Five Years of Confidential, Innovative Support for Survivors of Sexual Assault in the Military

“More survivors are connecting with the Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline as a first step in a long process of healing than ever before,” says Jen Marsh, a vice president at Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Marsh is referring to the more than 60,000 survivors, family members, colleagues, and others who have accessed services from the Safe Helpline since it launched in 2011. Additionally, there have been more than 1 million instances of people getting information and support through safehelpline.org in only five years. The Safe Helpline continues to be a trusted place for members of the DoD community to talk about issues related to sexual assault and receive professional and empathetic support. “The anonymity and confidentiality of the Safe Helpline provides survivors who may not otherwise seek help with a place to talk and receive support services.”

Safe Helpline logo

Over the last five years, the Safe Helpline has developed a comprehensive suite of services aimed at meeting the needs of survivors all over the world, through every stage of their recovery process.

First launched in 2011, the Safe Helpline started with three services: the Telephone Helpline, the Online Helpline, and Info by text. The Telephone Helpline and Online Helpline offer anonymous, one-on-one confidential support 24/7, and are still the primary ways that survivors connect to the Safe Helpline. Info by text offers users quick, on-the-go access to on-base and off-base sexual assault resources.

After the initial three services were launched, the Safe Helpline leveraged both external research and direct feedback from service users, staff, and the DoD Community to enhance capabilities with the development of the Safe Helpline Self-Care mobile app and the Safe HelpRoom. Introduced in 2012, the Safe Helpline mobile app provides users with access to support and information including a self-care plan and relaxation exercises, even without an internet connection. The Safe HelpRoom began in 2013 to meet the need for confidential peer support services where survivors are able to connect with each other as a group, in an online, moderated, anonymous environment, 24/7.

The most recent enhancements to the DoD Safe Helpline services in 2015 include Follow-up Support Services and the ability to report instances of retaliation through safehelpline.org. Follow-up Support Services offer Safe Helpline users the option to receive a follow-up phone call from Safe Helpline staff to ensure they were able to connect with the resources discussed during their session. This feature is available to those who have yet to report their assault, and gives users the time and support they may need to build confidence in the reporting process. Reporting retaliation through the Military Feedback Form on safehelpline.org allows individuals who have experienced retaliation to provide as little or as much information as they would like to the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) and/or the DoD Inspector General. Additional information regarding retaliation reporting can now be found on safehelpline.org.

This year, the Safe Helpline will introduce a new resource to support survivors of sexual assault who experienced victimization prior to coming into the military. The resource is a self-guided educational program that individuals can access through the Safe Helpline website and mobile app. The course will provide information and exercises designed to enhance internal strengths and build resiliency among Service members who have previously experienced sexual assault.

With the development of each service, the DoD Safe Helpline has been able to provide new ways to meet and support survivors at every point in their path to healing. Whether a survivor needs immediate one-on-one emotional support, wants to connect with other survivors, or is seeking support from any of the hundreds of military and civilian resources available to him/her, the Safe Helpline has a service that can help.


The DoD Safe Helpline provides confidential crisis support and information for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. You can get the help you need — while remaining anonymous. Safe Helpline services are provided by DoD SAPRO and are operated through a contract by RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Seven out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim.

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