disastrous, please consider reaching out again.