Safe HelpRoom, a service provided by DoD Safe Helpline, is an online community of sexual assault survivors in the military that meets to support each other in taking the next steps after a sexual assault. It’s free, secure and available 24/7 — and, since May 14, there’s an additional help room specifically for men.
Every Sunday, between the hours of 1-3 p.m. EST, men who have gone through similar experiences can connect with one another securely, confidentially and anonymously by accessing www.safehelpline.org.
“As part of ongoing efforts to support military men, Safe Helpline will hold Safe HelpRoom sessions for military men who have experienced unwanted sexual contact,” explained Kinjal Dalal, senior Safe Helpline manager. “Safe HelpRoom is an anonymous, moderated, 24/7 online group chat that allows individuals who have experienced sexual assault in the military to connect with and support one another.”
According to FY 2016 DoD’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, “reports from women still outnumbered men, but more men reported the crime in 2016 than ever before.”
NAS Patuxent River Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Coordinator Gloria Arteaga’s experience has shown that men more often report a “restricted” case — one where a victim may disclose the crime without notifying command or law enforcement officials — when reporting sexual assault to the SAPR program.
“Often, restricted cases are also reported to confidential sources like counselors, medical and/or chaplains but many others still go unreported,” Arteaga said.” The Safe HelpRoom is intended to help those who still struggle with what happened to them and allows them a safe place to be rid of some of the trauma caused by a sexual assault violation.”
Safe HelpRoom sessions have a moderator who can provide referrals and help keep the conversation focused on survivors’ needs as well as a reviewer who ensures all participants are adhering to the site’s ground rules, such as not providing any personally identifying information; not requesting any identifying information from other participants; refraining from the use of abusive, graphic or inappropriate language; and actively interacting with the group.
Security and anonymity are protected because Self HelpRoom does not capture a participant’s IP address, so there is no record they were ever involved. And no transcript is saved, so once a chat window is closed, the text is not retrievable. Chat group reviewers also have the real-time ability to block messages that violate the site’s aforementioned ground rules.
“These sessions are for survivors only,” Dalal reiterated. “Safe Helpline staff serve as moderators to ensure that anonymity is maintained and that the sessions are safe and supportive experiences for all.”
Self Helpline is operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), under contract with the DoD, to provide confidential and anonymous services for the DoD community. For more information, visit www.safehelpline.org. To call the Safe Helpline, phone 877-995-5247.