SAFEline: Let’s chatWritten by The SAFE Alliance
Sometimes a phone call is too dangerous. Sometimes an in-person visit is out of the question. In the modern day, sometimes it’s just easier to talk with text.
All the above was true for Jenn* when she left her physically abusive husband of seven years. We launched the SAFEline chat last year so people in abusive situations like hers have another safe, secure, confidential way to get the help they need.
The SAFEline is available 24/7 by phone at 512.267.SAFE (7233), text at 737.888.7233, or chat at safeaustin.org/chat.
Chat in action
Jenn was living in another city with her abusive husband. He had always threatened to kill her if she ever tried to leave. While her husband was in the shower, Jenn made her escape.
Jenn drove to Austin with just enough gas in her tank to get here. She had no money and all the shelters in the area were fully booked – all too common, sadly.
After a few days of sleeping in her car, a man who said he wanted to “protect her” had taken her photo and posted it online, advertising her for “escort services.”
She found herself being recruited for sex trafficking.
At that point, Jenn contacted the SAFEline chat.
“When someone contacts us by chat, our first priority is always to ensure they are currently in a safe place to chat. Once we establish they are safe, we can then proceed to diving into assessing their current most pressing need or needs.” – Sarah Kammerdiener, SAFEline Advocate
Jenn told our chat advocates where she’d been and what was happening. She said the fear she felt reminded her of past sexual abuse. Jenn had feelings of being used and discounted as a person.
We connected her with an agency that transferred her funds to relocate to a shelter with available space a few hours away. She received gas money and left the man who was trying to traffic her.
When Jenn reached the shelter, she called the SAFEline to tell us that she had arrived safely. She said she was ready to “begin my new life.”
Our chat advocates (who can also be reached by calling the SAFEline at 512.267.SAFE (7233), texting at 737.888.7233, or chat online at safeaustin.org/chat, are trained to provide assistance in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, child abuse and those in need of parenting support.
Online chat is here for those who prefer not to talk on the phone, are in a situation that is too dangerous to talk, Deaf people of all identities who prefer chat to relay/VRS, and people with disabilities who prefer communicating by text.
Because it is an online service, our live chat can be accessed on computers as well as internet-connected mobile devices that have a web browser.
Through SAFEline and online chat, we can:
- Offer a safe space where you can talk about your concerns with someone who cares and won’t judge
- Assist you in determining if you or a loved one is being abused verbally, emotionally, or physically
- Help you build a safety plan so you can find ways to be safe and be prepared to leave when the time is right
- Find emergency shelter, whether it is with us or another agency
- Give you access to support services so you can begin to heal from the trauma of rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, or human trafficking
- Provide information about and connection to all SAFE services and local resources
As technology evolves, so does communication. For many, especially young people, a phone call is simply not the preferred way to talk.
According to a recent SAFE survey, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they would prefer contacting SAFE by online chat. By comparison, around 31 percent preferred making contact by phone.
In Jenn’s case, online chat was the option she was most comfortable with.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, or child abuse – or is in need of parenting support – SAFEline is available.
Our SAFEline advocates are available 24/7 and are trained to communicate in Spanish and English.
*name changed to protect client’s identity