Finding Support During the Holiday Season: Coping Skills and Self-Care for Military Survivors

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.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault in the DoD community, you may be experiencing a variety of emotions as you prepare to spend time with or away from your support networks and family over the holidays. Safe Helpline is here to provide resources and support during these challenging times.

A support network is made up of people in your life who support your healing journey and well-being. Support networks can be instrumental in your healing process and can take many different forms. You may find support in family, friends, coworkers, significant others, and other loved ones. Mental healthcare providers and sexual assault service providers, like Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocates (SAPR VAs), can also make up important pieces of your support network. You might rely on your support network for emotional support, self-care, reassurance, or even financial support throughout your healing journey. It may be difficult for some survivors to access their support networks during the holidays due to physical and geographical barriers, as well as ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Service members who are deployed or stationed abroad, traveling home to see loved ones may be impossible, even during the holidays. It can be difficult to feel isolated from your support network, particularly during times of the year typically associated with family gatherings. While you may not be able to physically spend time with your support network, you may consider connecting with them virtually. Calling, texting, and video chatting can help you feel connected to loved ones even while far away.

Families and loved ones can play many different roles in your healing journey, and support networks can look different for everyone. You may feel that your friends, significant other(s), or coworkers are the primary members of your support network. Being isolated from your support system can be difficult, but resources are available to help you access the support you deserve even when your support network is not easily accessible.

Practicing self-care may help you cope with negative emotions and manage the effects of trauma. Safe Helpline’s self-paced educational program, Resiliency and Connection through Self-Care, can help you create a personal self-care plan as you plan for a trip over the holidays. If you are looking for coping exercises in moments of need, the Safe Helpline mobile app can help. Available on the go and accessible from anywhere in the world, you may consider using the coloring book pages and relaxation exercises to practice self-care and promote healing while in an unsupportive environment. Download the app here, available on the App Store and Google Play. Always remember to connect directly with a licensed clinician if you begin to feel overwhelmed and are unable to cope. If you do not already have a clinician you are working with, you may consider searching Safe Helpline’s Responder Database to find a service provider near you. If you are in crisis, you can connect with Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 or the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (select option 1).

If your support network is interested in learning more about how to best support you and other survivors in their lives, they can access more information on Safe Helpline's Information for Loved Ones webpage or through the Self-Paced Educational Program, “How to Support a Survivor”. Safe Helpline is here to support you and your support network, today and every day.

When an important piece of your support network is geographically far from you, it can also be helpful to reach out to others who may be supportive. Spending time with friends and coworkers on base, connecting with a SARC or SAPR VA, or utilizing Safe Helpline’s crisis support services can help ensure you are getting the support you deserve. Safe Helpline’s Telephone and Online Helplines are anonymous, confidential, and accessible 24/7 from anywhere in the world. Safe Helpline’s resources are staffed by compassionate, trained, and knowledgeable staff members who are here to support you. Staff can provide emotional support, help you create a self-care and/or safety plan, and connect you to other useful resources. If you are struggling with isolation from your support networks, Safe Helpline is here to help.

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