PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MECASA) has added text and chat support to its hotline, offering new avenues for survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment to obtain support services.
Those seeking support can now text the existing helpline (1-800-871-7741) or visit mecasa.org to chat online with an advocate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The voice helpline, at the same number, is still available 24 hours a day.
Cara Courchesne, communications director for MECASA, said Monday that the organization has recognized for awhile that certain demographics, including teenagers, are most comfortable corresponding by text and chat.
In addition, text and chat allow people to reach out for help while they’re at work or school and might otherwise not be able to.
Support includes free, private assistance from a trained sexual assault recovery advocate, information and resources that can help with next steps in healing or criminal justice proceedings and referrals for longer-term support such as mental health help.
“We want to reach as many survivors as we can, and we’re doing our best to provide the services to get them the help they need,” Courchesne said.
“As we’ve seen the #metoo movement change and grow over the last few months, we know that a lot of people who have experienced sexual harassment or assault are wondering what their options are,” Courchesne said. “Sexual assault advocates can help answer those questions.”
MECASA obtained grant support to hire advocates to answer the helpline in order to free up sexual assault support advocates who spend their days in court or otherwise assisting survivors.
During fiscal year 2017, MECASA provided 5,640 hours of service to nearly 2,400 clients, according to Courchesne.
While text and chat support is only available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, the MECASA helpline is still available 24 hours a day.
“We really want to expand it but it’s totally dependent on funding,” Courchesne said. “We’re definitely looking for funding to further expand our services.”
This report mentions sexual assault, which may be hard for some readers. If you need support, call 1-800-871-7741 to talk with an advocate. This service is free, private and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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