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Release No: 374-13
May 30, 2013

DOD Expands Safe Helpline with Innovative Peer Support System for Sexual Assault Victims

            Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the launch of The Safe HelpRoom created in response to Safe Helpline users who identified a need for peer support services.   The new service allows victims of sexual assault to participate in group chat sessions to connect with and support one another in a moderated secure online environment at SafeHelpline.org.  The moderator is also available to provide referrals as necessary and ensure all ground rules are adhered to prior to chat postings. 

            “Survivors of sexual assault have told us that being able to discuss their concerns with peers can provide a level of support not available through other means, “said Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. Wright. “ The Safe HelpRoom is a groundbreaking development in the department’s commitment to support military victims of sexual assault.” 

            Safe HelpRoom sessions will begin immediately and are available twice weekly in two-hour sessions. The session schedule can be found at SafeHelpline.org, along with polls to determine session topics to address specific concerns.   The Safe HelpRoom and Safe Helpline are administered by DoD and operated by the non-profit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, through a contractual agreement with DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO). 

            “Safe HelpRoom was designed with unique safeguards to ensure a safe and welcoming place for survivors to connect,” said Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, director, DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.  “Safe HelpRoom is the first of its kind to require participants to commit to a series of ‘ground rules’ of acceptable behavior before entering a session. Additionally, each participant comment is reviewed to ensure it complies with the ground rules prior to posting for the group to see.   The Safe HelpRoom provides a secure and private environment for positive and supportive discussions.” 

            When users visit Safe Helpline, the staff provides one-on-one tailored assistance and offers a variety of up-to-date service referrals for resources on and off military bases and installations.  Service referrals include information for sexual assault response coordinators, along with legal, medical, mental health, and spiritual military resources.  The referral database also houses information for local civilian and the Department of Veterans Affairs resources for helpline users seeking information and crisis support away from the military response system. 

            Additional information regarding DoD SAPRO and DoD Safe Helpline/Safe HelpRoom can be found at http://www.sapr.mil/ .

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