OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Using Online Communications to Assist Crime Victims in the Military
Bette Stebbins, Jennifer Marsh  -  2011/9/13
How many actual military victims have used the SAFE Helpline? Does this number include the launch in April where many SARCS and VA tested the site for accuracy?
1.  Bette
 The Safe Helpline is an anonymous service and the SHL staff does not ask for any personally identifying information. However, sometimes people voluntarily provide information, for example, they might say, Im from the Army, and often times based on the discussion and referrals provided to the SHL visitor and caller, the SHL staff can estimate the number of Service member victims receiving help. To date, there have been approximately 1,143 people helped and of that number, approximately 40 were either SARCs/VAs verifying information.
A sailor is on board ship at sea. Does the OCONUS text # reach the SafeHelpline from sea. I would like to know how the response works for that kind of access since the sailor may not be able to call or email.
1.  Jen Marsh
 The Safe Helpline is available by phone at 1.877.995.5427 (via DSN), online at safehelpline.org, and Service members can receive their SARCs contact information by texting 55247. If a Service member not have access to phone service , either DSN or cell, we encourage him/her to seek a resources where he/she is, such as a chaplain.
2.  Lorraine Clancy
 I still do not think this works in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when your cell phone has no service because there is no cell tower. And not all service members have access to the computer on board ship. DSN lines are limited as well.
3.  Lorraine Clancy
 In other words, if you are in the middle of the ocean and do not have cell phone service and are afraid that someone will see your online communication, the SafeHelpline is not a resource?
4.  Bette
 The texting will work for Service members who have a U.S. cell provider. The texting service will provide you with your SARCs phone and you can also access the Safe Hotline from all DSN phones and online.
Do you find that more people access services through the online hotline than a phone hotline?
1.  Jen Marsh
 Currently usage of the Safe Helpline online and telephone services is roughly equal.
Who typically uses the hotline versus the telephone hotline?
1.  Bette
 At this point we have not identified any difference between telephone and online hotline users.
Tone and emotion are difficult to "read" online. Does this limit your responses to victims who use the online hotline? If so, how and have you been able to overcome this obstacle?
1.  Jen Marsh
 RAINN has been operating the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline for over 5 years and during this time we have created an extensive training component on effective online active listening and support. In many ways the people using online services find that online communication is the only way they can discuss what has happened to them and to do it in a safe and anonymous way empowers them to share thoughts and feelings they would not do otherwise.
I'm just curious to know what type of online communication is actually being utilized to date and when we refer to crime victims in the military, are we referring to victims currently serving or would this include their dependents?
1.  Jen Marsh
 The Safe Helpline offers live, secure, anonymous support online in an instant messaging format. Safe Helpline was created for adult Service members who have been sexually assaulted, however if dependents contact the Helpline they will be assisted and referred to appropriate resources.
What is the biggest obstacle you faced developing the online hotline?
1.  Bette
 What a great question. Actually, developing the Safe Helpline was relatively pain free since RAINN had already developed the technology all that was left to do was adapt it to the unique needs of the military.
I am interested to know more about the training of people who staff the online communications and how you work with issues of confidentiality, mandated reporting (if that comes up) and safety (such as in the case of a suicidal caller).
1.  Jen Marsh
 All Safe Helpline staff complete approximately 50 hours of training, including specialized training on mandatory reporting and confidentiality and the unique circumstances of working with Service members. We have developed extensive training for staff and supervisors as well as protocols to screen for suicidality online based on 5 years of providing online service through the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.
I am aware that the military has made great strides in providing outreach and services to victims of crime. But most of these services are strictly within the military. When speaking with a victim of crime, is there any communication provided about services provided in the civilian realm. For example, the military has a Military PO, which is more similar to a temporary PO. Are victims informed of how to apply for a permanent PO through the civilian sector?
1.  Bette
 All users are provided military and civilian resources. RAINN connects all users who want to know more about civilian protective orders to the local affiliate who is an expert on that localitys laws and processes. The statutes and laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
I am not familiar with the SAFE helpline. Exactly what information is provided by the SAFE helpline to military victims?
1.  Bette
 The Safe Helpline is an online hotline and telephone hotline that provides additional avenues for Service member sexual assault victims to receive crisis support and information about reporting securely and anonymously. Additionally, texting capabilities provide immediate, up-to-date contact information for Sexual Assault Response Coordinators. You can learn more about the Helpline by visiting www.safehelpline.org
Have video conferencing forums (such as Skype) been used with Crime Victims and what are your thoughts about providing services through this medium?
1.  Bette
 I believe there are some innovative services now available to assist Crime Victims, such as utilizing Skype. A primary concern centers on confidentiality if using the service in a public setting. Making sure that informed consent is enabled prior to service, is key.
With online communication, there is always the possibility of delay. How can we make sure we're responding and serving victims without a lapse in time and make sure we provide them with the appropriate services quickly enough?
1.  Jen Marsh
 The Safe Helpline currently has a waiting room that provides the user with an estimated wait time along with information on sexual assault to read if they do have to wait to be connected to a staff member. We find that providing this information, similar to a phone queue, allows users to decide how they would like to proceed.
Are there currently any mechanisms in place to capture aggregate data regarding the reasons why victims are contacting the SAFE Helpline? For example, if there are not services where they are, if they are not familiar with local services, etc so that those of us who work in the military can address and fix these concerns?
1.  Bette
 We don't specifically ask visitors why they contact the Safe Helpline. However, we are capturing aggregate data on the services being provided. Recommend you check with your program manager for this information.
I am curious about how you maintain confidentiality when there is an internet 'paper trail' of sorts with online communications as opposed to a telephone hotline.
1.  Jen Marsh
 Safe Helpline does not store or record IP addresses or transcripts of sessions. The technology behind the service was built specifically to meet the unique confidentiality needs of sexual assault survivors. At the beginning and end of every online session staff review computer safety issues and concerns and are trained on how to guide users through cleaning cookies, cache, history, etc. based on the browser they are using.
Online communication appears to offer a confidential way for victims to get the help they need. Are any of the discussions stored somewhere in cyberspace, accessible to become admissable in court at any time?
1.  Jen Marsh
 RAINN does not store or record any online sessions or IP addresses. As soon as the chat window is closed the session is gone and we do not solicit any personally identifying information - meaning that there is no way for RAINN to confirm that a specific individual used the service.
Is there any type of follow-up assistance offered to these victims? If so, what?
1.  Bette
 Absolutely. We offer resources for follow-up assistance depending on the victims preferences. Resources include on and off bases services, such as civilian sexual assault service providers, counselors, medical care, legal, and Chaplains.
I see from other questions and answers there is a discussion about confidentiality of communications to/from the Safe Helpline - and it is great to see that the hotline does not record IP addresses, etc. so that confidentiality is intact. I'm just curious whether any subpoenas have yet issued for the information (even if it doesn't exist we know subpoenas will come), what protocols are in place to have those responded to with motions to quash, and what protocols are in place to notify the victim if the subpoena issues to the record-holder so that she can herself move to quash?
1.  Jen Marsh
 RAINN has never received a subpoena for any records relating to our online services and there would not be any information to provide if we did receive one. In the unlikely event that we do at some point receive a subpoena we have developed internal procedures to address the issue quickly.
2.  Jen Marsh
 RAINN has never received a subpoena for any records relating to our online services and there would not be any information to provide if we did receive one. In the unlikely event that we do at some point receive a subpoena we have developed internal procedures to address the issue quickly.
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