As staff here at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC), we spend a lot of time talking about sexual violence because it’s our job! For others, these conversations may not come so easily. Sexual violence is an uncomfortable and deeply personal topic, and talking about your experience can feel invasive. For many people, though, talking about their experience is exactly what is needed to move forward in the healing process. OCRCC offers a 24/7 hotline (also called a crisis line or helpline) to provide an anonymous, confidential space for these conversations. Here are 7 questions that might help you in deciding whether to call the help line for support.
1. I’m not sure if I this is the right place to talk about my situation. Should I call the help line?
If you have any concerns about sexual violence, absolutely call the help line. Even if we’re not the best resource for what you are personally experiencing, we can help point you in the right direction. Sexual violence can be hard to talk about and nobody should have to sit alone in an uncertain situation. People can call our helpline anytime, immediately after experiencing trauma or even years later. We provide support and resources for survivors, their loved ones, and professionals who support them.
2. I don’t know who I’m talking to. Who is on the other end of the line?
The folks who answer our helpline are known as Companions. They have gone through extensive training on sexual assault, crisis counseling, and community resources so that they can provide a safe space to listen compassionately and confidentially to your concerns and to offer referrals for further assistance.
3. I don’t know what to expect. What happens when I call the hotline number?
When you call the helpline number during business hours (weekdays, 9am-5pm), a trained support person will answer right away. If you call outside of regular business hours, the call is first directed to an answering service. The person who answers will ask for your first name and phone number, then they will give this information to a Companion. The Companion will then call you at the number you provided. Or, if you would prefer not to leave a name and number, you can ask to be patched through directly to the Companion.
4. I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for. What kind of support is available through the OCRCC hotline?
The OCRCC helpline is a confidential, immediate resource for crisis and non-crisis situations. Companions provide space to process through racing thoughts, overwhelming emotions, and other concerns. Companions can also share information and referrals about health care options, legal options, and who to contact if we don’t have all the information to answer your specific questions. If you go to the hospital, would like to file a report with the police, or have an upcoming trial or hearing, Companions can go with you to provide in-person support.
5. I’m concerned about a friend. Can I still talk to a hotline counselor?
Yes. As a secondary survivor – a friend or family member of someone who has been sexually assaulted – it is also important to address your reaction to the situation. Working through your own concerns can help you to be more present when supporting your friend. You can also act as an advocate for your friend and call the help line to get information and resources to share with them.
6. I spoke with someone on the phone. What do I do next?
Breathe. Thank yourself for spending the time and energy to address your needs, as this is one of many steps that can help you move toward healing. It takes a great deal of courage and strength to call someone you don’t know and ask for help. Breathe again. If you called the helpline looking for referrals, reach out and call those other supports when you feel ready to do so. If you can’t reach out to others yet, call us back. We are available 24/7, and you don’t have to go through this alone. What comes next for you personally depends entirely on your situation. Whatever questions you have or whatever comes your way, we are always here to support you.
7. How do I call the OCRCC hotline?
The Orange County Rape Crisis Center’s 24-Hour Help Line is always available at 919-967-7273 or 866-WE LISTEN (866-935-4783).
Natalie Ziemba is a guest blogger and works as the Crisis Response Coordinator at Orange County Rape Crisis Center. She earned her BA in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Colorado and then served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa. She recently graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with her MSW and enjoys dismantling systemic oppression and violence.