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Victims of sexual assault can now text the Spokane area crisis line

A person can text the same number they call to connect with the crisis line at (509) 624-7273.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Help for victims of sexual assault is now a text message away as Lutheran Community Services launched a service Monday that allows texts to go to the sexual assault crisis line.

Lutheran Community Services announced a pilot program funded through their corporate headquarters to allow victims to text their sexual assault crisis line.

A person can text the same number they call to connect with the crisis line at (509) 624-7273. When a text goes through an advocate responds back using the computer messaging site Zipwhip.

"This allows us to be a lot more accessible to people who are feeling afraid to reach out,” said Inland Northwest Lutheran Community Services Director Erin Williams Hueter.

After the first message, an automatic message is sent saying an advocate will respond. They are also told text messaging is not as confidential as calling. 

"We want people to understand the risks they are taking by text messaging. And think you know for a lot of it might be worth it to be able to do that,” said Williams Hueter.

Lutheran Community Services received more than 3,000 calls to their sexual assault crisis line in the last year. Williams Hueter said callers have asked about the option to text the crisis line.

In the last five years, Lutheran Community Services has worked to make text messaging a viable option for those seeking help.

"It's complicated. It can be expensive and there are a lot of safety and privacy concerns,” Williams Hueter said.

Williams Hueter said often hear from college students during the day and it can be difficult for them to get privacy to talk. She said they may feel more inclined to get help if they can text as opposed to call. 

"It's an intensely private thing to do and because it's so private, you're making yourself so vulnerable reaching out for help that is why we are able to offer this text messaging capability,” said Williams Hueter.

Williams Hueter said the hope is that a text will be the first step in helping someone in crisis. 

"We want people to get the best possible health and safety and hope for the future that they possibly can and of course the justice that they deserve,” said Williams Hueter.

For now, the pilot program only allows for the texting feature to be used during business hours. Business hours are Monday through Thursday 8 AM to 5 PM, Friday 8:30 AM to 3 PM and closed weekends.

Calls go through to the sexual assault crisis line 24/7. Call or text (509) 624-7273.