Behind the Scenes: The Making of the DoD Safe Helpine

While RAINN has extensive experience serving victims of sexual assault in the U.S. (the National Sexual Assault Hotline and Online Hotline have helped more than 1.5 million people since 1994), creating new services to help military personnel stationed on every continent presented some new challenges. DoD’s mandate was clear: All services need to operate 24/7, they need to work worldwide, and they must be tailored to the specific needs of members of the DoD community.

Over then past year, RAINN has hired more than 40 new staff members and provided thousands of hours of training to staff. “We have extensively trained all of the staff members who will work on the Safe Helpline,” said Lindsy Gundrum, the Safe Helpline manager at RAINN. “We’ve got an extraordinary group of people who are excited to launch the service and are ready to help service members begin recovering from their attack.”

Some more facts about the Safe Helpline:

➢ The new telephone helpline runs over VoPI (Voice over Private Internet). After helping callers, helpline staff can transfer them to a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator on their base or installation, anywhere in the world, or to a civilian service provider.

➢ Thanks to the Defense Information Systems Agency, every military base and installation in the world has been programmed to access the Safe Helpline through the Defense Switched Network (DSN), a private DoD telecom network. Through DSN, the same helpline number (877-995-5247) is available toll-free from every country.

➢ RAINN adapted the award-winning Online Hotline to serve military users. This included creating an entirely new site at; building the Reportal, which provides real-time data on helpline usage to DoD and the military services; and adding hundreds of resources to our helpline dashboard for staff to access during sessions.

➢ Working with DoD, RAINN also built a referral database of thousands of sexual assault response coordinators, chaplains and others who help victims in the military. RAINN’s 1,100 local partners — civilian sexual assault service providers in every state — are also included.

➢ The SMS (texting) service provides immediate contact info for the sexual assault response coordinator on every military base and installation. "For the first time, the DoD community around the world — in 160 countries — will be able to get information on where to get help simply by sending a text message” said Jacob Hileman, RAINN’s director of technology.

➢ DoD personnel have tested all Safe Helpline services from every corner of the world — from Arizona (Davis-Monthan Air Force Base) to Afghanistan (Kandahar), and even in Antarctica (McMurdo Station).

➢ The law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett provided extensive help to RAINN by creating privacy policies and advising on other operational issues.

Read more about Safe Helpline

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