Businesses trying to combat sexual harassment at work should consider implementing a model similar to the DOD´s Safe Helpline Sexual Assault Support App.
The Department of Defense provides a “Safe Helpline” service for active duty, reserve and National Guard members through which survivors of sexual assault can access care and support. Care is provided by either DOD or civilian carers - whichever the survivor prefers - and the service is supported by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) - the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.
The service can be accessed online, by phone or by text, and mechanisms are in place to prevent carers capturing IP addresses, saving transcripts or identifying survivors by their smartphone number. Survivors can provide information about themselves if desired, including non-identifying data such as their military service or age range. Non-identifying data is used to evaluate the effectiveness of the service.
As well as being confidential and anonymous, the “Safe Helpline” service encourages survivors of sexual assault to come forward and receive the support they may need. As the survivor´s confidence in the service increases, it is hoped they will have the strength to participate in the criminal justice process in order to help eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assault in the Armed Forces.
The Safe Helpline Sexual Assault Support App
The Safe Helpline Sexual Assault Support App is an app all DOD members can download to learn more about sexual assault - such as what to do if someone they know has been assaulted, the effects of sexual assault, and how to reduce the risks of a sexual assault. The app can be also be used to contact crisis support workers or chat anonymously with other survivors in the Safe HelpRoom.
One of the best features of the Safe Helpline Sexual Assault Support App is the feature enabling survivors of sexual assault to create a customized self-care plan. Users can supplement on-going therapy by answering six questions to identify the how they feel, and quickly access self-care exercises, audio and visual tools to help them cope during difficult moments.
Once downloaded, the app does not need an Internet connection in order to contact crisis support workers or access the self-help elements of the service. The audio and visual tools are permanently available when required, and the self-care exercises can be saved for quick access. The Safe Helpline Sexual Assault Support App can be downloaded free of charge from the Google and iTunes stores.
Why Businesses Should Implement a Similar Model
Sexual harassment and sexual assault at work can cause intense feelings of humiliation. Survivors of sexual assault often admit to feeling ashamed and self-doubt - particularly if they are abused by a colleague in a position of authority, where the prospect of retaliation also prohibits their willingness to come forward and report the sexual assault.
Research has shown survivors of sexual assault often struggle with fears that other people will judge, blame and disbelieve them, and fear how gossip about what has been done to them can further inflict feelings of isolation, shame and humiliation. A solution is for businesses to implement a service similar to the DOD´s Safe Helpline Sexual Assault Support App in order that survivors can confidentially and anonymously seek the support they need to overcome their feelings.
Although many businesses will not be of the size that can support a chat room similar to the Safe HelpRoom, the self-care exercises, audio and visual tools can help workplace survivors of sexual assault cope during difficult moments in the same way as they can help military personnel. If the service were to work as well as the DOD´s “Safe Helpline” appears to be, it could help significantly reduce sexual harassment and sexual assault at work.