Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Texting might just be easier': Hope Harbor launches new service to help those in crisis

Hope Harbor's main office is in Bowling Green, KY
Alana Watson
Hope Harbor's main office is in Bowling Green, KY

A sexual trauma recovery center has launched a new service that will allow more people in crisis to reach out for help.

Hope Harbor is non-profit crisis counseling center that provides services and support to individuals impacted by sexual trauma regardless of race, religion, sex, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, or disability.

The center has had a free and confidential 24-hour crisis call hotline for over 37 years. Residents can call the hotline at any time and speak with a Hope Harbor staff member or a volunteer advocate that has gone through sexual assault trauma training.

Now, residents can text that same number to receive help.

Melissa Gerard, the community engagement coordinator for Hope Harbor, said the center wanted a service that would reach underserved demographics. One group that the center was having trouble connecting with was young people.

“They don’t want to call,” Gerard said. “It’s more difficult for them. It’s not what they’re doing. They aren’t making phone calls as it is. They are texting, so let’s meet them where they are.”

Hope Harbor worked with other rape crisis centers throughout the state to help implement the new service.

Residents can text the crisis hotline at anytime just like the call line and the conversation will remain confidential.

“It’s easy for the user to do. So, if anyone has anything they need instead of having to call that crisis line, now they can text us and at any time reach an advocate, day or night. If it’s 4 a.m. and you need to text someone, you have the availability.”

Gerard said the new texting option will also allow Hope Harbor to reach people who have hearing impairments, those who may be in dangerous situations and can’t talk on the phone, and people who fear discrimination.

“They might not know that we are a safe space, so it might be a little easier to text then it is to call,” she explained.

“I know that there are a lot of justifiable fears with someone who is a part of an at-risk population, whether that be a trans-person, or a Black person, or someone of a religious minority that might have fears of authority. Texting might just be easier.”

Hope Harbor is using the summer as a soft launch period of the new service to allow more time for volunteer advocates to be trained, to work out any issues, and to identify what may need to change.

Gerard expects the new texting option to be fully operational by the start of the school year.

“What we do is a taboo topic in a lot of conversations. A lot of people don’t want to tell their teenagers or even their younger kids what Hope Harbor is because the word sex is scary. The term sexual assault is hard. But people knowing about our services and being able to get ahold of us in need is our big push.”

Hope Harbor serves 10 southern Kentucky counties: Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, Simpson, and Warren.

The center's main office is in Bowling Green and the non-profit also has satellite offices in Glasgow, Franklin, and Russellville.

Although Hope Harbor is based in southern Kentucky, Gerard said that the center won’t turn anyone away that needs help.

“We’ll help them on the crisis line, whether it's through call or text, and then we’ll try to get them into in-person services in their area,” she said.

People can now use the new service by texting HELP to 270-846-1100.

Former student intern Alana Watson rejoined WKU Public Radio in August 2020 as the Ohio Valley ReSource economics reporter. She transitioned to the station's All Things Considered Host in July of 2020 and became the student reporting and producing specialist in 2023. Watson has a B.A. in Broadcasting Journalism for Western Kentucky University and a M.A in Communications from Austin Peay State University. She is a Nashville native and has interned at WPLN-FM in Nashville. Watson was also a 2nd Century Fellow for Wisconsin Public Radio before rejoining WKU Public Radio. She has received numerous awards for her reporting.