By Mark Richardson – Texas News Service
AUSTIN – Survivors of sexual assault in Texas now have access to a hotline to help them deal with the legal issues they may encounter afterward. The hotline service, called “Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault,” can provide free and confidential answers to legal questions and extensive legal services.
Karen Miller, the program’s director, said statistics show a strong need for the network.
“We have, in Texas, one in five women are sexually assaulted, and one in 20 men,” she said. “So, there is a large need out there and this is just to try and address their issues.”
Miller said hotline callers can remain anonymous and receive a referral to an attorney in their area. The hotline number is 844-303-7233 (SAFE). It isn’t set up to handle emergency calls immediately following a sexual assault, Miller said; in those cases, she said, a person should call 911.
The hotline is funded by a grant from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation through the Texas Legal Services Center. Miller said survivors of sexual assault have a wide variety of legal needs.
“Sometimes it’s related to their housing. Sometimes, if an assault took place at work, if they are not citizens of the United States, it may trigger immigration issues,” she said. “And so, this network is just coming to try and serve those legal needs.”
The hotline is open Monday through Friday during business hours, with limited weekend hours. Even when it isn’t staffed, Miller said, hotline messages are answered as soon as possible.