Anonymous. Confidential. Secure. Safe Helpline is all three.
We know that reaching out for support after sexual assault can be difficult, and you need to be able to trust that the information you disclose will be protected. Sometimes it’s not always clear whether the support you receive will be anonymous or in some cases, remain confidential, and what that means. To best support survivors, Safe Helpline is both anonymous and confidential, as well as secure, which gives us the ability to provide a uniquely safe space for survivors to heal at their own pace.
How is Safe Helpline Anonymous and Confidential?
Anonymous means that you can access Safe Helpline without needing to share any personal information about yourself. Safe Helpline staff will not ask you for your personal information and will politely discourage you from sharing information in order to protect your privacy.
Anonymity provides you with the foundation for a safe, secure place to talk about what happened, where you control when and how much information you share.
We don’t need to know who you are in order to help.
You can access Safe Helpline confidentially, meaning that even if you do choose to disclose personally identifying information with staff, it won’t be documented or shared except where required by law. Confidentiality means that in most cases you can share information and it will be protected.
The Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (DoD SAPRO) established Safe Helpline so that members of the DoD community impacted by sexual assault can discuss their situation and concerns freely without worry that their information will be shared with the DoD or their chain of command.
How does Safe Helpline stay confidential?
Executive Order 13696 keeps communication between you and Safe Helpline staff for the purpose of receiving advice, support, or assistance as privileged information in cases arising under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Privilege, authorized by law or rules of evidence, allows the holder of privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent another from disclosing private confidential communications.
This is similar to Military Rule of Evidence (MRE) 514 that keeps the communication between a victim and Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) or Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocates (SAPR VAs) as privileged information.
There are some exceptions to confidentiality and privilege that Safe Helpline, like all other support service organizations, must follow. Please see these exceptions below:
These exceptions relate specifically to a user’s imminent safety, any threat of harm by a user to someone else, and the user’s membership in a protected class (these protected classes vary by state; you can learn more here).
Safe Helpline staff members are still mandatory reporters, if users disclose one of the following situations:
- Neglect and abuse of a child, disabled individual, or the elderly.
- Exhibits suicidal ideation.
- Threats to harm others.
What is privilege?
Privilege is a legal term that protects communication between a survivor (and their guardians if appropriate) and certain legal professionals or responders. For more information about how privilege works and who has it, please reach out to your SARC or local legal responders using the Safe Helpline Responder Database.
What will happen if I share personal information with Safe Helpline staff?
We understand that sharing personally identifying information with Safe Helpline staff can happen, and that’s ok. However, to maintain your anonymity, we have put processes in place to ensure that if you start to share PII with staff, you’ll kindly be reminded that we do not require any personal information to support your needs. No personally identifying information shared this way will ever be documented or recorded.
However, if, despite the reminder, you share information that fall as under one of the exceptions to confidentiality, a Safe Helpline staff member may be required by law to file a mandatory report.
Staff is trained to explain what that means and will support you through this process. See these exceptions here.
Does Safe Helpline ask any prerequisite or screening questions before using its services?
No, we do not screen users who access our services. We’ll never ask questions about your Service or rank, or any other identifying information.
To better support you, the only questions Safe Helpline staff are trained to ask during every session is to go through a few initial safety checks and review some basic protocol including:
- Checking in around physical safety
- Reviewing what to do if the chat/call is disconnected
- Addressing any computer safety or privacy concerns
How does Safe Helpline stay secure?
Safe Helpline technology was specially built to protect your anonymity with every connection. The technology was built from the ground up to provide the highest level of security during each session. Safe Helpline’s technology platforms undergo rigorous annual third-party reviews to ensure that the services you receive are safe, secure, and anonymous. We’ve taken the following steps to protect you when accessing Safe Helpline:
- We never log IP addresses. By not using or storing an IP address, the technology platform ensures that sessions cannot be traced back to you.
- We don’t save session transcripts. Unlike email, call centers, or instant messaging platforms, which are designed to save information that can be accessed later, our technology platforms never write the transcripts of a session to disk.
- All data is encrypted. All messages are encrypted using a data encryption protocol that guarantees security while maintaining rapid data exchange, ensuring that the content of the messages cannot be intercepted and read in transit.
- You’re anonymous. The technology platform relies on routing methods that anonymize the connection between you and Safe Helpline staff via the use of unique codes, making all communication anonymous.
In addition to these overall steps we’ve taken to keep Safe Helpline anonymous and confidential, we’ve also taken specific steps with each individual service. You can learn more about how we’ve made each service secure at the links below:
- Telephone Helpline
- Online Helpline
- Safe HelpRoom
- Safe Helpline App
- Self-Paced educational programs