Staff Spotlight: Jennifer Marsh

When Jennifer Marsh joined RAINN as a volunteer recruiter in 2006, the National Sexual Assault Hotline existed only by telephone — but that was all about to change. “When I saw the job opening at RAINN and learned that the new Online Hotline was in the works, I knew I wanted to be part of expanding services for survivors.”

Expand it did: This year marks the 10th anniversary for RAINN’s Online Hotline, the web’s first secure hotline service. To get the hotline up and running, Marsh helped build partnerships across the country and recruit and train hotline staff to take online chat sessions. Trainings took place at RAINN’s DC headquarters and, later, in New York City.

The Online Hotline, which today operates 24/7, wasn’t always around-the-clock. “At first we were operating about five hours a week. But the demand grew quickly. We knew that we’d have to train more hotline staff to meet the needs of survivors all over the country,” says Marsh. In the first month of operation, the Online Hotline helped an average of seven survivors each day. Now, it routinely helps hundreds per day.

Over the past decade, Marsh has seen more than 4,000 individuals trained by RAINN to serve as support specialists for the Online Hotline. “Our hotline staff have gone on to work in all kinds of professions including law, criminal justice and social work. It’s gratifying to know that these individuals have a broad skill set and understanding of sexual violence that can be applied to both their personal and professional lives.”

In addition to the Online Hotline, Marsh has overseen the expansion of other services, including the DoD Safe Helpline in 2011, and a suite of Spanish services in 2015. “What we’ve seen is a constantly increasing demand for online services. Providing support to underserved populations, and seeing this growing demand, has underscored that these services are not simply complementary to existing services but rather a critical and necessary resource for survivors.”

RAINN’s services aren’t evolving in a silo. As sexual assault continues to receive media coverage, Marsh has noticed a considerable difference in how reporters speak and write about the topic of sexual assault. “The dialogue around this issue is really unprecedented,” Marsh says. “A big part of that has to do with media coverage. Ten years ago, reporters would call us and ask for an overview or just background on the issue. Today, reporters are so much more educated and aware of the sensitivities involved with interviewing sexual assault survivors.”

Marsh spoke last month at an event with the National Press Club Journalism Institute, offering insight to journalists about how to interview survivors of sexual assault. Education and outreach has been a core aspect of RAINN’s work, helping college students, communities, and the entertainment industry connect people with help and understand the role they can play in prevention efforts.

Today, Marsh leads the victims services team at RAINN, which consists of more than 120 employees and hundreds of volunteers. “Everyone at RAINN is so passionate and smart. That’s what makes our organization amazing — it’s the people we have here. My role is to help them do all the things they want to with their programs. If they have great ideas, I want to help them realize those goals.”

When Marsh isn’t in the office, she is collaborating with other service providers, organizations and federal partners. In her down-time she likes to to spend time with her husband and three children and spend time in her garden teaching her three kids the joys of picking vegetables and convincing them that pulling weeds is fun.

About RAINN
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of "America's 100 Best Charities" by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. In 2015, the Online Hotline expanded to offer services in Spanish at rainn.org/es. The hotlines have helped more than two million people since 1994. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice. For more information about RAINN, please visit rainn.org.

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