How to Support Military Survivors Over the Holiday Season

The Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline is the Department’s sole crisis support service specially designed for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Safe Helpline is secure, confidential, anonymous, and available 24/7, worldwide. The Safe Helpline staff provides live, one-on-one support to survivors, their families, and other DoD stakeholders. It is operated by RAINN through a contract with the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

The holiday season can be a time of joy and togetherness, but for many military survivors of sexual assault, this time of year can also be challenging and emotionally charged. Loved ones can make a positive difference in a survivor's life by providing support and understanding, and Safe Helpline can connect them with valuable resources.

Empathy and Affirmation

Sometimes, the most powerful support can come from words of empathy and affirmation. Simple phrases like, "I believe you," and, "You are not alone," can go a long way in reassuring survivors that their feelings and experiences are valid. These affirmations can be a comforting reminder that they have people who care about them. To find more examples of what loved ones can say to help support a survivor’s recovery, visit Info for Friends or take the Safe Helpline "How to Support a Survivor" self-paced program, which provides concrete tools to help friends, family members, and colleagues support a survivor’s recovery.

Respecting Boundaries

One of the most crucial aspects of supporting a survivor, especially during the holiday season, is respecting their boundaries. This time of year can be particularly challenging for many survivors, who may need space to process their emotions. Friends and family members should be understanding and accommodating of a survivor’s need for personal space or establishing other boundaries, such as avoiding uncomfortable topics. Practicing open communication and empathy can also help survivors feel safe expressing their boundaries. To learn more about setting and respecting boundaries, particularly for romantic partners, visit Boundaries and Healthy Relationships.

Seeking Support

Safe Helpline offers valuable resources for survivors in the DoD community, including a 24/7 Telephone Helpline and Online Helpline. The Online Helpline can be especially helpful for survivors who are concerned about being overheard, and is designed to look like a typical instant messaging platform to protect a user’s privacy. Both services are anonymous and confidential, and survivors can seek support discreetly. Another powerful resource is Safe Helpline’s "Building Hope and Resiliency" self-paced program. The program helps survivors begin to recover, heal, and build resiliency after sexual assault. It can be accessed anonymously and is a great option for survivors who are not yet comfortable speaking directly with a service provider.


Self-care is an essential tool for both survivors and their loved ones, especially when typical support networks might not be accessible during the holiday season. The Safe Helpline App has a section that allows survivors to create a self-care plan, which they can use to track changes in how they are doing over time while they don’t have access to the support system that would typically help them with that. The self-care section of the app also includes a journaling feature and a coloring book to provide survivors and loved ones with self-care activities right at their fingertips.

This holiday season, remember the importance of supporting military survivors and creating a safe and compassionate space for them. Safe Helpline is here to support survivors wherever they are in their healing process, as well as their friends, family members, and loved ones.

To speak with a trained Safe Helpline staff member today, visit or call 877-995-5247.

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