Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and healthcare organization OhioHealth launched a 24-hour sexual assault helpline Friday as part of April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
This marks the first statewide, confidential helpline for victims of sexual assault in Ohio.
The helpline, which began taking calls Friday, will be available for survivors of sexual assault all across Ohio. It will remain staffed and open seven days a week.
“Sexual assault is an under-reported crime, in part because those who have been assaulted don’t always know who to call for confidential support, and in some parts of Ohio, there is no one locally who they can call at all,” DeWine said during a news conference Friday. “Now, thanks to this new helpline, no matter who you are, and no matter where you live, advocates will be available 24/7 to direct sexual assault survivors to local resources or just listen and provide comfort.”
The staff for the helpline will consist of more than a dozen people trained in safety planning, crisis intervention and basic-coping skills. They will be able to provide callers with recovery books, emergency door and window locks. Staffers will also be able to give information on resources in individual communities and local services that are available.
“Today, numerous advocacy programs provide support to survivors of sexual assault in Ohio,” OhioHealth’s Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio manager Heather Herron-Murphy said at the news conference Friday. “But despite these remarkable efforts, there are still areas across the state that do not have 24-hour access to confidential sexual violence advocacy, support and resources. The Ohio Sexual Violence Helpline aims to fill in those gaps, and to support existing services by connecting survivors in their counties to their local resources.”
The helpline was made possible after DeWine gave a $1.2 million grant to OhioHealth. The grant was part of the “Ohio Attorney General’s Expanding Services and Empowering Victims Initiative,” which aims to help victims of sexual assault recover.
A minimum of 4,640 rapes were reported across Ohio in 2014. This goes along with an upward trend in the amount of rapes reported to Ohio over the last five years. In 2013, 3,913 rapes were reported, up from 3,625 in 2012 and 3,467 in 2011.
Nationally, there are an average of 293,066 rape and sexual assault victims per year. Sexual assault in the U.S. has fallen by 49 percent in recent years, despite Ohio’s steady increase in the amount of rapes being reported.
DeWine said the helpline will work in collaboration with currently existing sexual assault hotlines and will particularly help in counties where a 24-hour hotline is not available.
Murphy said OhioHealth is looking to expand programs in the future for sexual assault survivors and prevention.
The sexual assault helpline can be called at 1-844-OHIO-HELP (1-844-644-6435).