Some victims of sexual assault say that for all the trauma of the attack, the aftermath can be as traumatic in its own way. The second guessing of oneself and by others, the decision to report or not, the probative questioning by law enforcement, the collection of a rape kit, the agony of waiting for justice – if it ever comes. For many, it’s a lonely journey through a maze that no one’s really prepared to navigate.
Now advocates for sexual assault survivors are teaming up to try to connect those in need with those who can help them along this path. Betty Balli-Torres is the executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the largest Texas-based funder for legal services to the poor. They have set up the first hotline of its kind – not just in Texas, but in the nation – to provide civil legal services for survivors of sexual assault.
“Victims need to be able to have safety and security, and oftentimes thats what legal aid lawyers can provide,” Balli-Torres says. “So they will often need protective orders, by way of example, and sometimes they have legal questions related to the their jobs, their insurance, their housing and thats where lawyers can come in.”
The hotline – 1-844-303-7233 (SAFE) – is free and any survivor of sexual assault can call for advice.
“The way we’re able to do this is because the Texas Legislature provided $10 million to provide civil legal services to survivors of sexual assault,” Balli-Torres says. “We have a network of nine providers. So we have not just the hotline, but we have lawyers throughout the state to be able to handle the cases if its the kind of case that needs to go beyond brief advice.”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.