Michigan has launched a new 24-hour hotline for sexual assault survivors, becoming just the second state in the nation to maintain its own such hotline, MichiganLive reports. As of today, August 24, 2018, sexual assault survivors and their friends and family can call 1-855-VOICES4 to speak with professional operators who are trained in victims’ rights, Michigan law, available health care options and crisis intervention.
Featuring nine lines and four backups, the hotline will provide confidential counseling to anyone who calls, along with referrals to community-based services, including counseling and legal advocacy support.
The hotline, run by the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, is the brainchild of Debi Cain, acting director of the Michigan division of victim services, Governor Rick Snyder and Snyder’s wife, Sue, a long-time advocate for sexual assault survivors.
Michigan has been embroiled in controversy for years as a result of the ongoing investigation into the sexual misconduct of Larry Nassar, a USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor and now convicted child molester who abused hundreds of young athletes over the course of decades.
Nassar’s crimes have forced Michigan lawmakers to make change and, in February 2018, Governor Rick Snyder reached out to Debi Cain for ideas.
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Cain, as the executive directors of the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment, was overwhelmed by the crisis, but, as more and more gymnasts stepped forward onto the national stage, her mind kept returning to the image of “a 40-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted years ago seeing the coverage and struggling with the memories of her own assault.”
Sexual assault surivivors needed a safe place they could call, Cain thought.
Governor Snyder agreed, beginning a process that would culminate on Friday, August 24, 2018, when Michigan’s new sexual assault hotline comes online for the first time. Sexual assault survivors can call the hotline anytime, day or night, for free. The number is 1-855-VOICES4.
The hotline is intended for anyone who has experienced sexual assault, either now or in the past, but it was important to have it operational before the start of the school year. That, according to Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder, is when the incidence of sexual assault is the highest.
Each hotline operator will have undergone 200 hours of training. The hotline is not intended to replace law enforcement authorities for reporting purposes. People who want to report a sexual assault should still call the police or 911.
Without the hotline, says Sarah Prout Rennie, executive director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, around 40% of people in Michigan wouldn’t have direct access to sexual assault services.
While each call will be confidential, Michigan will collect data from the calls and use it to create a more complete picture of sexual assault throughout the state. In the aggregate, this data will help Michigan lawmakers direct resources to portions of the state that require help.
It will cost $1.8 million to run the hotline this year. The money comes from federal funds set aside by The Victims of Crime Act; it’s collected in the form of fines and fees on convicted offenders.