Safe Helpline provides support to those affected by sexual assault in the Department of Defense Community (DoD), which includes survivors in Military Correctional Facilities (MCFs). The DoD has designated the Safe Helpline as the hotline for inmates at all MCFs to receive confidential crisis intervention and referrals to support services or want to make a report, as required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act. During the first few days in a facility, all inmates within an MCF learn about the support Safe Helpline provides, the different types of reporting and how to access the Telephone Helpline.
What is PREA?
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is a federal law that puts in place legal requirements for the prevention, detection, and response to sexual abuse and sexual harassment of inmates. PREA requires Military Departments to fully investigate all incidents of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in MCFs, so Restricted Reporting is not an option available to inmates. However, PREA requires that a process be in place for reports to be made anonymously or through a third-party (not the survivor), which are required to be investigated based on the information provided.
Under PREA, the Department of Defense (DoD) makes sure the following happens:
Inmates who are survivors of sexual abuse are eligible for services provided by Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs), as well as other related support options, including medical and counseling services.
MCFs must report all incidents reported to them to the Military Criminal Investigative Organization (MCIO).
Mandatory investigations of all reports are conducted by the MCIO (for sexual abuse) or an appropriate non-MCIO investigative entity (sexual harassment) based on whatever information is available.
How does Safe Helpline support Inmates in accordance with PREA?
The Safe Helpline Telephone Helpline is available to inmates as a resource that will not be monitored or recorded by the MCF. Safe Helpline provides survivors, their friends and family, and others with confidential crisis intervention services and can connect inmates with the following responders:
SARC or Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate (SAPR VA) (only handles Unrestricted Reports)
Special Victims’ Counsel/Victims’ Legal Counsel (SVC/VLC)
Law Enforcement Personnel
Safe Helpline staff are trained to support every user contacting Safe Helpline through the crisis intervention model. Here’s how Safe Helpline staff will support a user:
Check-in about physical safety
Build rapport and actively listen to the user’s concerns and needs
Problem solve and build self-care plans
Provide information about resources and reporting options
Follow up on safety concerns and summarize the session with the user
In addition, Safe Helpline can help inmates make Unrestricted or Anonymous reports of sexual assault. Inmates can be transferred to a SARC to complete an Unrestricted report, or Safe Helpline staff themselves can help facilitate either an Unrestricted report or an Anonymous report.
Please note that since all reports of sexual abuse or sexual harassment in MCFs must be investigated, Restricted Reporting is not an available option.
How can an inmate make a report through Safe Helpline?
If an inmate contacts Safe Helpline and requests to make an Unrestricted Report, a staff member will offer to do a warm hand-off to a SARC or to facilitate the report through the Safe Helpline if the individual would prefer to not contact the SARC. In both instances, Safe Helpline staff will document as much information as the individual chooses to provide and then submit the report via the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO).
An inmate can call Safe Helpline to make an Anonymous Report, as well. Survivors and third parties (friends or family members) may anonymously report an incident without sharing their identity. Anonymous reports from inmates or third-parties should not include identifying information, such as name or registration number, but must include at least the MCF name and location, and as much detail regarding the incident and perpetrator as the individual is willing to provide. Safe Helpline staff will document this information and then submit the report via the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO).
Third Party Reporting
PREA allows for third parties (someone other than the survivor) to either make an Unrestricted Report or an Anonymous Report when they are aware of sexual abuse or sexual harassment that has occurred at an MCF. Safe Helpline can provide information and support to these individuals as well.
PREA allows for third parties (not the survivor) to either make an Unrestricted Report or an Anonymous Report when they are aware of sexual abuse or sexual harassment that has occurred at an MCF.
The process for Unrestricted and Anonymous reporting by a third-party is the same as if the report was filed by the survivor.
Please note that while an investigation is required for all known incidents, inmates do not have to cooperate with an investigation in order to receive medical, mental health, victim advocacy, and related support services.
What does the process look like after an Unrestricted Report is made?
- An inmate has access to a SARC, victim advocacy, medical treatment, counseling and support services.
- The SARC/SAPR Victim Advocate will inform the survivor that they may be eligible to receive representation by an SVC/VLC.
- The SARC will directly contact the MCF commander to inform them of the report received from an inmate.
- If the survivor requests medical services, they will be escorted to a designated area for medical staff to provide immediate emergency medical care and determine if the survivor should be transported to a designated medical facility for a forensic exam, and coordinate the transportation.
- The report will be forwarded by the MCF commander to the MCIO.
- The MCIO will do an investigation and submit a final report to the MCF.
What does the process look like after an Anonymous Report is made?
The individual who received the Anonymous or third-party report will immediately notify the MCF Commander.
The MCF Commander immediately reports the information to the responsible investigative agency for investigation. All allegations of sexual abuse must be reported to the appropriate Military Criminal Investigative Organization (MCIO), and all allegations of sexual harassment will be forwarded to an appropriate non-MCIO investigative authority.
- A post-incident review will be conducted by the MCF to identify how safety and security measures can be improved after all Anonymous reports.
Where can I get more information?
National PREA Resource Center
The PREA Resource Center (PRC) provides assistance to inmates, their families, and stakeholders responsible for state and local correctional facilities. You can also find information on how to access a PREA Coordinator for your state here.
Just Detention International
Just Detention International is a health and human rights organization that seeks to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention. They provide legal and counseling resources for survivors and advocates. You can learn more about their work and how to get additional information here.