Late last year, SAFE added a chat line to its 24/7 telephone hotline service to offer an additional line of help for anyone affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, or human trafficking. The services, both free, are also available to anyone needing parenting support. SAFE is a merger between the Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace.
SAFEline consistently receives thousands of phone calls each year, with 14,290 calls in 2016. But this June, SAFE reported more than 100 people had used the chat service, up from 31 users in January.
In addition to helping adults who are more comfortable with digital communication, SAFE hopes to reach youth via chat. Young people don’t often call the hotline, and studies show many youth prefer to chat instead of talk on the phone. Chat can also help members of the deaf community who prefer chat to relay/VRS, people with disabilities who prefer communicating by text, and anyone who prefers not to talk on the phone.
“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,” said Sarah Kammerdiener, SAFEline advocate.
Currently, online chat advocates are available MONDAY- FRIDAY from 12:30 p.m. to midnight and SATURDAY-SUNDAY, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Chat duties are handled by two advocates, both of whom are fluent in Spanish and English. As the service expands, SAFE hopes to offer chat 24/7. In the meantime, anyone can access the SAFE hotline 24/7 at 512-267-SAFE (7233). Click here for more information about how to get help.
“Considering the countless boundaries survivors face when trying to escape the cycle of abuse, we want to make the brave decision to reach out as easy as possible,” said SAFE.
Through SAFEline and online chat, SAFE 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
To reach the SAFEline by chat online or from your mobile device:
Connect with SAFE at safeaustin.org/chat. Chat is available online MONDAY – FRIDAY, 12:30 p.m. to midnight; SATURDAY-SUNDAY, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
To reach the SAFEline by phone:
Calling SAFEline at 512.267.SAFE (7233), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.