In an attempt to make its services more accessible, Silverleaf Sexual Trauma Recovery Services has added two new ways to connect with support staff.
Executive Director Jillian Carden said Silverleaf’s staff took the opportunity during the pandemic to evaluate the nonprofit organization’s accessibility of services.
“We continued to assess our agency and we were looking for gaps,” she said. “As an agency we may not be as accessible to some victims and survivors for lots of different reasons, whether it’s location, socioeconomic status — even though our services are free, there’s still other financial barriers like travel, getting off work.”
Carden said they decided on adding a text and live chat option for Silverleaf’s 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year crisis line.
“When it came to our crisis services, there was this recognition that there is a large part of our population who now communicates primarily through online and texting,” she said. “There are a lot of people who prefer to text someone rather than pick up the phone and talk to someone.”
The idea originated from another rape crisis center in the state, who recommended the iReady platform, Carden said.
Director of Operations and Community Relations Emily Neel did “grunt work” to research the platform and modified it to suit Silverleaf’s criteria, Carden said.
“She’s been working several months in the background building the platform for Silverleaf’s specific needs,” she said. “For us, on the receiving end, we’re using the one platform, but it allows individuals to interact with us in two different ways.”
Those looking to access Silverleaf’s services now can do so through a live chat feature on silverleafky.org on bar at the bottom of the page or Text to 270-81-VOICE (86423).
“In that interface, they can go on the system and sit at their computer and type all of their messages,” Carden said about the live chat option.
Although those who message can remain anonymous, Silverleaf does ask for basic information, Carden said.
“One, we want to know if they are safe,” she said. “That’s an important one for us because folks can interact with us anonymously. We respect folks wanting to be anonymous, but at the same time we want to make sure they’re in safe place.”
Carden said the additional services will be maintained by the already trained Silverleaf employees and volunteers.
“Either way, whether it’s phone, text or chat, they’re going to be talking to one of our trained staff or volunteers,” she said. “We haven’t contracted out to a national agency. These are local people who know Silverleaf’s services and know this area.”
Carden says the hope is those facing trauma, current or past, will find a way to communicate that makes them most comfortable.
“We hope that this brings more accessibility to folks who are maybe reluctant to get on the phone and talk to someone live,” she said. “We know that starting the journey towards healing from trauma can be very, very intimidating.”
Carden said speaking to someone on the other end of a phone might make the trauma a little more real than the caller is ready to acknowledge.
“Maybe they don’t want to pick up the phone,” she added. “They don’t want to acknowledge a real person with a real voice that they’ve been a victim.”
The hope is that by accessing crisis staff through the live chat or text that a relationship starts to form leading them to seek other services Silverleaf provides, Carden said.
“Maybe this adds a couple other layers where we can start that relationship with them and maybe they would feel comfortable accessing some other services.”
Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.